King Hussein's enthusiastic support of Iraq in the Persian Gulf war has distanced Jordan further than ever from the stalled efforts by Israel, Egypt and the United States to negotiate Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank.
The monarch's rush to back President Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime flows in part from gratitude for substantial Iraqi aid. But more importantly, Middle Eastern diplomats say, it is the logical outgrowth of a longstanding policy aimed at organizing a common Arab stand against the U.S.-led Camp David peace formula.
This drive, emphasized by the king in recent interviews, also fits into a deep-felt sense of Arab loyalty and a need to retain the favor of as many fellow Arab rulers as possible as a protection against any tempation to turn into reality the Israeli assertion that Palestinians do not require the West Bank because they already have a state in Jordan.
Jordanian diplomats here recalled yesterday that King Hussein has repeatedly insisted that he will never join the Camp David autonomy talks under their present format and that Palestinians on the West Bank must choose their own rulers. But Israeli oposition leaders and some segments of the U.S. foreign policy establishment have clung to hope that, under a more flexible Labor government, Israel could work out a deal returning Jordanian sovereignty over most of the West Bank in exchange for territory judged necessary for Israeli security.
In the light of Jordan's increasingly close ties to Iraq, however, this hope seems more remote. Saddam Hussein has made Iraq one of Israel's most virulent foes and, along with Libya, the most inflexible on suggestions of a negotiated peace of any kind between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors. n
King Hussein is thought unlikely to espouse this radical Baathist outlook -- indeed, revolutionary Baathist ideology opposes the idea of monarchy, and it was King Hussein's distant cousin Faisal II who once ran the Iraqi government.
"This does not mean that Jordan is going to become a radical state, as radical is understood here," a Jordanian diplomat said, commenting on King Hussein's vocal and material support of the Iraqi war effort.
But nevertheless the association with Saddam Hussein, if it lasts, is expected to make the Jordanian monarch less receptive to urgings from the United States that he continue "moderate" policies toward Israel and keep an open mind on the possibility of joining the Camp David talks or whatever follows them.
"Certainly, it is a step in the direction of a harder-line policy," an Israeli diplomat commented. "You cannot align yourself with Iraq and remain a moderate as far as Israel is concerned."
Israel has expressed dismay to the United States over Jordan's increasing role in the Iranian-Iraqi war, pointing to reports that King Hussein has welcomed Iraqi wounded to Jordanian hospitals, offered Jordanian air bases as a haven for Iraqi warplanes and opened Aqaba port on the Red Sea to the transport of supplies for the Iraqi war effort.
The State Department said yesterday that U.S. intelligence has evidence that an undetermined number of Soviet and Eastern European ships are unloading cargo at Aqaba, although it was not known whether they were bringing military equipment.
U.S. sources said Wednesday that the United States has expressed concern "clearly and emphatically" to the Jordanian government over its aid to Iraq, emphasizing fears that the Gulf war could spread. But, they added, this had no discernible effect, and the king told a television interviewer the same day that he would intervene militarily on Iraq's side if asked.
Jordan and the United States traditionally have been close allies. But U.S. ability to influence King Hussein has declined sharply in the two years since the Camp David accords were signed with a presumed role for Jordan, but without any assurances that Jordan was willing to play it. King Hussein's pique at not being consulted and official irritation in Washington when he bluntly turned down his part conpounded the chill.
Israeli concern stems from general fears that an Iraqi victory over Iran would give it a stronger voice in Arab councils, pulling such moderates as Jordan and Saudi Arabia toward less flexible policies. In addition, an Israeli diplomat said, closer Jordanian-Iraqi ties raise the possibility of Iraqi troops being stationed in neighboring Jordan or perhaps even an Iranian attack on Jordanian targets near the frontier with Israeli-occupied territory.
In any case, prospects for the autonomy talks due to resume here Tuesday-never very bright-were dimmed to near black by the Persian Gulf hostilities. The U.S. negotiator, Sol Linowitz, has said he believes that the negotiators can break the deadlock on a number of disputed points. State Department spokesman John Trattner seconded that optimistic line yesterday, maintaining: "We don't see a material effect on the autonomy talks. We don't think we or our negotiating partners feel the conflict should deter the effort to get an accord."
However, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, who has been convinced for some time that progress will be possible only after the U.S. presidential elections, showed signs that he was thinking more about the Gulf war than about the autonomy talks. He dispatched his vice president, Husni Mubarak, to Washington this weekend with a message for U.S. leaders that is said to be a reiteration of his earlier urgings that the United States act more forcefully in dealing with the Gulf conflict.