Jordan asks US for a clear Arab-Israeli policy -- not favors
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger's visit to Jordan Feb. 10, his last stop on a three-nation Mideast tour, signals an attempt by the Reagan administration to balance its diplomatic support of Israel with reassurances to America's Arab allies.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Weinberger's visit comes after two important visits by Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. to Israel and Egypt and the Egyptian President's meeting with Mr. Reagan last week.
It also comes at a time of heavy anti-American rhetoric in the Arab world due to US opposition to a United Nations resolution advocating sanctions against Israel for its virtual annexation of the Golan Heights.
In this sense, the defense secretary's mission is one of ''damage control.'' Jordanian authorities point out that the US and Jordan already have extensive military relations.
One official said Feb. 10 that Mr. Weinberger's visit showed that the Reagan administration ''might be moving back to the old, relaxed way of thinking about Jordan: when you send a diplomat through the Mideast he stops in Jordan because it is an important country to the US.''
But this official still sees the Reagan administration as being overwhelmingly pro-Israel and too concerned with the Soviet threat to the Middle East.
In an interview with the Monitor Feb. 9, Jordanian Crown Prince Hasan concurred, saying the US has yet to come up with a diplomatic strategy that decreases tension in the Gulf region or that counters Soviet Priemier Leonid Brezhnev's 1980 proposal that the Indian Ocean region be free of superpower military presence.
The Prince said Mr. Reagan's Feb. 8 proposal to Congress to increase the size and capabilities of the US Rapid Deployment Force will only ''tend to make the Gulf a tinderbox.''
Moreover, Jordanian officials say, unstinting support for Israel is estranging Washington from the Arab world. The English-language Jordan Times Feb. 10 editorialized: ''The United States has lost its credibility in the Arab world because the only consistent thing it does well is to have given Israel total financial, military, and political support. It cannot do this for long without completely losing touch with the Arabs, and this is precisely what is happening right now.''
The newspaper, which is government controlled, added that this ''explains why US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is having such a hard time convincing the Saudis to jump into America's lap and fight the commies.''
Despite such officially sanctioned talk, however, diplomats here say Jordan is concerned by growing Soviet presence in neighboring Syria -- which periodically is at odds with Jordan -- and new reports of Soviet advisers serving in Iran -- which is at war with Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Oman, where Mr. Weinberger conferred earlier this week, are just asworried by Soviet-supported South Yemen and Iran.
But a high-level Jordanian source traces the reason for Soviet influence back to Israel, which, he says, serves to radicalize Middle Eastern countries. He sees the Soviet Union as an alternative arms patron if the US continues to supply and support Israel.
''If Mr. Weinberger wants to protect the Gulf, he should try first to change (Israeli Prime Minister Menachem) Begin's policies,'' the Jordanian official says.
The US, meanwhile, is helping Jordan build a large factory that will enable it to renew the armor on its tanks.
But Arab states appear to be drawing a clear distinction between American military and diplomatic favors, saying the first is not sufficient to make up for lack of a balanced Arab-Israeli diplomatic policy.