WASHINGTON (May. 23)
The Reagan Administration has withdrawn its request for Congressional approval of a $220 million plan to arm and equip a Jordanian strike force, pending review, State Department spokesman John Hughes announced today that Congress was asked to defer action “without prejudice” following consultations between the U.S. and Jordan.
The purpose of the proposed strike force was immediate response to any emergency that might develop in the Persian Gulf states. It was strongly opposed by Israel and its supporters in Congress on grounds that the weapons could be used by Jordan against Israel. Jordan is technically in a state of war with Israel.
Hughes said that the U.S. and Jordan had agreed that the proposal should undergo further review, including a re-estimation of its cost. It is the second Administration proposal for arming Jordan that has been dropped this year. Last March the Administration withdrew its request for Congressional approval of the sale of shoulder-fired Stinger antiaircraft missiles to Jordan. It too was opposed by Israel and its Congressional supporters.
The Stinger sale was abandoned a week after King Hussein of Jordan ruled out peace talks with Israel on grounds that U.S. support for Israel compromised Washington’s credibility as a fair mediator in the Middle East dispute. The Administration acknowledged at the time that the sale was dropped because of political opposition in Congress.
Hussein reiterated his charges of U.S. bias in favor of Israel in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview a week ago. But the State Department denied that the Jordan strike force plan was suspended as “punishment” for Hussein’s refusal to enter U.S. sponsored peace talks with Israel.
“Our request to Congress followed close consultation and agreement between the governments of the United States and Jordan. It was agreed the program should be reviewed and its costs re-estimated. The United States expects to continue to work closely with Jordan on peace and security issues of mutual interest. Our relationship continues to be close and cooperative, as befitting friends,” Hughes said.