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Digital Archive International History Declassified

January 04, 1957


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    During a visit to Jordan, Chehab learns of Arab military developments, including the activity of Syrian, Egyptian, and Palestinian soldiers, as well as King Hussein's policies regarding al-Nabulsi and King Saud.
    "Untitled report on a visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan," January 04, 1957, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 11, File 63/11, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford.
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January 1957

In response to your request, I went to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on 24 December 1956, and returned in January 1957. I succeeded in the intervening period in gaining the following information:

First: Arab military activities. (I obtained this information exclusively from Commander Abdullah al-Sharkasi from the military leadership). Encamped 60 kilometres away from the Syrian borders, and in an area known as al-Mafraq, are 5,000 Syrian Army troops with all their weapons. Encamped together on the opposite side of the Syrian troops, are Jordanian and Saudi forces estimated to be around 5,000 soldiers (2,000 Saudis only). Al-Mafraq's military airport is occupied jointly by the Jordanian and Saudi troops, though a British brigade is also stationed in the area according to the terms of the British-Jordanian Treaty. This brigade, comprising an unknown number of soldiers, is under the surveillance of the Arab Legion: I learned, within this context, that 13 British fighter planes had landed at this British controlled airport, on 12/12/1956, provoking the anger of Zarka's and al- Mafraq's inhabitants who cut the water supply to the British brigade for 24 hours. The Jordanian Arab Command was forced to interfere in the matter and diligently investigate the airplanes. They found that the planes had just returned from Turkey and had not taken part in the fighting in Egypt. As a result, Jordanian nerves calmed down and the water supply was restored to the British camp.

Another Syrian Army brigade, comprising around 2,500 fully equipped soldiers, is presently encamped, together with a Saudi brigade comprising 1000 soldiers, on the northern borders with the West Bank. All these forces are currently under the command of Field Marshal Abdel-Hakim 'Amer.

As for the Iraqi Army, it has abandoned its positions and is now encamped in the area of Ramadi on the Jordanian-Iraqi border. It is well-known that this brigade does not get along very well with the other Arab armies, especially the Arab Legion whose leaders asked King Hussein to have the Iraqis withdrawn from Jordanian territory for fear that they might take advantage of the present situation and occupy Jordan and Syria.

The Iraqi Government's invitation to Lebanese journalists to visit the front lines in the West Bank in early December 1956 is an example of this lack of harmony. For upon their arrival the Jordanian Military Command requested that they be sent back home.

The Lebanese Consul in Jordan tried to learn the reasons behind this move and was told by the Military Command itself that the invitation was issued to the journalists without the knowledge of the Jordanian Command and that anyway, journalists tend to favour the Iraqi political point of view concerning Arab affairs. In fact, the Jordanian Military Command apologised to the Lebanese authorities about the incident and asked its representative in Beirut to contact the Lebanese Journalists' Union to explain the situation. It invited each and every Lebanese journalist to come to Jordan and visit the frontlines, and promised to facilitate their visit. This gesture came as a direct order from Commander Ali abu Nuwar who has considerable influence with King Hussein and enjoys the special affection of Field Marshal Abdel-Hakim 'Amer, the current commander of the allied Arab armies according to the terms of the Syrian-Egyptian-Jordanian-Saudi military Treaty.

I learned that all the Lebanese officers who have been occupying sensitive in the Arab Legion for tens of years, such as officer Nijem al-Tayeb, the surgeon at the Military Hospital, and Commander Najjar, have decided to leave their positions when their contracts come to an end, due to instability in the Kingdom.

I also learned personally from Mr Sabah al-Rousan, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Defence that the total number of soldiers in the National Guard, which is made up of various elements including Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, and a few Moroccans, is about 14,000.

I also learned from him that military airports in Jordan will not be upgraded and that the Jordanian Army fears remarks by, and contact with, the German and Russian experts stationed in Syria, and that they refused them entry into Jordan so as not to upset the British and the Iraqis. There are a number of Jordanian officers with pro-Iraqi tendencies.

King Hussein’s policies

I learned on 26 January from parliamentarians Mustapha Khalifeh, a representative from Amman, and al-Suwaiti, a representative from Hebron, that the King's personal policy is act completely in tune with the present Government led by al-Nabulsi. However, the attitude of the masses and their enthusiasm for Nasser's policies made him go a long way in placating the Arab order out of fear for his position. What is certain is that the Queen Mother (the King’s mother) is not totally behind King Hussein’s policies, since she does not want him to take too extreme a position or show open animosity towards the West out of fear for his life, and on account of her former relationship with the British.

The Queen Mother wants to avoid provoking King Saud's anger, because he secretly gives her and her son, the King, personal financial assistance and, at the same time, wants to maintain her good relations with the Egyptians. King Hussein’s wife, Queen Dina, has lived a long time in Egypt and has good relations with the Egyptian people. Some pro-Egyptian people close to the Queen are trying, through her good offices, to bring the King over to Egypt’s side. The King, however, did not act according to the Queen's wishes due to the lack of harmony between them and their cold marital relations.\

The Government's policies

When I arrived in Jordan, I learned that the Government had retired both Mr Ihsan Beik Hashem, Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, and Ahmad Jumaa, Director of Publications, because of their personal leanings towards cooperation with Britain; Dr Haikal, Jordan's Ambassador in Paris, was appointed in place of Ihsan Hashem. I contacted the latter in his home on 27 December at 7 p.m., and asked him the reason he was retired, but he did not reveal the secret. He, however, promised to tell me everything when he visits Beirut shortly. Mr Jumaa, on his part, has now moved to Lebanon and is now living there with his brother Saad. The Jordanian Government intends to sideline all pro-British elements and Iraqi policy sympathisers (the Baghdad Pact) even from the Army. All officers whose political leanings are clearly pro- Iraqi are being removed from sensitive positions.


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