WASHINGTON (Dec. 27)
Four leading Senators have sent a letter to President Reagan calling for a halt in the shipment of U.S. made helicopters to Iraq because the transaction is “not in the best interests” of the U.S.
The letter, dated December 23, was initiated by Sen. Alan Dixon (D.III.) and signed by Sens. Charles Percy (R.III.), who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.) and Larry Pressler (R.S.D.).
Declaring that “our belief is that this transaction is not in the best interests of the U.S.,” the Senators warned that the sale “could well violate our policy of neutrality in the Iraq-Iran war … We strongly urge that you halt shipments of the helicopters that are scheduled for delivery within the next week or two.”
At least 12 of the helicopters which are manufactured by the Hughes Helicopter Corporation have already been delivered as part of a sale that will include the transfer of 60 helicopters.
According to the letter, “It is only reasonable to assume that the Iraqi government will employ this large number of helicopters in its war with Iran whether for artillery spotting or otherwise.”
Because the helicopters weigh less than the 10,000 pounds each, they are classified as civilian helicopters that do not require an export license. But the Commerce Department however, did grant such a license to the Hughes Corporation, an action which the Senators claimed in their letter to Reagan was “another example of the weakness in the export control process.” They said the new 98th Congress to take office in January will “examine methods for tightening the control mechanism” of the export licenses.