Critics Slam Obama Administration for 'Hiding' Massive Saudi Arms Deal

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In part for that reason, he said, Israel has not been raising significant objections to the deal, even though he suspects Israel will push hard to insure the aircraft are not equipped with weapons systems as advanced as those held by Israel's own military.

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That said, Amitay argued the record-breaking military deal is not without risks.

"As long as Saudi Arabia is stable and considers itself a friend of the United States, there is not that much concern," he said. "The problem is, how stable is a regime run by people in their 80s, with unrest in the south, where neighboring Yemen is harboring al Qaeda?"

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for an interview.

'Saudi Arabia Has Not Behaved Like An Ally'

Similar concerns were echoed in an Oct. 20 internal memorandum prepared by the Congressional Research Service outlines several significant issues attached to the arrangement. For instance, the weapon sale would require what the memo called "a significant expansion" of the American presence in Saudi Arabia, by perhaps as many as 1280 contractors and military personnel. It's a presence that the report says could stoke internal political tensions in a country that has not warmly welcomed American workers in the past.

"It remains unclear what consideration the Administration or the Saudi Arabian government have made for countering likely al Qaeda narrative responses to the proposed sales and the expansion of the U.S. presence they could entail," the report says.

Weiner was among the few to raise vocal alarms.

"Saudi Arabia has not behaved like an ally of the United States," he wrote in one of two letters sent by groups of concerned lawmakers. "Saudi Arabia has a history of financing terrorism, is a nation that teaches hate of Christians and Jews to their school children, and offered no help to the U.S. as gas prices surged during the spike in oil prices. Furthermore, this deal would destabilize the region and undermine the security of Israel, our one true ally in the region."

Another concern, Weiner added, is the potential for the weapon sale to erode Israel's military edge in the Middle East, an advantage the U.S. has fostered as an essential element of its Middle East policy for decades. A second letter, prepared by Berman and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican expected to take charge of the foreign affairs committee in January, and signed by 196 other members, raised similar questions about the proposal.

"While we understand the Administration has worked productively with Israel to address Israeli security concerns, we would like to know how these arms sales will affect Israel's [military edge]," the letter said.

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The letter stopped short of outright opposing the sale, but noted "the potential repercussions for our friends and for our own forces in the region in the event of political change in Saudi Arabia."

The response by Clinton and Gates countered those assertions, saying the sale would deepen U.S.-Saudi ties "beyond the senior political level, minimizing the chance that political change will negatively impact our relationship." The Gates-Clinton letter arrived Nov. 16, three days before members departed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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