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 ø A
and B models ø 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.