WASHINGTON (May. 10)
The Carter Administration was driving relentlessly today towards virtually a complete victory for its warplanes package to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. Two senior Cabinet officials suggested to President Carter, according to Capitol reports, that victory would be assured if the President relented sufficiently to grant Israel 20 more F-15 warplanes or a total of 35 in the proposed allotment. Israel already has 25 F-15s which would be equal to the 60 F-15s proposed for Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, who are leading the Administration’s maneuvers for the package, also are suggesting that Brown send a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would say, in effect, that the government of Saudi Arabia has no aggressive intentions against any state and would we the F-15s only for self-defense. Supporters of Israel have pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s use of the F-15s would make it a confrontation state against Israel.
CHARGES ECONOMIC BLACKMAIL
In a related development, former Presidential assistant Mark Siegel has charged that Carter “succumbed” to “economic blackmail” in proposing to provide the 60 F-15s to Saudi Arabia. In a letter to some members of Congress, Siegel said the Administration has been disseminating “distortions and untruths” about the possibility the planes might be used against Israel.
The letter, whose contents become known today, urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to “reject this attempt to coerce the Congress into acquiescing in the sale of arms whose future use, in the absence of a genuine Mideast peace, will most probably be against Israel. The Saudi demand for immediate approval of the sale was tied to a discussion of OPEC oil prices and the falling value of the U.S. dollar abroad, “Siegel wrote, according to a report in the Washington Star today. Siegel was quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid “threatened the President of the United States with economic blackmail and the President succumbed.”
At the White House, Presidential news secretary Jody Powell charged that “these allegations of economic blackmail, either explicit or implicit, are totally and completely fabrications.”Powell said Siegel was not present at the meeting between Carter and King Khalid but that he, Powell, was present. Powell said that in the light of the Siegel charges, he reviewed his notes of that meeting and said that there was “absolutely no discussion of oil or prices or of the dollar.”