Saudi Arabia Requests JDAMs
Gathering opposition in the US Congress has been slowing weapons requests from Saudi Arabia and resulted in postponement of the planned request for JDAM GPS-guided bombs. On Jan 14/08, the US DSCA announced the Government of Saudi Arabia’s official request for 900 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits: 550 GBU-38s for the 500 pound MK-82 bombs, another 250 GBU-31s for the 2,000 pound MK-84s, and 100 GBU-31s for BLU-109 2,000 pound “bunker buster” bombs). Also included are bomb components, mission planning, aircraft integration, publications and technical manuals, spare and repair parts, support equipment, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $123 million, and Boeing would be the prime contractor.
The JDAMs are specifically noted as being “for use on RSAF F-15S aircraft”; though its Tornado GR4 fleet would also present a logical set of candidates, JDAM requires a MIL-STD-1760 data bus. Implementation of this sale would require the assignment of approximately 4 contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia to provide technical assistance to integrate the weapons into the operational units, plus annual 1 week Program Management Reviews in Saudi Arabia with U.S military and contractor personnel.
If the sale goes through. Congressional opposition hasn’t gone away, and the Saudi sale will face a serious fight.
The sale is part of a broader $20-billion arms package for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in August 2007. At the time, the USA also committed itself to raising Israel’s military aid by 25%, as the move’s focus was Iran.
Since then, Patriot PAC-3 sales to Kuwait and the UAE, the UAE’s request for E-2C Hawkeye AWACS aircraft, upgrades to Saudi Arabia’s larger E-3 AWACS aircraft, and Sniper ATP surveillance and targeting pods for Saudi Arabia’s F-15S Strike Eagles have already passed through their 30-day windows, and await negotiated contracts. Kuwait’s TOW-2 RF anti-armor missile request and the UAE’s request for JDAM and AMRAAM weapons to arm its advanced F-16 E/F fleet, remain pending, but are expected to face no difficulties.
The same is not true of the Saudi JDAM sale. On Nov 16/07, Rep. Anthony Weiner [D-NY] released a letter to President Bush requesting that he delay formal sale notification until at least Jan 15/08 to allow Congress the time necessary to fulfill its obligation under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 and thoroughly review the sale. That is exactly what has happened. Even so, 14 Congressman had announced earlier in 2007 that they would introduce a Joint Resolution of Disapproval to block the sale. The coalition has fluctuated, led by Reps. Anthony Weiner [D-NY], Mike Ferguson [R-NJ], Shelley Berkley [D-NV], Virgil H. Goode Jr. [R-VA], Walter Jones [R-NC], Marcy Kaptur [D-OH] and Barbara Lee [D-CA].
On Jan 14/08, a bi-partisan coalition of Members of Congress led by Reps. Anthony Weiner [D-NY], and Robert Wexler [D-FL] announced today that they would introduce a Joint Resolution of Disapproval on Jan 15/08, when Congress officially returns to session. Their joint release states that:
“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… 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 29th, 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… 70% of the most-wanted international terrorists are Saudi Arabians… t’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…”
As DID noted back in December:
“Opposition to sales of JDAM GPS-guided smart bombs to Saudi Arabia is rising, leading to a US State Department delay. Newspapers like Britain’s Times of London have referred to Saudi Arabia in recent days as the “hub of world terror“, and Sens. Arlen Specter [R-PA] and Ron Wyden [D-OR] introduced the 2007 Saudi Arabia Accountability Act on Oct 19/07. This move follows attempts to introduce similar bills in 2003 and 2005, both of which died before coming to a vote. Despite this ongoing activity, even resolutions that are more narrowly targeted at weapons sales may have some difficulty in gaining veto-proof (67%) majorities in the US House and Senate. Nothing less is likely stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given President Bush’s near-certain veto of any hostile resolutions.”
Can the present effort create that level of support?
At the moment, VOA news reports are claiming just 52 representatives as supporters, despite earlier releases that put the number at 100 or more. The releases also cited just 1 Republican supporter (Walter Jones [R-NC] who has been virtually alone among Republicans in criticizing President Bush’s policy in Iraq.
All of which is very bad news for any resolution that needs 67% support. Whatever one thinks of Rep. Wexler’s Jan 15/08 speech calling for Vice-President Cheney’s impeachment, it is highly unlikely to improve this situation, or help garner more bi-partisan support for any motions he is seen to lead.
A lot can change in politics, and unhappiness with Saudi Arabia spans both sides of the political aisle. At the moment, however, the odds of Congress mustering veto-proof opposition on this subject appear to be close to nil.