WASHINGTON (Oct. 30)
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy warned Congress today that if it rejected the Reagan Administration’s proposed $1.9 billion arms sale to Jordan the United States’ role as a peacemaker in the Middle East would be damaged.
“The rejection of the arms sale and the elimination of the United States as a dependable arms supplier to the moderate Arabs would be a sharp break in the continuity of our relationships in the region,” Murphy told the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.
He said it “would symbolize very powerfully the likelihood, in their eyes, in their perception, that we really aren’t interested in playing a role.”
Murphy, who heads the State Department’s Near Eastern and South Asian Bureau, stressed that President Reagan is determined to go through with his proposal, submitted to Congress October 21, to provide Jordan with sophisticated planes and air defense missiles.
Resolutions sponsored by an overwhelming majority of both houses have been introduced in the Senate and the House to reject the sale.
However, the Senate adopted a resolution last week postponing the deadline for Congressional action from the normal 30 days after Presidential notification until March 1. The resolution states that before March 1 no sale is valid “unless direct and meaningful negotiations between Israel and Jordan are underway.” The House has not acted on this resolution, but there are indications that it might seek to amend it to strengthen provisions enabling Congress to reject the sale.
Murphy reiterated today that the Administration had not been behind the resolution. He said the resolution means that on March 1 the way will be clear for the sale to go through. However, he noted that before that time Congress still has the right to reject the sale by votes of both houses.
SALE WOULD BE A SIGNAL TO HUSSEIN
Murphy argued today as he has in the past that the arms sales is a “powerful signal” to King Hussein of Jordan of U.S. support for his role in the peace process.
“It is especially important that we send a strong signal of support to those willing to take risks for peace,” he said.
He noted that the U.S. has always believed that Israel’s security must be guaranteed so that it has the “confidence” necessary to enter peace negotiations. “This is no less valid for Jordan,” he said.
Hussein was unhappy with the Senate resolution. He called it blackmail. Murphy agreed with a suggestion from Rep. Ed Zschau (R. Cal.) that Congress might pass a resolution praising both Hussein and Israeli Premier Shimon Peres for their peace efforts.
At the same time, Murphy argued that Jordan needs the arms to protect itself from Syria. When several members of the subcommittee referred to the recent rapproachment between Jordan and Syria with an agreement for exchange of Ambassadors after a five-year break, Murphy noted a long series of Syrian threats to Jordan.
Lt. Gen. Philip Gast, director of the Defense Department’s Security Assistance Agency, said that even after the delivery of weapons to Jordan, Israel will be in better military shape than Jordan. But he said Syria has modern Soviet-supplied military weapons while Jordan’s air defense system is obsolete.
WARNS AGAINST LETTING OPPORTUNITY SLIP AWAY
As for the peace process itself, Murphy said that the “window of opportunity” is “fast slipping away.” While he did not answer directly what the next step should be, he seemed hopeful saying that there had to be a series of steps to bring about direct negotiations. He said all sides have to move further in their positions.
However, the U.S. appears to be moving to have a closer contact in the process with the announcement by the State Department that Wat Cluverius, the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, has been named senior advisor to Murphy for the peace process.
Cluverius, who had been a Deputy Secretary in the Near East Bureau dealing with the Mideast peace process before going to Jerusalem in 1983, will maintain offices in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Replacing Cluverius in Jerusalem will be Morris Draper, who was deputy to former Middle East special envoy Philip Habib.