WASHINGTON – Several members of Congress are opposing the planned American arms
sale to Saudi Arabia and have written US President Barack Obama to express their
“Saudi Arabia is not deserving of our aid, and by arming them
with advanced American weaponry we are sending the wrong message,” wrote Rep.
Anthony Weiner (D-NY), the lead author of the letter.
Washington Watch: The times they are a-changin'
“Saudi Arabia has a
history of financing terrorism, is a nation that teaches hate of Christians and
Jews to their schoolchildren, and offered no help to the US as gas prices surged
during the spike in oil prices.”
The deal reportedly includes up to $60
billion in sales of advanced fighter jets and helicopters, including F- 15s,
Apaches and Black Hawks. The deal could also include expanded missile defenses
and naval capabilities for Riyadh.
Once the administration officially
informs Congress of the details, which is expected to take place in the next few
weeks, the body will have 30 days to pass a resolution blocking the
Fellow Democrats Shelley Berkley of Nevada and Christopher Carney
of Pennsylvania joined Weiner in signing the letter to the president, and
several Republican members have also separately voiced criticism of the
However, Hill sources noted that they don’t expect the opposition
to get sufficient support to prevent the sale.
One Congressional aide
tracking the issue said there was “no chance” the sale would be blocked and that
the letter and other efforts are “symbolic.”
He said that the White House
had “done its homework” to make sure most of Congress would be receptive – and
that Israel wouldn’t be strongly opposed – before letting word of the deal leak
“The argument that has been made, on paper at least, that support
for Saudi Arabia is a bulwark against Iran has a whole a lot of sway for
people,” he explained, adding that the number of jobs created in numerous
districts by such a massive deal would contribute to congressional backing.
Saudi Arabia has also indicated it would buy weapons elsewhere if the US were to
The aide predicted that if congressional opposition had any
impact on the deal, it would be minor.
“It may get to the point where
they might alter one or two of the items or reduce it by a symbolic amount,” he
A Weiner spokesman, however, differed with the
He pointed to the passage of an amendment blocking military
aid to Saudi Arabia in 2009 as an example of recent congressional action against
providing the Gulf state with weapons.
He added that Weiner would only
approve of an amended deal “if it doesn’t involve selling arms to Saudi
Israel, however, has given indications that so long as its
military edge is maintained, the government and its allies won’t be pushing to
block the deal, as Jerusalem is seen as understanding the political realities
pushing the sales forward.
Still, the letter points to concerns about the
deal’s implications for Israel.
“The United States needs to remain
committed to Israel’s qualitative military edge over its rivals in the
and should cease all negotiations over new weapons sales to Saudi
In response to the proposed sale, an Israeli Embassy
spokesman said, “We have very close and ongoing and good dealings with
administration, and there’s an ongoing commitment to maintain Israel’s