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Jordan and the Hawk Missiles

April 23, 1976
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Assertions in a press report from Amman, that the “Israeli lobby” bears a major responsibility for the collapse of a projected $800 million arms sale by the United States to Jordan with Saudi Arabia providing the financing was scorned by Congressional sources as “a smokescreen” with “no credibility at all.”

The sources said the issue was the fact that the missile systems constituted offensive weapons. It was resolved when the Administration agreed to have the systems installed immobile, making them defensive.

The State Department also said, in response to a query from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that the difficulties in the deal are between the U.S. government on one hand and the Saudi Arabian and Jordanian governments on the other and do not involve Congress.

Reports from Amman claimed that the breakdown in the U.S. deal to sell Jordan 14 Hawk antiaircraft missile batteries was due to Israeli influence in Washington. American price mark-ups, Saudi Arabian thrift and Egyptian undercutting. The reports stated that Saudi Arabia vetoed the purchase because the price had risen from an estimated $350 million to $800 million.

According to one report from Amman. the price hike appeared to be the result of Administration tactics “phased disclosure in trying to overcome the Israeli lobby in Congress and win approval for the Jordanian arms package.” The report added that even the original $350 million figure aroused strong Congressional opposition, “based partly on Israeli lobbying, especially during the freeze on arms deliveries to Israel.”

NOTHING TO DO WITH COST

Congressional sources, however, told JTA that objections to the arms deal had nothing to do with its dollar cost. The protest, they said, concerned Jordan getting missile systems that could be used to cover a ground attack on Israel much like systems held by Egypt protected the advance of its tanks across the Suez and into the Sinai in the Yom Kippur War. To blame the money involved is “a smokescreen” said one source close to the Congressional protest last September.

When a State Department authority was asked by JTA about this element in the dispute, he said he would not categorically rule out the cost factor as included in Congressional opposition, saying, “one Congressman could say it was a factor.”

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger said today at a State Department news conference that the sale of the Hawk missile systems depends on whether Saudi Arabia is prepared to meet the cost, Discussions are being held, he said, by the Saudians and Jordan on the one hand, and the U.S. and the Saudians on the other.

Meanwhile, King Hussein will visit the Soviet Union this summer in the hope of buying arms there, according to a report from Amman. A Soviet military delegation is due to visit Amman next month to prepare for Hussein’s trip, the report added. When the U.S. arms sale deal collapsed last year Administration spokesmen warned that Jordan would turn to the Soviet Union for its arms supplies. (By Joseph Polakoff)

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