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Jordan asked Nixon to attack Syria, declassified papers show

  • Story Highlights
  • Telegram: King Hussein wanted U.S. strike on invading Syrian troops in 1970
  • Nixon White House urged Saudis to distance from PLO's Fatah organization
  • Papers also discuss Israeli acquisition of nuclear weapon
  • Documents among 10,000 papers released Wednesday by Nixon Library
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Jordan's King Hussein sent a secret message to President Richard Nixon in 1970 pleading with him to attack Syria, according to declassified documents released Wednesday by the former president's library.

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President Nixon works at his desk in the Oval Office in a June 1972 photograph.

The papers are among about 10,000 documents released by the Nixon Presidential Library, some of which offer harbingers of present-day events, such as concerns about terrorism and Saudi Arabia.

Library director Timothy Naftali said the documents describe challenges such as how to get the Saudis more involved in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, how to get them more engaged against terrorism, how to address the Arab view that the United States always sides with Israel and how to build up moderate Palestinians to counter extremists.

A 1973 diplomatic cable cites this objective: "isolate and undermine terrorisms [sic] and commandos [sic] by establishing another, more stable and respectable Palestinian political entity and political personality."

Documents detail U.S. efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to move away from Fatah, the military wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, because U.S. officials believed the PLO was supporting the terrorist-linked, anti-Israel group Black September, referred to as BSO.

The document, a U.S. State Department telegram from the embassy in Jeddah to Washington reads, "BSO and Fatah [are] now linked together in vicious effort to create chaos and uncertainty. One might wonder whether central objective BSO conspiracy was not to erase any slight progress toward Middle East peace."

The document release was intended to coincide with Mideast peace summit among Palestinian, Israeli and other Mideast leaders in Maryland, Naftali said.

The Nixon White House also was adjusting to Israel's acquisition of a nuclear weapon. "We are declassifying the records today that laid the basis for Richard Nixon's decision in 1969 to accept the fact, a fact of life, that Israel had a bomb, a nuclear device," said Naftali. "That, of course, is very important with what's going on in Annapolis."

"Even though it is clear from the documents that the United States government did not encourage Israel to acquire a nuclear deterrent, it became a fact of life," Naftali said. "There are materials here that show how our government, 30 years ago, dealt with this very, very difficult problem."

Rather than openly declare itself as a nuclear power, Israel still maintains a strategic ambiguity over its nuclear weapons capability.

In 1970, as King Hussein dealt with threats by both Palestinian refugees in his country and Syrian military forces crossing Jordan's border, the king asked "the United States and Great Britain to intervene in the war in Jordan, asking the United States, in fact, to attack Syria," Naftali said. "Syria had invaded Jordan and the Jordanian king, facing what he felt was a military rout, said please help us in any way possible."

The telegram indicates that Hussein himself called a U.S. official at 3 a.m. to ask for American or British help. "Situation deteriorating dangerously following Syrian massive invasion...," the document said. "I request immediate physical intervention both land and air ... to safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Jordan. Immediate air strikes on invading forces from any quarter plus air cover are imperative."

The library has withheld the Nixon documents from public access until Wednesday and have been reviewed for release and/or declassified, Naftali said.

Nixon served as president from January 20, 1969, to August 9, 1974, when he resigned under political pressure during the Watergate scandal -- the only U.S. president to do so. He died in 1994 after suffering a stroke at the age of 81. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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