WASHINGTON (Mar. 21)
President Reagan, bowing to Congressional opposition, has withdrawn his offer to sell 1,613 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Jordan and 1,200 to Saudi Arabia.
The announcement was made this morning by White House spokesman Larry Speakes who said the President reached his decision last night. At the State Department, Department Deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said the decision was made after an “assessment of the legislative situation” in which opposition to the mobile ground-to-air missiles had been increasing.
Sen. Bob Packwood (R. Ore.) has gathered 55 signatures on a letter to Reagan opposing the sale of the Stingers, more than half of the Republican controlled Senate. Sen. Robert Kasten (R.Wis.) was planning to add an amendment rejecting the sale as part of an appropriations bill. In the Democratic-controlled House, Rep. Larry Smith (D. Fla.) introduced legislation to block the sale last week.
HUSSEIN’S STATEMENTS WERE THE CATALYST
Romberg conceded today that the statements by King Hussein of Jordan refusing negotiations with Israel were the catalyst that insured success to the opponents of the sale. There has long been strong opposition in Congress to providing Hussein with technically advanced U.S. weapons as long as Jordan does not enter the peace process.
Secretary of State George Shultz hinted as much yesterday when he said at his press conference that while Reagan had been “ready to put on a major effort” to get the Stinger sale approved, “There was no question about the fact that King Hussein’s statements constitute a very serious setback to chances of Congressional approval.”
HINTING AT A QUID PRO QUO
Shultz seemed to also be hinting yesterday that he would like to see Congress abandon efforts to force the Administration to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in return for Administration abandonment of the Stingers sale. “There are a variety of other issues that have been raised in Congress that have to do with stability and development in the Middle East,” he said. “Particularly the proposal that the U.S. Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.”
Romberg said today that he could not “predict” what the effect would be of the President’s decision on the Stingers. But efforts were continuing in both the House and Senate today to gather co-sponsors for the bills directing the move of the Embassy.
Romberg said that the sale of missiles to Saudi Arabia was dropped along with that of Jordan because the two were linked to Congress. He said the U.S. is committed to the security of the two countries and will take “appropriate steps” to ensure it.
Speakes said that Reagan would continue to seek $220 million to equip two Jordanian brigades for a rapid deployment force able to intervene if pro-Western Arab states are threatened.