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Congress Expected to Approve U.S. Personnel in Sinai but First Wants Many Questions to Be Answered

August 19, 1975
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Although Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has publicly asserted he does not expect that Congress will reject an agreement to station American civilian personnel in the Sinai, Middle East specialists at the Capital today indicated approval may be granted but Congress has many questions it wants answered first, that there are many reservations and passage will not be simple.

Under the proposal that still has to be spelled out by any of the three parties involved, United States civilians will operate electronic monitoring posts in the Sinai between Egyptian and Israeli lines to observe troop movements. Their observations presumably will be relayed immediately by Washington to both Cairo and Jerusalem.

At the Capital, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed that leaders of Congressional subcommittees responsible for observing Middle East affairs are deeply concerned about the possibility of Soviet reaction. They are also raising questions whether the agreement will bind the U.S., Israel and Egypt or whether it will be within the UN aegis.

While Congressional sources felt the majority in Congress would welcome movement towards a Middle East peace they want to know what would happen if U.S. civilians become involved in a dispute. “It would be unfortunate,” one source said, “If one side or the other recriminated against the U.S.” Responsibility and accountability of the monitors must be clearly defined, the JTA was told.

The use of civilians instead of uniformed personnel is largely symbolic, a source observed. “Americans are still Americans,” he said, Some noted that if Kissinger returned from the Middle East with an agreement, Congress would hardly be in a psychological position to reject it because of an official American presence in the Sinai. “It would be like playing against a shooter with loaded dice,” one source said. “Congress could not win.”


Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Robert Funseth cautioned again today that the agreement for a second-stage withdrawal by Israel in the Sinai has not yet been reached, but affirmed that once it is the sections dealing with U.S. participation will be submitted to Congress for its endorsement by a vote.

The agreement is expected to be completed during Kissinger’s visit to the Middle East. Funseth said that the agreement would not be implemented until Congress approves the role of U.S. personnel. Congressional hearings and debates in both Houses may entail considerable time, and it is highly uncertain how long this will take. Kissinger expects the number of American civilians to be about 100. Some put the figure at about 200.

Asked whether the entry of American personnel in the Sinai may not bring about a Soviet demand to send technicians into the Middle East, perhaps in the Golan Heights, Funseth replied that the Soviet are being kept informed of the talks.

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