WASHINGTON (Jun. 18)
President Reagan notified Congress Wednesday that conditions have been met for the delivery of five AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia.
Transfer of the planes, the first of which is now scheduled for delivery on June 30, appears unlikely to face any active opposition from Congress, which would have to enact specific legislation in order to block it.
In the aftermath of an impressive but ultimately unsuccessful attempt last month to prevent the sale of a proposed missile package to Saudi Arabia, there appears to be little inclination to campaign against the delivery of $3.2 billion worth of aircraft and equipment already paid for by the Saudi government.
“The specter of Gramm-Rudman looms largely on the whole process and as a result members of Congress are reluctant to do anything,” a source close to Capitol Hill observed, referring to the budget-cutting legislation passed at the end of last year.
SAUDIS PROVIDE ‘SUBSTANTIAL ASSISTANCE’
White House spokesman Larry Speakes announced that a letter certifying that conditions for delivery of the planes had been met would be forwarded to Congress Wednesday, in compliance with legislation enacted following a bitter campaign in Congress that nearly resulted in blocking the AWACS sale in 1981.
The conditions include provisions for preventing the sophisticated AWACS technology from falling into hostile hands or being used against Israel. They also involve assurances that delivery of the aircraft “enhances the atmosphere and prospects for peace” and that the Saudis have provided “substantial assistance” to achieving peace in the region.
In his letter to Congress, Reagan maintained that the Saudis have provided that assistance and that the planes would contribute to regional stability.
“I also believe that significant progress toward peaceful resolution of disputes in the region has been accomplished with the substantial assistance of Saudi Arabia,” the letter reads.
REAGAN REFERS TO FAHD PLAN
Specifically, the President referred to the Fahd Plan of 1981 and the subsequent Fez communique of 1982, both of which are said to implicitly recognize Israel’s existence, but fail to mention the Jewish State by name.
In addition, he maintained that the Saudis have supported Egypt’s return to the Organization of Islamic Countries and Jordan’s efforts toward peace negotiations with Israel. He also cited Saudi efforts to mediate peace in Lebanon and in the Iran-Iraq war.
The President’s arguments in defense of the Saudi record were more or less the same as those advanced in the Administration’s lobbying for the recently passed missile sale to the Saudi kingdom.
At the White House briefing Wednesday, spokesman Larry Speakes also stressed what he said was the role of AWACS in helping “vital American interests in a strategically important area.” He cited specifically the free flow of oil, restraint of the spread of extremism, the prevention of “Soviet intrusion” and “the strengthening of the security of moderate Arab friends.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was expected to decide Wednesday whether it would mount a campaign for legislation to block delivery of the aircraft. But in light of the mood in Congress, observers here were fairly confident AIPAC would avoid a battle that would almost inevitably meet with failure.