WASHINGTON (Feb. 19)
Defense Secretary Harold Brown advocated today U.S. bilateral treaties with Middle Eastern countries while supporting the long-held Carter Administration insistence on a “comprehensive settlement” between Israel and the Arab states.
Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to justify the Administration’s military assistance programs, Brown testified that the U.S. should proceed with bilateral agreements in treating the southwest Asian situation, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the problems in Iran.
He observed, in this connection, that the process of reaching agreements is complicated by the Arab-Israeli conflict but he noted in the course of his three hours of testimony that the political situation is the basis for the U.S. seeking the use of facilities and not bases in the Middle East area and that the U.S. seeks to keep a “low profile” on its military presence.
Asked later by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency whether his views conflicted on the kinds of agreements, Brown replied that the “comprehensive settlement” is “a separate issue” and deals with the “peace problem” between Israel and the Arab states. “It is in no way to contain Soviet expansion,” Brown said.
Asked about the reported delivery of 60 Soviet tanks and other equipment to the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon and whether that posed a threat to U.S. interests, Brown told the JTA that “it certainly increase the threat of conflict and as such poses a threat to U.S. interests” but he hastened to add, regarding the reported delivery, “I’ve seen the report but I am not prepared to say it is so.”
The State Department last week appeared to confirm without doubt that the PLO has actually received the Soviet equipment, but it would not say whether the terrorist organization obtained the weaponry directly from the Soviet Union or from Syria, which is equipped with Soviet weapons. Brown’s response may therefore have been based on whether the Soviet Union itself directly transferred the tanks to the PLO.
ARMS FOR MIDEAST COUNTRIES
In his prepared statement to the committee, Brown justified U.S. support for Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. “Israel is heavily dependent on United States arms,” Brown said. “It has not been able to turn to any other major arms supplier since the oil embargo in 1973. Its equipment needs for exceed its resources and the United States has provided foreign military sales financing each year since the 1973 war. Traditionally, one-half of such financing has been ‘forgiven,’ a form of grant aid. The Administration proposes to continue foreign military sales financing and ‘forgiven’ credit in fiscal year 1981.”Brown did not mention that an additional $200 million to Israel does not contain the “forgiven” aspect.
Brown’s testimony showed that while Israel apparently cannot acquire weaponry from Britain and France, Jordan can and does. “While Jordan has begun to turn to other suppliers, such as the United Kingdom and France,” Brown testified,” the continued U.S. financing and training for Jordan “will maintain important ties between our two countries. Jordanian support for “comprehensive peace initiatives will be a chief factor in achieving a lasting peace.”
EGYPTIAN AID DOUBLE ISRAEL’S
Regarding Saudi Arabia, Brown said that “Our security relationship,” with that country “is vital” because its “support will be essential to long-lasting resolution of the issues between Israel and her Arab neighbors and whose oil is critical to the West.”
Brown justified U.S. military support for Egypt, which in the coming fiscal year will be almost double that provided Israel, because Egypt “needs a credible deterrent that will give it the confidence it needs to pursue the peace process.”
In listing U.S. objectives in the Middle East, Brown listed “advancement of the Middle East peace process, while insuring — and to help insure — the continued security of the State of Israel. The opposition of Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the Camp David accords was not discussed at the hearing.