Washington (Apr. 8)
A bi-partisan group of about 80 Congressman urged the Reagan Administration to review its decision to sell Saudi Arabia additional fuel tanks and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for the 62 F-15 jet fighters the Saudis have purchased from the U.S. They also criticized the Administration’s plans to provide the Saudis with advanced aerial intelligence systems–AWACS.
Rep. James Blanchard (D. Mich.) who, along with Rep. Jack Kemp (R. NY), led the move on the House floor yesterday, called the proposed sales “foolish and ill-timed.” He said they would “constitute a serious new escalation of arms” in the Middle East and would “ultimately place a much greater security burden on our oldest and staunchest ally in the region, the State of Israel.”
WARNS OF JEOPARDIZING U.S. INTERESTS
Blanchard noted further that the sale “represents yet another attempt to court friendship with other nations through the sale of highly sophisticated military weapons. “He pointed out that” The presence of such sophisticated weapons” in Saudi Arabia which has internal security problems “could jeopardize U.S. strategic interests and those of our established allies if those weapons fell into the wrong hands.”
Kemp said the AWACS should not be allowed to get out of American hands in Saudi Arabia. However, he said he would not be opposed to the sale of other equipment to enhance the capabilities of the Saudi F-15s if the U.S. would get something in return, such as Saudi support of the Camp David agreements.
Blanchard pointed out that when he had opposed the sale of the F-15s when it was proposed by the Carter Administration in 1978, “I was concerned that we were not getting any assurances from the Saudis of their willingness to play a role in the peace process. Unfortunately, in the past two years we have received very little in return for the F-15s.”
He noted that the Saudis have not supported the Camp David process, have called for a holy war against Israel during the recent Islamic summit conference and “continue to provide massive amounts of funding for the Palestine Liberation Organization.” Blanchard added that by giving the Saudis advanced weapons, Israel would have to increase its military budget at a time when it already spends a large share of its gross national product on defense.
“What a terrible shame it would be if in the name of a strategic U.S. presence abroad, we undermine our most reliable and effective ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel, “Blanchard said. “I can’t help but wonder if this sale would ever have been proposed if Israel had oil wells.”