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'Arms and the Middle East'

July 24, 1988

With regard to your editorial "Arms and the Middle East" (July 14), I was struck by this piece as well as the front-page article "China-Syria Missile Deal Concluded, Officials Say," by Jim Mann. While your editorial seeks to question the prudence of the Congress and the pro-Israel lobby in seeking to block arms sales to Arab states on the premise that arms sales provide "useful influence," you report that the Chinese have, in fact, completed an arms arrangement with the Syrians.

Isn't there a major discrepancy between your appeal for the continuation of U.S. involvement with Arab states in arms transactions, where you argue that such sales do not weaken Israel's security or change the balance of power in the Middle East, and the reality that arms transfers, including the announced Chinese-Syrian missile deal will have a significant impact on that region's political and military stability? While you casually acknowledge the issue of Israeli security as a factor, you exclude from your editorial the potential impact of the Chinese-Syrian agreement which could critically alter the balance of military security.

Further, you seem to quickly dismiss the potential dangers of selling arms to such states as Kuwait or Saudi Arabia who have made no commitment to refrain from employing their military resources against American interests, particularly the state of Israel. The issue of arms sales is not limited to the nation of origin. As we well know, arms are frequently transferred and used in consort with others against common enemies.

Congress' wisdom in placing criteria as the basis for arms sales is both appropriate and prudent. Your recommendations appear to be fraught with more danger for American interests in the region and are built on short-term domestic economic advantage and a naive and inappropriate reading of the Arab world's commitment to the destruction of Israel. You defend the principle that these weapon systems are for self-defense. We must ask, who is engaged in combat against these Persian Gulf states? The answer is obvious. There are no direct challenges today to these nations.

The Reagan Administration has asserted the importance and strategic asset that Israel represents to U.S. interests. The implication that Israel and its American friends seek to deny employment to defense industry employees ignores the reality of thousands of jobs that have resulted from the growth and development of the U.S.-Israel partnership.

As with other editorial comments, you again seek to place the burden of this decision on the euphemistic term "domestic politics." Are you hesitant to refer to responsible pro-Israel interests as being mindful and caring about U.S.-Israeli concerns and as American citizens appropriately exercising their constitutional prerogatives?


Executive Director, Community Relations Committee Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles

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