WASHINGTON (Sep. 10)
The Reagan Administration has decided that the Jewish High Holidays are not an auspicious time to announce its intention to sell sophisticated weapons to Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It has postponed official notification of Congress until the end of the month.
The notification, required by law, had been expected this week. Rosh Hashanah begins this Sunday night, September 15, and Yom Kippur begins the night of Tuesday, September 24. Administration officials have informed Congressional circles that the announcement will not be made until September 26 at the earliest.
American Jews are strongly opposed to the sale of any weaponry to countries still technically in a state of war with Israel and they are supported in this by substantial majorities in both houses of Congress. Jordan is known to be seeking F-16 jet fighters and both ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles. Saudi Arabia is in the market for F-15 jets and mobile improved Hawk anti-aircraft missiles.
TRIMMING DOWN ARMS PACKAGE TO SAUDIS
But Congressional opposition has been strong and the Administration is expected to drop plans to include 40 F-15s in its arms sales package to the Saudis, according to Congressional and State Department sources. It would be the first time the U.S. has rejected a major weapons item requested by the Saudis.
According to one Administration official, the decision “was a judgement on what’s obtainable” on Capitol Hill. Yesterday, four key Senators — Alan Cranston (D. Calif.); Robert Packwood (R. Ore.); Alan Dixon (D. III.) and Alfonse D’Amato (R.N.Y.) — stated in a letter to their colleagues that the proposed arms sales would “fuel the regional arms competition” and erode Israel’s military superiority in the Middle East.