WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
Secretary of State George Shultz maintained Thursday that Saudi Arabia has been helpful in the Middle East peace process, but would not say publicly what the Saudis have done.
“I believe the Saudis have contributed significantly to the peace process,” Shultz said in testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.
When Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.), who raised the question in view of the Reagan Administration’s proposal to sell the Saudis $354 million in missiles, asked for an example, Shultz said he could not do so publicly. “Mostly what the Saudis do they do as quietly as they can,” the Secretary explained. “That is their way of doing things.”
But Specter said any contributions by the Saudis have been “inaudible” to him. He noted that during the debate over the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia, President Reagan promised that “if the Saudis did not become involved in the Mideastern peace process that the plug will be pulled on the delivery of the AWACS.” Delivery is scheduled to begin later this year.
Shultz agreed that this pledge had been made. But he stressed, “The earlier sale and this (sale) is not linked primarily to the peace process. It’s linked to our strategic interests in the (Persian Gulf) and what happens in the Gulf.” Shultz maintained that “the ability of Saudi Arabia to assert itself in the Gulf has stood us in good stead” and the proposed arms sale will help contribute to the “stability” of the region.
The proposed arms sale would provide the Saudis with 1,666 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 200 Stinger shoulder-fired ground-to-air missile systems and 600 replacement missiles and 100 Harpoon sea-to-sea missiles.
SHULTZ DEFENDS SALE OF MISSILES
Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) suggested that the Saudis don’t need the Stingers since the Iranians have only about 60 planes and the Saudis now have an adequate air defense system that could meet any threat from the Iranians.
Shultz replied that the Stingers can be used against the helicopters. He stressed that the proposed sale does not provide the Saudis with new weapons but ensures their having an adequate stock of existing weapons. Shultz told Sen. Daniel Inouye (D. Hawaii) the sale is not a threat to Israel. “The basic superiority and qualitative edge of Israel remains very much intact,” he said. He said the U.S. is committed to maintaining Israel’s security and qualitative military edge.
When Inouye asked Shultz why $750 million in emergency economic assistance to Israel had been held up, the Secretary replied that it was done because providing all the funds at one time would not have forced Israel to take some of the tough economic measures that it has. He indicated that the funds may be provided when Israeli Premier Shimon Peres visits Washington in early April.
Shultz praised Israel’s economic accomplishments over the last 18 months as being one of the most “dramatic” in the world. “The problems are not over, but they are a long way down the road to being over,” he said.