RN and PN with King and Queen consort of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal and Alia al-Hussein, as they take their formal photo in front of the White House Grand Staircase before attending the State Dinner.
The diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Jordan during the Nixon presidency was perhaps the most important dynamic in the tumultuous waters of an early 1970’s Middle East. To assure that a balance of power be maintained in the regional disorientation of the Middle East, RN’s goal was to continue the United States’ support of Jordanian stability.
Over the course of RN’s terms as President, the King of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, made diplomatic visits to the White House on four occasions. Today marks 41 years since King Hussein’s third such visit to RN’s White House in 1973.
Declassified National Security documents covering King Hussein’s 1973 visit reveal a dedicated Nixon Administration into the sustenance and self-sufficiency of a peaceful Jordan.
In a talking points memo, President Nixon’s top National Security man, Henry Kissinger, suggested that the President’s meeting serve as an opportunity to reaffirm the United States’ support of Jordan, adding that a Jordanian perspective would play a substantial role in the cultivation of peace for the Middle East. Kissinger also points out the prevailing subjects King Hussein would likely want to discuss–that is, discussing Israel’s negotiating privileges and an expansion of U.S. aid.
View the talking points memo below.
In a supplemental memo, Kissinger relays the prospects of extending a three-year military modernization program set to end in the following fiscal year. In the memo, Kissinger considers a continuation of military modernization a suitable negotiating tool to parry any excessive Jordanian demands for aid, which was to be expected for this meeting. Prior to the visit, it was determined that the King would ask for a total of $130 million, of which the U.S. would only willingly commit $100 million due to budget pressures.
According to Kissinger, additional negotiating tools at the President’s disposal included a signaling of U.S. interest in support of Jordanian development projects and allowing for the use of some of its grant military aid to cover existing maintenance and operating costs for equipment.
Kissinger formulated a plan that not only satisfied U.S. budgetary constraints, but assured a stable future relationship with Jordan.
View Kissinger’s “Action 480” memo for the President below.
In a separate memo detailing the economic and military assistance portion of President Nixon’s discussions with King Hussein, Kissinger indicated his preference for a $100 million commitment to Jordan for the upcoming fiscal year. Kissinger believed that to commit entirely the request of King Hussein would only serve to relieve pressure from other Arab states in favor of a stable Jordan. It would also serve to spoil Jordan into subservience to U.S. aid.
Despite King Hussein’s visit to the United States, a prevailing resolution with Jordan was still contingent on Israeli discussions and consensus. In a memo written by Harold Saunders and William Quandt to Henry Kissinger, revealed was an overall Israeli sentiment that an interim canal agreement with Egypt ought to precede an Israeli-Jordan agreement.
The February 5, 1973 memo can be view below.
The reasons for this, as many top officials believed at the time, were correlated to President of Egypt Anwar Sadat’s indeterminable willingness to negotiate peace with Israel, the unstable West Bank region, and questions of King Hussein’s ability to persevere whilst recognizing Israeli existence.
Of course, the answers to these concerns could not have possibly been given at the time. But the efforts of diplomatic overtures with Jordan proved fruitful in the United States’ attempt to bring peace to a war-torn and rebellious region. The balance of power was beginning to shift in the West’s favor.
Watch as former ambassadors and NSC officials, including the previously mentioned Saunders and Quandt, discuss how President Nixon advanced peace in the Middle East in a Nixon Legacy Forum titled: Waging Peace: Richard Nixon and the Geopolitics of the Middle East.