Washington (Sep. 4)
A dozen members of the Senate have asked their colleagues to join them in sponsoring a resolution to reject President Reagan’s proposal to sell five AWACS reconnaissance planes and other sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia.
“We strongly believe that this proposed sale is not in the best interests of the United States,” the 12 said in a letter initiated by Sens. Bob Packwood (R. Ore.) and Henry Jackson (D. Wash.).
“This sale seriously risks jeopardizing our national security and further destabilizing the Middle East,” Packwood said at a press conference at the Capitol. Packwood was the initiator of a letter on June 24, which 55 Senators sent Reagan urging him that he not send the arms package proposal to Congress. At the same time, more than 245 members of the House signed a resolution to reject the sale.
But Packwood conceded last Friday that only about 44 to 45 Senators are at present committed to rejecting the sale. He said that about 37 to 38 Senators support the President and the fight will be over 17 to 19 Senators who are presently undecided.
Congress will begin the 20-day informal notification period in which it can discuss the proposed sale when it returns from its summer recess on Wednesday. This will be followed by a 30-day formal notification period in which the Senate and the House must reject the sale in order to veto it.
REASONS FOR OPPOSING THE SALE
The letter signed by a dozen Senators listed the reasons for opposing the sale as follows:
“It is unwise to sell our most sophisticated airborne surveillance systems to a non-democratic, potentially unstable nation because this could lead to compromise of our technology;
“It is unwise to accede to Saudi pressure for this sale in view of the absence of constructive participation by the Saudis in the Camp David peace process, the continued Saudi financing of PLO terrorism, and in view of Saudi policy that Israel is her number one enemy;
“And it is unwise to contravene assurances that the capabilities of the Saudi F-15s would not be enhanced and it is also unwise to rely on Saudi statements or assurances, in whatever form made, that AWACS — in any configuration — would not be employed against America’s key friend in the region, Israel, in some future pan-Arab war.”
Also signing the letter were Sens. Alan Cranston (D. Cal.), Roger Jepson (R. Iowa), Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.), David Pryor (D. Ark.), Bill Bradley (R. N. J.), Daniel Inouye (D. Hl.) and Alfonse D’Amato (R. N.Y.).
Immediately joining in with the 12 Senators last Friday was Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D.N.Y.) who said the proposed sale “would only serve to destabilize an extremely volatile part of the world.” Moynihan charged that the Administration has talked a great deal about secret negotiations to provide safeguards on the sale, “but there is precious little information in writing. This is not diplomacy, it is intrigue,” he declared.