2007-11-30 / Community

Weiner:Review Arms Deal With Saudis

This week, the Department of Defense provided Speaker Nancy Pelosi with an informal notification of its intent to move forward with a proposed $20 billion sale of high technology armaments to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This notice clears the way for formal notification to Congress from the Bush administration on or after December 4, 2007, or just as the current Congressional session comes to a close.

On Monday, a bi-partisan group of members of Congress led by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) released a letter to President Bush requesting that he delay formal sale notification until at least January 15, 2008 to allow Congress the time necessary to fulfill its obligation under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 and thoroughly review the sale.

Earlier this year, 14 members of the House of Representatives announced they will introduce a Joint Resolution of Disapproval to block the sale and trigger a 30-day review process "the minute Congress is officially notified" of the sale. A broad bipartisan coalition of over 100 members of Congress, led by Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Shelley Berkley (DNV), Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-VA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), released a letter to President Bush expressing their deep opposition to the sale and said they intend to vote to stop it.

In July of this year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. had begun negotiations with the Saudi Arabian government on a multibillion dollar arms sale package of advanced weaponry. The package reportedly includes satellite guided bombs accurate enough to shoot through the window of a building from jets in any weather. The United States has never sold such advance 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 to Saudi Arabia. In 1985, the Kingdom wanted to purchase F-15 fighter jets, but congressional opposition convinced the Reagan administration not to go forward with the sale. This was on the heels of a bruising battle with Congress on a 1981 sale of AWACS after Senator Bob Packwood questioned selling arms to Saudi Arabia saying "They have displayed a hostility that must be interpreted as their deliberate intentions to promote continued instability in the Middle East."

In 1990, an arms package to Saudi Arabia valued in excess of $20 billion was expected to be proposed to Congress. House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt led a letter to President George H.W. Bush advocating "a unilateral pause in arms sales to countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf." The deal ultimately submitted to Congress was significantly smaller at $7.3 billion, and did not include controversial hardware such as AWACS and KE- 3 tanker aircraft.

Saudi Arabia has not been a true ally in the war on terror or furthering the United States interests in the Middle East. In July of this year, 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.

Iraqi media reported that students at the Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, located in Riyadh and known as the "terrorist factory," had organized activist groups and sent members streaming north to join the onslaught on Iraqi Shias.

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. Yet Prince Saud was quoted as saying, "All that we can do in order to protect the border in Iraq we have been doing."

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 Arabian 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 appears to continue to bankroll terrorist organizations that have attacked both the United States and Israel. 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. 70 percent of the most-wanted international terrorists are Saudi Arabians.

"People of all political stripes have come out against this deal," said Rep. Weiner. "It's mind-bogglingly bad policy because the Saudis at every turn have been uncooperative. The idea that we are going to reward the Saudis with precision weaponry is a stunningly bad idea, and clearly deserves the full review of Congress."

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