John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said a proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia was no substitute for diplomacy in advancing Middle East peace.
The Bush administration this week announced a deal with Saudi Arabia and some of its Persian Gulf neighbors as part of a push to contain Iran and entice Arab nations into backing U.S. policies in Iraq and a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The deal is reportedly worth $20 billion.
Obama, like Edwards a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Israel’s security was “paramount” in considering such a sale, and added: “We should not believe arms sales will be a replacement for the hard diplomatic slog we’ve got to go through in the region in order to not only stabilize Iraq, but to make sure Iran and Syria and other countries that historically have been hostile to us aren’t getting stronger.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, said Saudi reluctance to back U.S. policy in Iraq and its failure to stop financial backing for terrorists made the sale suspect.
“Whether it’s Iraq or terrorism, the Saudis have fallen way short of what they need to be doing,” he said. ”And the Bush administration’s response is to sell them $20 billion worth of arms, which is short term and convenient and not what the United States should be doing.”