2008-01-18 / Community

Congressman Weiner: Bush Should Stop Weapons Sales To Saudi Arabia

Recently, upon visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, President Bush formally notified Congress of his intent to sell $123 million worth of some of the United States' most advanced weapons and technology to the Saudis, a known sponsor and financier of terrorism. The package is part of a larger $20 billion arms sale.

To prevent the arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a bi-partisan coalition of members of Congress led by Representatives Anthony Weiner and Robert Wexler have announced that they would introduce a Joint Resolution when Congress officially returns to session.

President Bush notified Congress on the day before he was scheduled to arrive in Saudi Arabia, as part of his weeklong visit to the Middle East. The latest piece of a larger arms package he announced includes 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM's) tail kits, which will vastly improve the all weather of the Royal Saudi Air Force.

A broad bipartisan coalition of over 100 members of Congress released a letter to President Bush expressing their deep opposition to the sale and said they intend to vote to stop it.

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 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 took the lead in writing 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 Arabia 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 Weiner. "It's 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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