Washington (Sep. 17)
Sen. Bob Packwood (R. Oreg.) was scheduled to introduce a resolution this afternoon to reject the Reagan Administration’s proposed sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and other sophisticated military equipment to Saudi Arabia. The resolution has 51 co-sponsors, a majority of the Senate. Packwood and Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.) said that six other Senators would also vote for the resolution.
They told a press conference that it would be impossible now for President Reagan to turn that many votes around and warned that if the President insists on the arms package as proposed, he will be rebuffed.
Jackson said he would consider changes that would provide the AWACS to Saudi Arabia under the same conditions they are provided to NATO, meaning under complete American control. But Packwood said he would vote for no arms to the Saudis because “I see no evidence that Saudi Arabia wants to further the peace process.” He contended that if the Saudis wanted to they could move the peace process forward.
Jackson said that if the Reagan Administration was to deny Israel the strategic cooperation announced last week because the AWACS deal is rejected, the U.S. would have to be “absolute fools.” According to Jackson, if the Soviet Union threatened the region, Israel could have 700,000 troops ready immediately while the Saudis couldn’t manage to field a regiment.
Packwood noted that last June he initiated a letter signed by 55 Senators urging the Reagan Administration to withdraw the Saudi arms package. He said he heard nothing from the Administration until it submitted its proposal which was the same that the 55 Senators told it they didn’t want.
The Senate has already received informal notification of the proposed sale and is expected to receive formal notification before the end of this month. It will then have 30 days to reject the deal. A vote on Packwood’s resolution is not expected until the Senate Foreign Relations Committee completes its hearings on the arms package scheduled to begin later this month.