U.S. Seeks to Justify Its Sale of 100 Tanks to Jordan

The State Department sought yesterday to justify the sale of 100 sophisticated M-60 American tanks to Jordan by emphasizing that the sale “is fully consistent with American interests in the region.”

Harold Sounders, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, pointed out that” Jordan has a long-standing policy of denying Jordanian territory to potential terrorists” and “works actively for the stability and security of the states of the Persian Gulf and states of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Testifying before the Europe and Middle East Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Sounders said that Jordan is planning to dispose of M-48 tanks it now has when it gets the new deliveries in the next two years. He said that the present Jordanian tank force numbers 673 tanks. Jordan also has on order 274 British Chieftain tanks. The British Chieftain, which has a heavier gun than the M-60, would cost Jordan 25 percent more than the M-60. The increase in equipment would boost Jordan’s tank force from 16 to 18 battalions.

Challenged by Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R.NY), on Jordan’s opposition to the Camp David process, Sounders said “Jordan is still unable” to join the autonomy talks and the Camp David peace process does not meet with Jordan’s “needs” but that the recent meetings between President Carter and King Hussein has “reaffirmed the fact that Jordan supports UN Security Council Resolution 242 and wants a comprehensive peace with Israel.”

In his prepared remarks, Sounders said “Jordan’s attitude will be critically important to bringing about a West Bank settlement which we would find acceptable.” Indicating that the tank sole would not significantly affect the power balance with Israel, Sounders told the Committee that “an effort to ‘punish’ Jordan by withholding our consent to this sale will not prevent the acquisition of tanks (by Jordan) but it will do serious damage to a key bilateral relationship.”

When Sounders remarked that Jordan has “tactical differences with us” on the Camp David process, Gilman asked whether it is “unwillingness” on Jordan’s part. Sounders replied that “Jordan feels it has been going a long way towards what they require for peace.” Jordan’s position has been, among other things, that East Jerusalem must be under Arab sovereignty.

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