Monday, July 30, 2007

Members of Congress vow to block arms deal with Saudi Arabia
By Israel Insider staff July 30, 2007

Amid apprehension in Israel about the US proposal to increase military aid and weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, some members of Congress announced Sunday their opposition to the deal. According to the proposed arms package, the US will sell Saudi Arabia with thousands of Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) - a low-cost guidance kit that transforms existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided "smart" weapons. The deal also proposes a 25 percent increase in US military aid to Israel, from an annual $2.4 billion to $3billion a year. Despite reassurances by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the US will ensure Israel's weapons supremacy in the region, senior Israeli defense officials fear the consequences of a radical Islamic coup in Saudi Arabia. "We do not have a way to defend ourselves against this weapon," a senior Defense Ministry official said, saying he supported the increase in aid to Saudi Arabia, but said that the Saudi regime could be toppled.

The advanced American weaponry could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, he warned. JDAM, according to Defense Ministry officials, would allow Saudi Arabia to accurately fire missiles at strategic sites and installations in southern Israel. The US government rejected Israel's request to acquire the F-22 stealth bomber, a plane that can avoid radar detection, the officials said. Israel made the request in order to retain its qualitative edge over its neighbors. Two Democratic Congressmen, Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler, said they would introduce legislation to block the deal "the minute Congress is officially notified."

The arms deal will be announced Monday morning ahead of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the Middle East. "Saudi Arabia should not get an ounce of military support from the U.S. until they unequivocally denounced terrorism and take tangible steps to prevent it," Weiner said. Democrat Tom Lantos of California, a Holocaust survivor and one of Israel's most outspoken supporters, echoed Weiner's demands. "There are a complex set of relationships behind it, and while it's very desirable to have the Saudis and others recognize that Iran is an existential threat, there is also a degree of responsibility that they have to show on broader US foreign policy interests," Lantos said.

Opposition to the arms deal in Congress follows sharp criticism by the US ambassador to the United Nations and a former US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad condemned Saudi Arabia for contributing to the destabilization of Iraq. "Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq," he said Sunday. "At times, some of them are not only not helping, but they are doing things that are undermining the effort to make progress." Saudi Arabia is believed to be funding insurgent Sunni cells and allowing suicide bombers to cross their border into Iraq.

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