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Deal on Kuwait Arms Package Declared a Victory for Israel

August 4, 1988
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Two leading congressional opponents of the original $1.9 billion arms package to Kuwait declared victory Wednesday in their effort to prevent the sale of Maverick “D” missiles to Kuwait, which could have potentially threatened Israeli tanks.

Reps. Larry Smith (D-Fla.), who sponsored a House resolution July 7 to block the sale, and Mel Levine (D-Calif.) told reporters that the compromise, hammered out at a White House meeting July 29, also includes added assurances from Secretary of State George Shultz that the weapons sold will not be used against Israel.

The sale will not officially go through until after Aug. 7, the deadline Congress has to take action against the arms package.

Attempts to find out whether the Kuwaiti government accepts the compromise were in vain, when officials at the Kuwaiti Embassy here failed to return phone calls. But Levine said that Lt. Col. Colin Powell, President Reagan’s national security adviser, told him that Kuwait has accepted it.

Powell chaired the White House meeting at which administration officials, members of Congress and representatives of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, worked out the compromise. Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he met Powell privately two weeks earlier to discuss the sale, though he was not at the July 29 meeting.

Under the modified deal, Kuwait is still designated to receive 40 F/A-18 fighter planes, 300 Maverick “G” missiles, 200 Sparrow missiles, 120 Sidewinder missiles, 40 Harpoon missiles, 400 laser-guided bombs and 200 cluster bombs.


Levine said that the administration agreed at the meeting to make a new statement on the importance of non-proliferation of weaponry in the Middle East. Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin raised the proliferation issue repeatedly during his June visit to the United States.

The compromise, while eliminating the 100 Maverick “D” missiles from the package, increased the number of “G” missiles to 300. Smith explained that “the threat to Kuwait from Iran is currently a sea-based missile threat for which the Maverick ‘G’ is configured.”

Smith also noted that Kuwait will be required to return to the United States one U.S.-built A-4 aircraft for every F/A-18 it receives. “This provision of the agreement ensures that the size of Kuwait’s air force, which is stocked by American aircraft, will not exceed its current level,” he said.

He added that Shultz signed a “letter of assurance” that prohibits Kuwait from procuring the equipment necessary to give the F/A-18s a refueling capability and forbids the nation from transferring any of the weaponry to third countries.

But a fight could occur over a Senate amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), and adopted July 7, to bar the sale of Maverick “D” and “G” missiles to Kuwait through Sept. 30, 1989, the end of the 1989 fiscal year. The matter is expected to be resolved in a Senate-House conference committee.

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