The Beginnings of Transjordanian Military Intelligence: A Neglected Aspect of the 1948 War

By Yitzhak, Ronen | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

The Beginnings of Transjordanian Military Intelligence: A Neglected Aspect of the 1948 War


Yitzhak, Ronen, The Middle East Journal


Transjordanian military intelligence was established just before the 1948 war with the help of the British army, to assist the Arab Legion in the war against the Jews in Palestine. Military intelligence was a very small unit (some historians have treated it as if it did not exist), but it was also very effective. During the war, Transjordanian military intelligence was busier protecting the Hashimite regime than collecting information regarding the Jews.

As long as the British army was in Palestine, the Transjordanian Arab Legion's military intelligence was busier maintaining the regime than collecting information regarding the potential enemy. This was due to the fact that until the 1948 war of Israeli independence, Transjordan was not facing any external threat, and therefore did not need a military intelligence system. The Arab Legion (Transjordan's Army) received its intelligence information from the British Army, which was stationed in Palestine, and was also responsible for the safety of Transjordan in the event of a general war.1

However, with the decision of the British to retreat from Palestine, the Arab Legion had to establish a different intelligence system, one capable of battle intelligence, one it could use in the coming war against the Jews in Palestine. In order to establish an efficient system, the Arab Legion used the assistance of the British, who started building the Legion's battle intelligence system according to the British model. Indeed a small intelligence unit was established in the Arab Legion as early as the end of World War II, but just before the 1948 war the British intended to improve and adapt it to the new circumstances.2 That is how, with the help of the British, and contrary to what some researchers have written, on the eve of the war there was a military intelligence division, which was built as a structural hierarchic system, containing all the collection and appreciation units, which were customary in the British Army's intelligence.3 The British help, and the influence they had on the Arab Legion's intelligence did not end with the establishing of the intelligence force, but grew wider during the 1948 war, until it turned into full cooperation between the two intelligence services.

This article deals with the establishment of the military intelligence of the Arab Legion, its development, and its contribution to the 1948 war.

TRANSJORDANIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ON THE EVE OF THE 1948 WAR

Transjordan's intelligence force emphasized battle intelligence, that is, observations and patrols, which were the responsibility of the battalion's intelligence officer, who was responsible for primary processing of information for the battalion and communicating that information to nearby battalions and to the brigade. Even though the battalion's intelligence officer was supposed to process the information and pass only the important material to the brigade or the division, usually these non-professional officers would transfer all of the intelligence information gathered to the commanding headquarters, without winnowing the key information from details of secondary importance.4

The Arab Legion's intelligence force was composed of collection units and a research unit. The research unit was divided into sub-units by sections: north, center, and south, so that the relevant information reached the right front. The units that dealt with concluding, evaluating and analyzing the intelligence information were in both the General Staff and in the brigades. They would receive the intelligence information from the battalions and analyze it. In certain cases, when evaluation officers thought that the information was highly valuable or of primary national importance, they would refer it to the General Staff of the Arab Legion in Amman, or even to national authorities.5

Furthermore, each brigade's intelligence unit held files of important people, units, targets, forces, etc. …

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