Jordan has suspended its request to buy an additional 100 M60 battle tanks from the United States because it has received about 35 captured Iranian M60s from Iraq and, as the Persian Gulf war drags on, has the prospect of getting even more, U.S. sources said yesterday.
The suspension apparently springs from a desire to save money -- the 100 M60S3s have a value of about $160 million now and are certain to go up -- but also reflects King Hussein's increasingly friendly relations with Iraq and comes as a "bonus" for his ostentatious support of Baghdad in the war against Iran.
"The Jordanian get their order pad out every time there is another battle," remarked a U.S. specialist following the Iraqi deliveries.
In another light, by getting him American tanks without having to go through the motions of obtaining congressional assent, the Iraqi generosity also provides Hussein with a risk-free opportunity to continue demonstrating aloofness from the dormant Camp David peace process that he denounced from the beginning as a monstarter and that he recently called a "dead horse."
Hussein still intends to bring his armored forces up to 18 battalions of 35-40 tanks and therefore plans to go through with the already approved purchase of 100 M60A3s from the United States and 250 Chieftains from Britain, the sources said. But with Iraq handing over captured Iranian M60A1s, Hussein's government has asked the Reagan administration to put his request for a second 100 M60A3s "on hold" unitl the final amount of the unexpected supplies from the Iraq becomes clear, they added.
Jordan is due to begin receiving the first 100 M60A3s in September next year. Their purchase was approved during Hussein's visit here last June, prompting Israeli expressions of "strong concern."
Aside from the numbers, the Israeli concern grew from agreement to supply the Jordanian tanks with sophisticated night-vision sights that earlier the U.S. government had refused to sell to Jordan.