Washington (Sep. 27)
The Reagan Administration is seeking a compromise on the proposed sale of five AWACS surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia which will be acceptable to the Saudis and will prevent rejection of the $8.5 billion weapons package by the Senate.
Richard Allen, President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, stopped briefing Senators on the arms sale last week and instead began to work on a compromise proposal. It is believed to be along the lines proposed by Sen. John Glenn (D. Ohio) to give the U.S. joint control of the AWACS into the 1990s.
Sen. Paul Laxalt (R. Nev.) said today that he believes Glenn, because of this experience as a pilot, is “critical” to the situation. Laxalt, Reagan’s closest personal friend in the Senate, said that “technology” in the AWACS is “unbelievable” and that many Senators do not want to see the planes going to any foreign country. Even the AWACS provided to NATO are under the control of Americans, he noted.
Laxalt, who appeared on the NBC-TV “Meet the Press” program, said he didn’t know if the Saudis would accept the compromise since there have been conflicting reports in the last few days. He observed that the Saudis don’t want to “lose face” by being “seen incapable” of operating the aircraft.
Sen. Ernest Hollings (D. SC), said on the ABC-TV “Issues and Answers” program today that he didn’t care if the Saudis owned the planes or not but the “ultimate command and control” must be in the hands of the U.S. Otherwise he would vote against the sale, he said.
WARNED THAT ISRAEL MIGHT BE BLAMED
Laxalt warned that if the Senate rejected the sale, there would be some feeling in Congress blaming Israel. He advised Israel to take a “long view” and realize that the U.S. has other interests in the Middle East. He said that there were no prospects for peace in that region without Saudi involvement. But. Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D. NY), who also appeared on “Issues and Answers” today, noted that Saudi Arabia had taken the lead in opposition to the Camp David agreements and in the Arab attacks on President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Moynihan said that for him to support the AWACS sale it would take a lot more than he expected the Administration to agree to.
Laxalt noted that there were 35-40 Senators who were “very responsive” to the Israeli situation. He said he would not say they were under Israel’s control but were “sensitive” to any threat to Israel’s security. He said he was also supportive of Israel.
SOLON DENOUNCES ‘UGLY OVERTONE’
Last week Sen. Carl Levin (D. Mich.) denounced what he called an “ugly overtone” in the debate over the proposed arms sale package to Saudi Arabia. In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Levin said:
“I refer specifically to a line of argument — really a line of innuendo — which somehow suggests that the decision about the sale will not be made by the Congress of the United States but rather by an all-powerful Israeli lobby and that the real issue that we will resolve is whether the government of the United States makes foreign policy or whether it is made by the Knesset.”
Levin noted that Secretary of State Alexander Haig has said that “there has been no attempt by the government of Israel to improperly influence this decision.”