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Behind the Headlines Oil and ‘holy War’

August 19, 1980
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Saudi Arabia and Iraq, rich and powerful in oil and gold, indicate they want the best American aircraft for their military use and that the United States should persuade Israel to abandon Jerusalem. In effect, these major petroleum powers would like the United States to do their bidding, both in commercial transactions and in world politics.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia lead 10 Arab countries which are threatening economic reprisals against nations that support Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. They also are demanding that the remaining countries that have embassies in Jerusalem move them out of that city or face economic punishment.

Thus for, most of the 13 countries with embassies in Jerusalem are resisting. But of these countries Uruguay and Venezuela have already announced that they are going to move their embassies to Tel Aviv. The Netherlands is under intense pressure from Arab states to move its embassy and is due to announce this week whether it will do so.

The United States has always maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv and, uniquely, two consulates in Jerusalem — one in the West and the other in East Jerusalem. The East Jerusalem consulate acts like an embassy for the West Bank and Gaza. Congressmen have declared on the floor of the House of Representatives that the East Jerusalem consulate communicates directly with the State Department rather than through the embassy in Tel Aviv, the normal procedure for a consulate in every other country in the world.


Saudi Arabia has declared that a “holy war” is the only way to deal with Israel because of Israel’s Jerusalem law. Crown Prince Fahd, who rules Saudi Arabia on a day to day basis, published a 500-word statement through the Saudi news agency in which he warned the West, and particularly those who signed the Camp David agreements — Egypt, Israel and the United States — that Arab and Islamic nations could not be blamed “if we took the matters in our hands” and “in one battle at whatever cast, allotting to it (the bottle) all our capabilities and possibilities, everything, expensive and cheap.”

While major Western media said that Fahd’s statement represented a shift in Saudi Arabia from its “moderate” position, neither Washington nor Jerusalem saw a change. The State Department said its understanding is that the Fahd statement did not “signal” a change and noted that it did not exclude diplomacy from his view. Israelis noted Saudi Arabia’s rulers had previously condemned Israel.

In Beirut, Fahd’s statement also was toned down, presumably, observers felt, for tactical purposes. Reporters in Beirut were told that an Arab summit conference in mid-November — significantly after the American Presidential election — will arrange selective oil sanctions against Israel’s friends in the West. In other words — an economic war.

While Iraq and Saudi Arabia are making those threats, Iraq is asking for five of the giant U.S.-mode Boeing aircraft, ostensibly for the Iraqi airline but understood for use as troop transports. Saudi Arabia seeks improvements to extend the range and combat ability to the highest efficiency for the 60 U.S. F-15 warplanes it has bought.


More than two-thirds of the Senate has asked President Carter to say no to the Saudis and leading members of both houses of Congress oppose the planes for Iraq. Sen. Richard Stone (D.Fla.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, has written Secretary of State Edmund Muskie to reject the Iraqi request to buy the five airplanes from Boeing.

Stone recalled that last year the State Department denied a request by Libya to buy three Boeing planes. Stone and other Senators had vigorously opposed that deal. The Department has characterized Libya and Iraq as “terrorist” countries. Other opponents include Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Calif.), deputy leader of the Senate’s majority, and Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R. NJ), a leading member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Carter Administration has taken a wait-and-see position on both projected soles. It has said no decisions have been mode on them. Observers believe that the decisions probably will be taken after the Presidential election.

However, a State Department official said that the Department probably would approve the five Boeings for Iraq for “civilian” use. The Saudi request for improving their F-15s, the official said, has been “received and is on the table” — meaning it is presently inactive. He pointed out that the Department has rejected another Saudi request for Boeing air tankers to refuel planes in flight. This request was seen by observers as Saudi stratagem to include U.S. approval for the F-15s since Washington would seek to avoid offending the Saudis by rejecting both their requests.

Earlier this year, despite strong Congressional opposition, the Administration approved the sale of eight U.S.-mode gas turbine engines for use in Italian-made frigates for Iraq. Stone has authored legislation to block that deal. His bill is in a Senate-House conference committee concerned with authorization of foreign assistance.

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