U.S. May Alter Proposal to Sell ‘sidewinders’ to Saudi Arabia

Faced with strong opposition in Congress and by arms experts within the Ford Administration, the State Department was reported today to be reconsidering its proposed sale of 2000 Sidewinder missiles to Saudi Arabia. The Department has given preliminary indications of its proposal, but has not yet formally asked Congress for confirmation.

The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency is understood to consider the sale excessive insofar as Saudi Arabia’s defense needs are concerned. This has raised fears that the Saudis may transfer some of them to Arab states who are in direct confrontation with Israel. Opposition to the sale has been voiced by Sens. Clifford Case (R.NJ), Thomas Eagleton (D.Mo.) and Richard Stone (D.Fla.) and Reps. Benjamin Rosenthal (D.NY) and Henry A. Waxman (D.Calif).

Observing that it’s “unclear” whether the sale involves the purchase of missiles alone or entails a commitment of American personnel to man and operate these systems, Waxman asked in the House whether Americans are “running the Saudi Arabian armed forces” and “who is controlling the nature and scope of our involvement?” He pointed out that “some experts have concluded that without American support the Saudis could not effectively operate their sophisticated weaponry.”

Congress and the Administration, he said, are again facing confrontation “simply because the Administration continues to make important strategy policy decisions in secret” and without consulting Congress.

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