The government of Jordan provided military assistance and information from Israeli and Western intelligence agencies to Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait and during the Persian Gulf War, according to classified documents and interviews.
During this period, the Bush Administration allowed some government defense supplies to be shipped to Jordan despite public assurances to Congress that such aid had stopped, according to the records.
Even after King Hussein publicly declared his support for Iraq and the United States imposed a comprehensive ban on all U.S. military trade with Jordan, commercial military shipments were still being cleared for delivery through the war's final days, the records indicate.
The allegations are contained in the classified annex to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, on Jordan's compliance with United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
The probe was conducted at the request of a House subcommittee and was issued Sept. 25. However, several of its key findings have remained classified "secret" at the insistence of the Administration. A copy of the secret portion was obtained recently by The Times.
The investigation suggests that the U.S. posture toward Jordan was more lenient than the Administration publicly indicated during the Persian Gulf crisis. It also offers the prospect that Iraq may have derived some benefit from the continuing U.S.-Jordan relationship during the period.
Contacted for comment, a State Department official disputed some of the GAO's findings.
Calvin Mitchell, an official in the Middle East division, said there is no proof Jordan sent arms to Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. "We have said consistently that we have no confirmed information that military parts or equipment moved from Jordan to Iraq during the Gulf crisis," he said.
He declined to discuss the allegations about intelligence sharing and other forms of Jordanian-Iraqi cooperation.
Other Administration officials acknowledged that the Administration did not take the most stringent position on Jordan's dealings with Iraq. They said that some consideration was justified in recognition of Jordan's extremely delicate position in the region and in view of U.S. hope of restoring a good relationship in the future.
A representative of the Jordanian government said that the report's allegations are unfounded. "I can categorically deny that we have had any military cooperation or sale of military equipment to Iraq since Aug. 2," said Marwan Muasher, director of the Jordan Information Bureau here. "And we do not even get intelligence from Israel. We are in a state of war with Israel."
There have been previous reports that Jordan supplied some military equipment to Iraq during the war, including grenade launchers, grenades and mortars. But the new allegations, detailed in the classified annex to the GAO report, suggest much broader assistance.
"U.S. intelligence services verified four types of Jordanian and Iraqi military cooperation during the Gulf crisis," the document says. "These activities included joint training exercises with Iraq, two cases of providing access to U.S. technology, one case of purchasing spare parts and one case dealing with the sharing of coalition and Israeli intelligence information."
The report did not disclose details of the U.S. technology provided to Iraq or describe the nature of the intelligence shared. It said that the conclusions were supported by Defense Department documents, which traced shipments of military goods to Iraq from Jordan to the first days after the invasion of Kuwait.
The GAO said that the U.S. intelligence community differed over the importance of Jordan's actions, which--as described--would have violated the United Nations' embargo on Iraq. The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) took a harsher view than the CIA.
"While DIA believed that Jordan was significantly violating U.N. sanctions, the CIA did not," said the report.
The differences between the two intelligence agencies is similar to the split in attitudes elsewhere within the American government over the seriousness of Jordan's violations of the embargo and how to respond to them. During the seven-month crisis, there were frequent reports of trucks hauling supplies across the Jordanian border into Iraq with little interference.
Congress advocated a firm stand against Jordan and strict retaliation for embargo violations. However, the prevailing view within the Administration was that the response had to be tempered by the reality confronting King Hussein and threats to his government.
The GAO report concluded that the Administration's implementation of the U.N. sanctions against Jordan was much less thorough than it seemed.
At the time Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in August, 1990, the United States was providing about $50 million a year in economic and military aid annually to King Hussein's government. Jordan was recognized as a key U.S. ally in the region and an important buffer between Israel on the west and the hardline states of Iraq and Iran on the east.
Relations chilled, though, when Iraqi troops stormed across the border and Jordan refused to join Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt in supporting the American-led military coalition to force a withdrawal. Saudi Arabia cut off $700 million in aid and oil sales and congressional pressure forced the Bush Administration to announce a freeze on military and economic aid.
Administration officials discussed the aid cut-off in public interviews and testimony on the confrontation. However, the GAO report says, the Administration allowed an assortment of military goods already in the defense pipeline to proceed to Jordan. This included, in October, unspecified quantities of "105-millimeter cartridges and repair and return of Cobra missile components," the report said.
Although critical of the U.S. troop deployment and demanding an Arab solution to the crisis, King Hussein did not clearly renounce neutrality until Feb. 6, 1991, three weeks after the coalition had begun intensive bombing raids on Iraqi targets. In a television address to his nation, he condemned the "savage and large-scale war against brotherly Iraq" and called for Arabs to bring pressure to force a cease-fire.
The State Department subsequently announced a suspension of all licenses for the sale of U.S. defense items to Jordan.
However, according to the GAO report, the State Department did not issue written instructions implementing the ban until March 4, 1991--a week after the end of the war. Three days later, on March 7, the ban was lifted.
U.S. military depots continued to deliver defense material to Jordan's shipping firm while the ban was supposedly in effect, said a public portion of the GAO report. As a result, more than 700 pieces of military equipment worth $550,000 were delivered to the freight company during the period. The equipment was primarily spare parts for tanks, howitzers and military aircraft and components for two anti-aircraft missile systems.
The State Department also did not notify the freight company about the ban, according to the GAO. The agency said it is not clear from shipping records whether goods awaiting shipment in a warehouse were actually withheld as intended.
The GAO study did not say whether the ban was so porous because of inefficiency and miscommunications in the bureaucracy or because officials were reluctant to implement a tough policy.
After the war, there were strong sentiments in the Administration to resume good relations with Jordan.
"It is not in the interest of the United States to see a radicalized Jordan," then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on May 23, 1991. "That does not, you know, excuse in any way the position that the leadership in Jordan took in the Iraq-Kuwait war. We were disappointed by that, and disappointed particularly by some statements that came out of Jordan regarding the United States."
But Baker added that King Hussein was "indispensable" to the Middle East peace process and that U.S. aid was important to maintaining stability in his country.
The Administration also has dismissed congressional concerns about alleged violations by Jordan of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Even during the war, Baker assured Congress that the State Department had no evidence that Jordan was allowing violations of the sanctions, except for buying oil from Iraq.
Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Feb. 7, 1991, Baker had been asked whether Jordan was violating the U.N. sanctions. "No," he responded. "Not that we're aware of. As I told you, except for the oil coming into Jordan, we think Jordan's compliance with the economic sanctions has been really quite good."
In November, 1991, the Administration in a briefing to the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, once again assured Congress that Jordan was not violating the U.N. sanctions except for the importation of oil from Iraq.
The State Department recently told Congress that it plans to resume full economic and military aid in response to better Jordanian enforcement of the U.N. trade sanctions on Iraq and the cooler relations between Jordan and Iraq.
The move may trigger some criticism, however, in light of intelligence reports asserting that Jordan continued to violate the U.N. sanctions when the Administration was telling Congress it was no longer doing so.
In June, 1991, a top-secret assessment by the CIA identified 72 Jordanian businesses violating the continuing U.N. embargo against Iraq. The same report said that high-level Jordanian government officials were partners in a small number of the firms and that other Jordanian officials profited form the violations.
It is unclear how widely the CIA report was distributed among policy-makers. However, the classified section of the GAO report suggests that two months later Cabinet officials might have been briefed about a separate Pentagon study of Jordan's role in violating the sanctions.
Waas is a special correspondent and Frantz is a Times staff writer. Times researcher Pat Welch also contributed to this story.