WASHINGTON (Sep. 24)
The twin specters of an Israeli military thrust into Jordan and a Soviet-United States confrontation in the area faded today as King Hussein appeared to be gaining the upper hand in his week-long war with Arab guerrilla groups. The key to the young king’s improving prospects for survival was the fact that tank-led Syrian forces had started a significant retreat after being mauled by the Jordanian army. State Department sources said today the largest share of the credit for the pullback of the invading Syrians from Jordan belonged to the Jordanian Army. They said other factors were–in descending order of importance–Syrian fears of Israeli intervention, United States diplomatic action and Soviet influence with the hard-lining Syrian military regime. While the nature and extent of Soviet influence in this situation was not yet known here, the sources said, the other three factors kept Soviet influence on Syria “marginal.” United States officials indicated a belief that Syria invaded Jordan with up to 300 tanks and “several thousand” troops. The Hussein government claimed yesterday that 80 of the Syrian tanks had been disabled or destroyed. U.S. officials indicated they did not know how many of the Syrian military men remained in Jordan.
ISRAELI READINESS HELD KEY FACTOR IN SYRIAN PULLBACK
Other sources here contended that fear of an Israeli thrust to protect its vital interests in Jordan, if a strong possibility of chaos developed, was the decisive factor in inducing the Soviet Union to pressure Syria to pull out its tanks. It was reported that the Israelis moved tanks and troops into border areas where they were easily observable, Including the occupied Golan Heights, as a warning to the guerrillas and to Syria. The prospects of a United States intervention had at no time during the week of civil war in Jordan taken on any aspect of becoming a reality. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union issued a “solemn warning” to the United States against intervention in Jordan and the Soviets were beginning to take credit for easing the tense situation in the Hashemite kingdom. Experts on the Middle East stressed that even if the most optimistic reports on Hussein’s gains proved to be true, his troubles were far from over, and, accordingly, his country would continue to be unstable and under renewed threat from the momentarily beaten guerrilla groups.
(The Soviet Mission to the United Nations said today that the Soviet Embassies in Amman, Damascus and Baghdad had “established contacts” on the question of the crisis with Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi leaders, in addition to the “permanent contact” with Egypt. The Soviet Mission called for “caution” by outside powers that might be considering intervention and urged the U.S. to “use its influence with the government of Israel so that Israel might not try to exploit the Jordanian events for its aggressive aims.”) (The New York office of the Palestine Liberation Organization declared that the PLO was “both willing and capable of insuring” the safety of American nationals in Jordan and “securing traveling facilities” for them “in areas under the control of the revolution.” The safety of American nationals, the PLO said, “has not been endangered.” but their present situation is due to the “turmoil” caused by the U.S. peace initiative. Should the U.S. intervene on behalf of the “Fascist, reactionary” regime of King Hussein, the commando organization continued, “there will be no safety for any lives in the area.”)
(Centers of the El Fatah terrorist group on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River were reported today by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent to be almost completely deserted, apparently because the guerrillas had been ordered into the interior of Jordan to battle the Jordanian army. The JTA correspondent toured a 40-mile stretch of the river bank northwards from Jericho. Villages on the Jordanian side, most of them El Fatah nests, were reported to be almost totally deserted although only three days before, even after King Hussein ordered the Jordanian army to crush the guerrillas, the villages had been teeming. The correspondent said that all he saw was one lone goatherd leading several goats as the only sign of life. He added that the villages along the lower Jordan depression seemed to be in the safest area in Jordan. He said there was no fighting in the area and that even the sound of gunfire, clearly heard elsewhere by Israelis, had not penetrated this valley.)