Baker Suggests U.S. Lease the Two Sinal Air Bases to Help Protect U.S. Friends in the Area

Sen Howard Baker of Tennessee, the Republican Senate Minority Leader and a declared candidate for his party’s Presidential nomination, wants the U.S. to “re-asses” its Middle East policy in view of the Iranian situation and suggested leasing the two Israel-built air bases in Sinai to help protect its friends and allies in the area.

Baker said in a Senate speech yesterday, “Whatever the outcome of the tragic imprisonment of our diplomats in Iran, the U.S. must re-assess its prospects and the prospects of its allies and friends in the troubled Middle East.”

He added: “It goes without saying in 1979 that it is imperative that our oil lifeline to that area of the globe be preserved. The stable governments that exercise authority in the region must have reason to believe that the U.S. can and will do whatever is necessary to assist them in maintaining the stability of their institutions.”

CAPABLE OF HANDLING U.S. BOMBERS

Noting that “For many years the Sinai has been the site of some of the most impressive air bases in the world,” Baker pointed out that “they are capable of handling” America’s giant B-52 bombers. “Today, as a result of the impressive success of the peace process between Egypt and Israel, “he said, those bases are to be handed over to Egypt.

Baker believes that “President (Anwar) Sadat might well agree that an American presence in this troubled area would be additional proof of the increasing firmness of the Egyptian-American relationship.”

The Senator noted that “the economic rewards associated with such an American lease could be of substantial benefit to the Egyptian economy” and that “the oil-producing countries of the area would be well served by such a manifestation of the American will to do what is necessary to sustain both its alliances and its lifeline.”

The two air bases in Sinai will be handed over to Egypt in 1981 in the final stage of Israel’s withdrawal from the peninsula. By that time, two replacement air bases in the Negev are expected to have been completed.

ISRAEL’S STABILITY IN THE MIDEAST

Meanwhile, in a speech on the floor of the House, Rep. Dan Glickman (D. Kan.) pointed out

“While I recognize that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others, have been supportive of our position in this tense time, our options in dealing with the release of the hostages, for instance, and on future dealings with Iran, clearly and unequivocally depend on the existence of at least one stable ally in the region Israel is that ally and we should never forget that its strength and security is paramount to America’s strength and security in the Middle East and is tremendously significant to the rest of the world.”

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