U.S. rewards Jordan's assistance with Iraq

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

The Bush administration plans to sell an advanced air-to-air missile to Jordan.

Congressional sources said the administration has relayed to senior members of the House and Senate a proposal to sell the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile to Jordan. The sources said the AMRAAM was being proposed for Jordan's new fleet of F-16 multi-role fighters.

"This is part of a U.S. effort to recruit Arab and Islamic troops to Iraq," a congressional source said.

Jordan has obtained or ordered 33 U.S. Air Force surplus F-16s, Middle East Newsline reported. Seventeen of them stemmed from a 1997 deal that brought the first F-16s A and B models to Amman. In 2002, the United States agreed to provide Jordan with another 16 F-16A/Bs.

The sources said the administration has argued that Jordan has come under increasing threat from both Al Qaida as well as neighboring Syria. The U.S. export of the AMRAAM would ensure that the Hashemite kingdom could maintain air superiority.

The sources said the AMRAAM proposal would require an upgrade of the F-16A/Bs, currently unable to operate the advanced missile or precise munitions. They said an upgrade could lead to the U.S. sale of an advanced weapons suite for Jordan's F-16 fleet.

So far, Israel has been the only country in the Levant to have received the AMRAAMs, suitable for both the F-16 and F-15. Egypt has also sought the AMRAAM and Congress has been considering the administration's request.

The sources said pro-Israeli lobbyists have urged Congress to block the AMRAAM sale to both Egypt and Jordan. They said this marked the first Israeli effort to stop Jordan from obtaining advanced U.S. weaponry since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, have urged the White House and Defense Department to suspend the AMRAAM sale to Jordan. Mofaz was said to have learned of the proposed U.S. sale in mid-July and has ordered a study to determine whether the AMRAAM could be downgraded to reduce any threat to Israel.

So far, the congressional sources said, the administration has rebuffed the Israeli demand to shelve the AMRAAM sale to Jordan. The sources said the White House has deemed the air-to-air missile sale an important boost to King Abdullah and his efforts to help the United States prior and during the war in Iraq in 2003. Jordan also remains a key logistics and supply base for U.S.-led coalition members in Iraq.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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