2007-08-03 / Community

Weiner,Others Condemn Saudi Weapons Sale

A bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Representatives Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Mike Ferguson (R-FL), responded to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's announcement that the U.S. has begun negotiations with Saudi Arabia on a $20 billion arms package of advanced weaponry.

The House members outlined legislation they will introduce intended to block the deal "the minute Congress is officially notified." Saudi Arabia has not been a true ally in the war on terror. Just this week American officials in Iraq said the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 45 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi.

On Tuesday, Secretary Rice announced negotiations for a multi-billion dollar arms sale package to the Saudi Arabian government, and is conducting meetings today in the region with Secretary Gates. The package includes Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM's) and satellite-guided bombs accurate enough to shoot from jets through the window of a building, in any weather. The United States has never sold such advanced munitions to Saudi Arabia before. The sale would also upgrade the capability of the Saudi Air Force and provide new naval vessels.

Congress may reject any large arms sale, according to the Arms Control Export Act of 1976. The President is required to officially notify Congress of an impending arms deal, which then has 30 days to trigger a review and pass a Joint Resolution of Disapproval.

The Joint Resolution of Disapproval has been used in the past by Congress to affect weapons sales, including in 1986 when Congress successfully convinced then-President Reagan to cut back an arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Past administrations have renegotiated sales based on just the prospect of a Congressional review.

According to Weiner, Saudi Arabia has not been a true ally in furthering the United States' interests in the Middle East. Just this week, Brig. General Kevin Bergner, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, detailed an account of a Saudi Arabian smuggled into Iraq to be a suicide bomber. American officials in Iraq say the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 45 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi. 70% of the most-wanted international terrorists are Saudi Arabians.

In February, the Saudi Arabian government torpedoed U.S. plans to conduct a high-profile peace summit meeting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by brokering their own power-sharing agreement, catching the U.S. off-guard and ensuring the agreement would not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. On March 29, many agree Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah referred to the U.S. troops in Iraq as an "illegitimate foreign occupation" at a two-day Arab summit in Riyadh.

And, despite assurances to the contrary, Saudi Arabia continues to bankroll terrorist organizations that have attacked both the United States and Israel, according to Weiner. In sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2005, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Daniel L. Glaser indicated that the Saudi Arabian government refuses to crack down on the World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which spreads radical Wahhabism and finances Hamas and Al Qaeda.

"We need to send a crystal clear message to the Saudi Arabian government that their tacit approval of terrorism can't go unpunished," said Weiner. "Saudi Arabia should not get an ounce of military support from the U.S until they unequivocally denounce terrorism and take tangible steps to prevent it."

"It is critical that Congress block the sale of these high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, given its abysmal record in combating terrorism and unwillingness to crack down on extremists," said Wexler. "America's national security interest must come first, and I urge President Bush to immediately cancel this controversial sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia."

For each of the last four years, Rep. Weiner has passed amendments in the House of Representatives banning U.S aid to Saudi Arabia.

Last month, the amendment passed unanimously.

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