Rice assures Congress on Saudi sale

Condoleezza Rice said a planned arms sale to Saudi Arabia would maintain Israel’s regional arms superiority.

The U.S. secretary of state wrote to the U.S. Congress that the sale “will not affect Israel’s qualitative military edge.”

The Bush administration wants to sell $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf neighbors,. The arms include Joint Direct Attack Munitions – devices that drastically increase the accuracy of conventional bombs.

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by the late Tom Lantos, recently held four highly classified secret briefings on the sale and, as a result, extracted the written pledge from Rice. The committee’s acting chairman, Howard Berman, had Rice’s letter read into the congressional briefing on Feb. 13, two days after Lantos died.

“In preparing these sales, we have worked closely with our friends in the region to ensure the proposed transfers strengthen stability and security regarding potential challenges from Iran or other threats in the region,” she wrote. “We have consulted closely about this sale with Israel and remain committed to the preservation of Israel’s qualitative military edge. I can assure you that the sale of JDAMs to Saudi Arabia will not affect Israel’s qualitative military edge. The Government of Israel understands the reasons for this sale and does not object to it.”

She added that she was confident the Saudis “will undertake all necessary measures to secure these weapons and to assure their use only in ways which we support. In particular, the Government of Saudi Arabia will provide adequate security for the JDAMs such that these weapons will not fall into the hands of other nations or groups. Moreover, the Government of Saudi Arabia will ensure that these weapons will not be used against U.S. forces or the forces of U.S. allies.”

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