Jordan to delay request for US weapons until after November elections

Jordan is frustrated with what it sees as Washington's failure to recognize its urgent defense needs.

But sources close to King Hussein say Jordan will wait until after the US November congressional elections to ask for advanced weaponry.

King Hussein has said he is interested in F-16 aircraft and improved mobile Hawk missiles. Israel opposes the sale of both, especially the Hawk missiles, which would give Jordan the ability to track Israeli aircraft from the moment of takeoff.

Jordan is delaying its request because it realizes the US has other problems at the moment and doesn't want to add to them before the elections. At the same time Jordan is signaling it will shop elsewhere if the Americans can't deliver the weaponry after November.

The last time he was stymied by the Americans King Hussein turned to the Soviet Union and bought Soviet SAM-8 antiaircraft missiles.

Jordan insists it needs the F-16 planes and Hawk missiles to rectify a military imbalance - not only with Israel, but also with other Arab nations.

What worries Jordan the most, according to these well-connected sources, is Syria - because of its growing ties to Iran. Jordan has been a conspicuous backer of the Iraqis in their Gulf war with Iran. Jordan is seriously fretting over what would happen if its Arab ally lost its war with Iran.

Jordan believes that would leave Soviet-backed Syria and an extremist Iran in such a powerful position that the Gulf and its oil would be endangered.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, grouping Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar, has already warned Syria to stop being the spoiler among the Arabs.

Observers point out Syria had already violated the Arab League charter by siding with Persian Iran against Arab Iraq.

The moderate Arabs are also tired of Syria poking gaping holes in Arab unity. As examples, they cite the collapsed Arab League summit last year and Syrian-instigated violence in Lebanon.

The Gulf is threatening Syria with its only weapon - money. Syria is supposed to receive $1.8 billion annually from Arab League pledges.

But Jordan knows all too well that the Gulf has served notice before on Syria and then backed down, officials here said.

At the very least, Jordan sees this as the time for taking stock of the situation in the post-Sinai Middle East - even if it means leaving Syria out, they said.

That stock-taking must be made realizing Camp David is dead and Egypt will make amends with its Arab brethren in a few months, they said.

Jordanian officials predict a new Arab summit that excludes Egypt and Syria. It would be followed by a second one including Egypt, but excluding Syria if it hadn't rethought its position.

The officials predict the nonaligned movement's summit in Baghdad in September would be pivotal. It would be the first time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could talk face-to-face with other Arab leaders, the officials said.

And Jordan is confident that the summit can be held in Baghdad - despite the Iran-Iraq war.

Jordan says Iraq has done well. It will continue to succeed on the warfront, Jordanians say, adding that King Hussein is in regular contact with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

(Reuters reported Iraqi claims May 10 indicating it had repulsed an Iranian offensive against the Gulf port of Khorramshahr. Iran said that Khorramshahr was almost completely surrounded and on the threshold of liberation.)

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