JERUSALEM (Oct. 9)
Premier Menachem Begin said today that Israel takes a “grave” view of the new Soviet-Syrian friendship and military cooperation pact and of “the growing Jordanian involvement in the Iraqi war efforts” against Iran.
Speaking to reporters at the Defense Ministry, Begin said it was safe to assume that Syria and the Soviet Union have signed a secret agreement that parallels their publicly signed accord. He contended that this affected the entire free world and that he would discuss it with President Carter when they meet in Washington next month.
Israeli analysis said today that President Hafez Assad of Syria apparently decided that he had to enter into a formal pact with the Soviets, something he hesitated to do before, because the Iraqi-Iranian war left Syria isolated among the Arab states, all of which except Libya, are supporting Iraq. Because of Syria’s long-standing rivalry with Iraq, Assad also may have felt he could not allow Iraq to draw closer to Moscow as a result of the war.
But the Israelis believe it is altogether unlikely that Syria would join the war by taking military action against Iraq. This is because Iraq has portrayed the war as an Arab struggle against a non-Arab power and Assad, heading a minority Alawite Moslem regime, could hardly cost his let with the non-Arab side in actual combat.
With respect to Jordan’s assistance to Iraq, Begin suggested that there is a danger that the Iraqis will sell Soviet war equipment to Jordan as a gesture of gratitude and “this would present a direct danger to us.” He implied that the U.S. should cancel its proposed sale of tanks to Jordan. Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin also warned today that King Hussein of Jordan was making a serious mistake when he joined Iraq against Iran.
VIEW OF JORDAN’S ROLE
Meanwhile, the Jordanian port of Aqaba is a scene of heavy activity. But Israeli circles believe that Amman is simply trying to impress the world that its backing for Iraq is in earnest. They point out that so far, only one Iraqi-flag ship with war materiel — from an Eastern European country — discharged cargo at Aqaba. It is believed to have consisted of anti-aircraft guns and ammunition. Nevertheless, Jordan has become a supply route for Iraq, avoiding the Persian Gulf and the Iranian navy. But a shortage of trucks to carry the equipment from Aqaba to Baghdad has caused a bottleneck and the cargos are piling up on the Aqaba cocks.
Israeli military planners are taking account of the possibility that the Iraqi-Jordan relationship will lead to heightened tension between Jordan and Syria. Israel is deeply troubled by Jordan’s logistical support for Iraq which could broaden into a full fledged alliance and King Hussein’s increasingly hard line and warlike statements in recent months aimed at Israel. The Jordanian media has referred to the Persian Gulf war as a prelude to the “purification of Jerusalem from the infidel.” The U.S. and Britain have already warned Jordan against any serious involvement in the Persian Gulf war.
(On a BBC television interview last night, Hussein confirmed that his army has been put on a state of alert and that supplies were reaching Iraq by way of Aqaba. However, he said, there were “no imminent plans” to send Jordanian troops to Iraq despite reports that 40,000 Jordanian troops have been sent to the Iraqi border. Hussein said the Iraqis did not need help but if they did, Jordan would not hesitate to give it. He called on all Arab countries to support Iraq’s “just cause.”)