WASHINGTON (Feb. 21)
The reported Central Intelligence Agency’s secret annual payments for 20 years to Jordan’s King Hussein raised questions here on the extent of the impact the allegation will have on the multi-national attempts to set Arab-Israeli negotiations in motion. A related question is whether a political motive was behind the leaking of the allegation to The Washington Post so that it would become public last Friday on the very day Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance was to visit Hussein in Amman on his fact-finding tour in the Middle East.
At the White House, presidential news secretary Jody Powell said Friday the Administration policy is not to comment–not to confirm nor to deny–alleged covert stories because if it did the “operation in question no longer would be covert.” Neither Vance nor the State Department would discuss the matter at all.
Inasmuch as the Jordanian government immediately denied the allegation that Hussein received millions of dollars from the U.S. to help CIA intelligence activities in his country until President Carter stopped the payments a few days ago, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency asked Powell whether the non-committal U.S. position did not put a cloud over Hussein. Powell said he could not offer an assessment of its impact on the initiatives to bring Israelis and Arabs to a conference table.
HUSSEIN’S ROLE MAY BE JEOPARDIZED
Some informed sources felt that Hussein will now be inhibited against supporting any U.S.-backed initiative in the Mideast and that no worse result would ensue. Diplomatic sources, however, saw much damage both to the Hussein and Carter Administration in the Mideast that would weaken U.S. efforts towards reaching a negotiating stage.
At the Capitol. Congressional sources feared Hussein’s throne may be in jeopardy. They wondered whether the leaking of the information to the Post was not designed to embarrass both the Administration and the King and give the Palestine Liberation Organization an opportunity to challenge Hussein again. “It smells badly,” one source said, referring to the timing of the leak and its prominence on the front page.
While Powell would not commit the Administration on the allegation, he pointed out that Hussein is “an outstanding national leader” and that he and his government have “played a constructive role in reducing tensions in the Middle East.”