WASHINGTON (Feb. 17)
The White House announced today that the United States will not sell concussion bombs, known as CBU-72, to Israel. Presidential Press Secretary Jody Powell said that decision was related to a U.S. reassessment of its need for the CBU for its own forces and that the U.S. has no intention of selling it to any country.
He said that two other of the four advanced weapons systems promised Israel by President Ford last October would be provided. These are M-60 tanks and 155 mm. Howitzers. But the FLIR, a forward-looking infra-red radar system promised by Ford, is also being withheld, Powell said. He added, however, that “intensive discussions about this night vision radar apparatus is underway” with Israel.
Powell said that “no vow” was made by the Carter Administration that it would not review or alter decisions made by the previous Administration. He said the decision on the CBUs is not inconsistent with what President Carter has said previously and neither is it inconsistent with his oft repeated commitment to the security of Israel.
State Department spokesman Frederick Z. Brown told reporters later, in reply to question, that the decision not to sell CBUs to Israel was made earlier this week but Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance felt it was desirable to make no announcement until Vance communicated the decision personally to the Israeli government. Vance was in Israel yesterday and left last night for Egypt.
The White House decision was not unexpected, Carter announced at a recent press conference that the matter of concussion bombs for Israel was under review by the State and Defense Departments to determine the political and military aspects of such a sale. The Pentagon sent papers on the matter to Vance’s aides two weeks ago for review.
However, Vance is known to have told Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz recently that he could be assured that the commitments made by Ford would be honored by the Carter Administration. Dinitz remarked afterwards that he had no reason to believe they would not be.
TACTIC TO PLACATE ARABS
But Arab governments, notably Egypt, strongly opposed the transfer of concussion bombs to Israel and their views apparently were shared by influential elements in the State and Defense Departments. Some observers here said the denial of the bombs to Israel was a tactic Vance would use to indicate to Arab leaders the Carter Administration’s intention to be objective in its relations with Israel and the Arab states.
The concussion bomb, a deadly type of fire bomb, is one of the most powerful non-nuclear weapons in the American arsenal. Among its capabilities is the destruction of missile emplacements and mine fields. It is also a terrifying anti-personnel weapon. Apart from political considerations, the question of whether Israel requires such weapons for defense apparently entered into the review.
When Ford made his pledge last Oct. 8, unidentified sources at the Pentagon and the State Department complained that he had not cleared it with them. Ford said he had, in fact, consulted with both departments. However, he never submitted the proposed sale to Congress for approval as required by law although he had three months to do so before leaving office. Carter noted at his press conference that Ford had not “cleared” the proposed sales with the State or Defense Departments. Yesterday, the White House said it would be incorrect to say that Ford had not “consulted” with the two key departments.