THE government of the United States has long been selling weapons to the two Arab states with which it has consistently been on the most friendly terms, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It provided both with weapons during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, under generous terms. The Reagan administration has wanted to carry on the practice.
Israel has consistently opposed projects involving the supply of modern and more sophisticated US weapons to any Arab country. Israeli opposition has succeeded in keeping such deliveries to a minimum and has for some three years now largely prevented the US government from sending new supplies of modern weapons to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Two old projects are being revived right now by the Reagan administration. Saudi Arabia wants 40 more F-15 fighter aircraft to add to the 40 it already has. Plus Stinger and Hawk antiaircraft weapons. Jordan wants F-16 or F-20 fighters and Stingers.
Last week US Secretary of State George Shultz declared publicly that ``it is clear to us that Jordan has definite security problems'' and that ``help from the US is justified.''
Earlier last week the New York Times was given the text of a report to members of congressional committees working on the foreign-aid budget for next fiscal year. The report was prepared at White House request by an interdepartmental team. It recommended the new arms programs for both Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Among points made in the report was that Israel is so heavily armed with the latest and best American equipment that its ability to defeat ``any combination of potential Arab adversaries'' is ``secure and likely to grow stronger, under present policy, at least for the rest of this decade.''
President Reagan has approved the project of letting the Saudis and Jordan receive the new weapons. The State and Defense Departments favor the revived program. It is the considered opinion of the government that the program is in the national interest of the United States. But the latest news about the progress of the project is that fighter planes will probably be deleted from the package because of the opposition of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
The Reagan administration effort to improve the military postures of both Saudi Arabia and Jordan date from the beginning of the administration. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was openly advocating a more ``balanced'' US policy in the Middle East early in 1982.
A push to get modern weapons to the Saudis was revived in early 1984 when Iranian fighter planes began scouting toward Saudi shipping and oil facilities. The President authorized an emergency supply of Stinger missiles and a KC-10 tanker (for refueling fighters in midair). Stingers and a KC-10 arrived in Saudi Arabia on May 30. Six days later, on June 5, Saudi F-15 fighters refueled by the KC-10 tanker and guided by a US-manned AWACS (advance warning and control) plane brought down two Iranian int ruders into the Saudi defense zone. Iranian planes have since kept their distance from the Saudis.
It is the considered opinion of the Pentagon, and is so stated in the current memo to Congress, that the Arabian Peninsula could not be defended against a hostile attack without the collaboration of Saudi Arabia and use of its bases by American forces. It is also axiomatic, and stated in the memo, that peace between Israel and its neighbors is not possible without the friendly help of Jordan.
President Reagan has been trying for some four years to strengthen Saudi Arabia and Jordan and US ties with them for the above reasons. He has so far been largely thwarted by Israel's supporters in Washington. Present indications are that he will again be thwarted.
In other words, much American policy in the Middle East is being shaped, not by the government of the United States acting in the US national interest, but by a foreign country acting in that country's interests.