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Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Favors Strengthening Saudi Arabia’s Fleet of U.S. F-

March 2, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

— Sen. John Tower (R. Tex.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is in favor of the Reagan Administration’s recommendations to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s fleet of 62 American F-15s. He made his views known after meeting with President Reagan at the White House last Friday where he reported on his 10-nation Middle East trip.

However, other key members of the Senate and the House, mostly Democrats but also some Republicans, have expressed reservations over the Administra-

tion’s plan to supply additional elements to the Saudi Air Force and compensating Israel with 10 more F-15s. At the same time, Israeli sources continued to oppose the Administration’s proposals, contending that this would develop an arms race in the Middle East.

After reporting to Reagan, Tower said that support for Saudi Arabia and Israel was necessary because it helps American friends in the Middle East to face the “threat” of the Soviet Union or “Soviet surrogates.” Tower said he supported Israel’s “requirements” to help offset the increased Saudi air strength.

Regarding a U.S. military presence in the Middle East, Tower said he favored pre-positioning of U.S. equipment and use of facilities but he opposed stationing American forces “permanently” in the area because “creating a high American profile would cause political problems.” Tower’s remarks to reporters, after his White House visit, followed conflicting reports on what the Reagan Administration actually is prepared to carry out for Saudi Arabia.


James Buckley, Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs, was reported to have told the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees last Thursday behind closed doors that the Saudis would get refueling equipment and advanced air-to-air missiles but the bomb racks would not be included immediately.

Bomb racks would be withheld pending a Pentagon study that might not be completed until next year, Buckley reportedly told the committees. However, the United States would provide 10 additional F-15s to Israel with a loan of $600 million. The loan would be at 12-1/2 percent interest over 30 years, with a 10-year grace period before repayment would begin.


“I don’t like the package at all,” said Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal, (D. NY). “What we are doing is increasing the scale and balance of military terror in the area. It is a very bad arrangement. Almost every member (of the House Foreign Affairs Committee) expressed deep reservations–if not outright opposition–towards this.”

Rosenthal, a veteran member of the committee, said the deal would include “Sidewinders (air-to-air missiles), bomb racks, fuel tanks–the whole show.” Rep. Stephen Solarz (D. NY) said “the most disturbing aspect of the presentation was the extent to which the sale was justified on the basis of the threat to Saudi Arabia from the Soviet Union.”

A question arose whether the Reagan Administration has actually completed its decision. “I think they have pretty well made up their minds,” said Sen. Claiborne Pell (D. R.I.), the Senate Committee’s ranking Democratic member. “But in the discussions (Thursday) there has been some lack of enthusiasm which should enter into their thinking before a final package is developed.”

Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.) chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “no final decision has been made and will not be made until such time as the Executive Branch takes into full account the consultations they have had with the Senate.”

An Israeli source said Israel has made it “abundantly clear–we don’t like it we don’t want it. It is an introduction to an arms race.” He said “Israel must acquire particular equipment to negate, to balance, this stuff to Saudi Arabia.” He said “it brings an additional economic burden on Israel when Israel is trying to reduce that burden.” He said Israel is bring obliged to enter an arms race. “If Saudi Arabia receives the equipment it is asking, Israel will have to take counter-measures,” he said.

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