JERUSALEM (Sep. 4)
Jordan is fully supporting Iraq in the Persian Gulf crisis and still permitting ships, planes and trucks to break the U.N. sanctioned blockade by bringing goods into Iraq, Israeli officials charge.
“Ten years of close relations between Amman and Baghdad are paying off,” one informed government source told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Officials also confirmed reports that there has been an increase in Jordanian reconnaissance flights along the Israeli border with Jordan. Much of the intelligence gained in those flights reportedly has been passed to Iraq.
The situation is “clearly uncomfortable” for Israel, the government source said, adding that Israel is sharing all its intelligence information about the situation with the United States.
In Washington, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater conceded Tuesday that some trucks have been “rolling across Jordan” into Iraq with supplies.
But he said it is “not a major problem in terms of the total effectiveness of the sanctions, which we believe are beginning to bite.”
Fitzwater said Jordan’s King Hussein is committed to total compliance with the international embargo against Iraq. “The fact is that Jordan is a friend of the United States and has played a pivotal role in many of our discussions and negotiations in the Middle East,” he said, adding: “They are in a very difficult situation.”
“Jordan has earned a great a deal of help,” Fitzwater said. “They are suffering a major consequence of this conflict, and that’s why we are organizing international support on their behalf.”
Jordan sits geographically in a difficult place, wedged between Israel on the west and Iraq on the east Israel has warned that any incursion of Iraqi troops into Jordan would set off a strong Israeli countermeasure that would likely put King Hussein in a pincer.
Israeli officials acknowledge that Hussein has officially declared himself against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
But that is not the real issue now, they say. The issue is the international embargo of Iraq, and here Jordan is playing a “double game,” they say.
Israel, meanwhile, is staying “on tiptoes” during the crisis, as one official put it, anxious not to do or say anything that could embarrass Washington in its efforts to shore up an Arab alliance against Iraq.
Israeli policy-makers and government spokes-persons are being careful not to be drawn into openly advocating warfare or the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Speaking on the eve of Foreign Minister David Levy’s visit to Washington, one government official observed that Israel is experiencing a rare feeling of gratification at “being on the right side of the American position for a change.”
(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)