Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Members of Congress Protesting New Sale of Weapons to Saudis

April 13, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

More than 100 members of Congress are expected to write Secretary of State George Shultz this week urging him to withdraw U.S. plans to sell Saudi Arabia close to $1 billion in new weaponry, Capitol Hill sources said Tuesday.

In late March, Shultz informally notified Congress of plans to sell $500 million worth of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and TOW missiles, as well as $450 million worth of support equipment for AWACS reconnaissance planes previously sold to the Saudis.

A letter from House members to Shultz, originated by Reps. Larry Smith (D-Fla.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Constance Morella (R-Md.), states that they are “deeply concerned” about the recent sale of intermediate-range ballistic missiles from China to Saudi Arabia.

“At this time we urge you to withdraw pending U.S. sales to the kingdom, including Bradley fighting vehicles, TOW missiles and AWACS support systems,” said the letter, which had 50 signatures as of Tuesday.

The Senate version, authored by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), had 45 signatures. In that letter, the senators expressed the hope that the administration will not move ahead on the AWACS package.

The senator also called for a “re-examination” of U.S. arms policy toward Saudi Arabia in light of its purchase of the Chinese missiles, which are capable of holding nuclear warheads.

They said they are “deeply concerned that the Saudis hid the fact that they possess these weapons. The situation raises serious questions about the possibility of the Saudis compromising the security and technology of sensitive weapons systems.”


A Capitol Hill source said members of Congress are angry at Saudi Arabia for “pulling a fast one that escalates the arms race.” The Saudi purchase was initially concealed from the United States.

The administration has until late April to provide Congress with formal notification of the proposed sales. Congress then would have 30 days to reject the sale; otherwise it would automatically go through.

The most recent arms sale to Saudi Arabia occurred last year, after Congress forced President Reagan to eliminate 1,600 Maverick air-to-ground missiles from a $1.4-billion package.

Recommended from JTA