5. Jordan and the October War Coalition
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5 Jordan and the October War Coalition Despite surviving the 1970–1971 civil war, Jordanian policy makers were left with little breathing room, as the region plunged once again into war in 1973. The seeds for the 1973 war had been sown in the June 1967 conflict, just six years earlier, when Israeli land and air forces had inflicted a devastating defeat on the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian armed forces. For each of the three Arab combatants, the disastrous results of 1967 had included the occupation of territory they had previously controlled. Egypt lost the Gaza Strip (and far more importantly for the Egyptians, the Sinai peninsula), while Syria lost the Golan Heights and Jordan lost not only East Jerusalem but also the entire West Bank. In addition to their regional strategic concerns vis-àvis Israel, all three Arab regimes saw their domestic legitimacy and security linked, at least to some extent, to the retrieval of these territories. For Jordan in particular, the loss of territory to Israel had also been accompanied by a massive influx of Palestinian refugees, as well as PLO guerilla fighters. The Jordanian economy was thus reeling from the loss of its most agriculturally fertile and economically productive territory, made worse by the additional socio-economic strain on the system by the sudden surge in population and demands on resources. These strains provided the underpinnings for the PLO-Hashimite conflict of 1970–1971. But the effects of territorial loss were felt elsewhere too, particularly in Egypt and Syria where new leaders—Anwar al-Sadat and Hafiz al-Asad—felt domestic and regional pressures to reverse the results of 1967 and thereby solidify the basis for their rule. These various pressures and changes would prove central elements to the first alignment case in question: the formation of the Trilateral Alliance and the launching of the October 1973 war, also known as the Yom Kippur War and the Ramadan War, since it took place during these Jewish and Muslim holidays. This chapter examines Jordan’s response to the 1973 war and Jordan’s specific decisions regarding the Arab alliance against Israel, an alliance in which the kingdom neither went to war nor remained entirely neutral. In 1971 the governments of Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia began the 72 / Chapter 5 process of establishing the Trilateral Alliance. The alliance was intended to marshal Arab military and economic strength against the state of Israel in an effort to change the results of the Six Day War of 1967, which had been an unmitigated disaster for the Arabs. The alliance became a war fighting coalition in October 1973, following the failure of diplomatic attempts to remove Israeli forces from Arab territories occupied since 1967. The alliance was never formally concluded, underscoring the informality typical of even the most central and powerful inter-Arab alignments. Standing in sharp contrast to the Trilateral Alliance are its two immediate predecessors: the Federation of Arab Republics (comprising Egypt, Libya, and Syria) and the “merger” between Egypt and Libya. In both cases these “alignments” were accompanied by much rhetorical fanfare, but amounted to little beyond the paper they were written on. To some extent, both alignments —while essentially meaningless—were intended by Sadat to placate the regime of Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in Libya at a very public level, while at a more private and even secret level a far more substantial alignment was being concluded between Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Like Jordan, Libya was left out of the Trilateral Alliance and of the planning for the October War. The alliance had been constructed through repeated and highly secretive contacts at the highest government levels, including the personal diplomacy of the three heads of state: President Sadat of Egypt, President Asad of Syria, and King Faisal Ibn 'Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia. King Hussein and the Jordanian government, however, were included in none of these meetings, until a very late summit in Cairo on September 10, 1973. And even then it was agreed that Jordan would not enter the war unless the Egyptian and Syrian offensives were successful. As the key planner of the October War, Sadat’s main intention was actually rather limited. If an outright military victory could not be achieved, he intended at the very least to break the diplomatic deadlock by changing the territorial and strategic status quo, thereby forcing negotiation through military fiat. While both Syria and Egypt had agreed to pursue only limited military objectives, their respective interpretations...


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