Israeli officials have agreed to allow American planes to fly over Israel in the event of an Iraqi attack against Jordan.
Concern over such an attack comes in the wake of last week’s defections to Amman, Jordan, of two high-level Iraqi officials.
The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that the planes would come from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was scheduled to arrive in the port of Haifa this week.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressed doubts that there would be an Iraqi invasion of Jordan. He added that the developments surrounding the defections did not pose an immediate threat to Israel.
“I don’t think the issue has any direct effect on Israel,” he told reporters at the Knesset.
“Jordan is an independent country, and I think the Jordanians view it as an inter-Arab issue.”
Rabin met Tuesday with Gen. Jack Sheehan, commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command and of NATO operations in the Atlantic.
The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported that the meeting had been planned before the defections took place.
The United States and Jordan were scheduled to begin joint military exercises at the end of this week near the Iraqi border. About 2,000 American soldiers are expected to take part in the exercises.
Pentagon officials maintained that the exercises were planned before Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan and his brother, Lt. Col. Saddam Kamel Hassan, defected to Jordan on July 10 along with their families and other Iraqi military officers. The two men are sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein.
Hussein Kamel Hassan was responsible for the development of Iraq’s arms industry.
He was also reportedly responsible for firing 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Last week, President Clinton pledged to protect Jordan if it were threatened by Iraq.
Defense Secretary William Perry said in an interview this week with the Washington Times that the U.S. defense could include the use of Tomahawk cruise missiles, which he said were already in range of Iraqi targets.
Perry also spoke of a “sizable purge going on in the Iraqi government” in the wake of the defections.
In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, Jordan’s King Hussein suggested that such a purge would be a welcome development.
“If a change occurs, it will only be for the better,” the king was quoted as saying.