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Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate on the Sale of AWACS Aircraft to Saudi Arabia

June 18, 1986

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

By letter dated October 28, 1981, I assured then-Senate Majority Leader Baker that the proposed transfer to Saudi Arabia of AWACS aircraft would not occur until I had certified to the Congress that specified conditions had been met. Subsequently, Section 131 of the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 ("ISDCA") incorporated the text of that letter, with its conditions for certification, into legislation.

I am pleased to inform you that all conditions set forth in my October 28 letter and repeated in Section 131 of the ISDCA have now been met and that I herewith forward to you my certification to that effect. Through the extensive efforts of the Defense and State Departments, agreements and other actions necessary to fulfill these requirements have been concluded.

I now wish to draw particular attention to the sixth condition that I have certified. I remain convinced that, as I stated in 1981, the sale of these AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia will contribute directly to the stability and security of the area and enhance the atmosphere and prospects for progress toward peace. I also believe that significant progress toward peaceful resolution of disputes in the region has been accomplished with the substantial assistance of Saudi Arabia. These perceptions are strengthened by a review of events of the last five years.

The current deployment of U.S. AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia has contributed significantly to the stability and security of Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole. The Royal Saudi Air Force's (RSAF) gradual assumption of the role now performed by the U.S. AWACS aircraft will continue this contribution. Over the past five years the U.S. AWACS aircraft have demonstrated their ability to detect approaching Iranian aircraft well before they would be detected by ground-based radar. This early detection, coupled with the demonstrated resolve of the RSAF to deploy its F-15s and engage aggressor aircraft, has deterred Iran from escalating attacks against targets on land and in Gulf waters under the Saudi protective umbrella. The Saudi commitment to a strong defense as evidenced by such measures as the AWACS acquisition, past defensive military action, and efforts to organize collective security among the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), taken together with the Kingdom's obvious lack of aggressive intent, have contributed and will continue to contribute to the stability and security of the area. Our continued success in helping to support regional stability will diminish prospects that U.S. forces might be called upon to protect the governments, shipping lanes, or vital petroleum resources of the region.

Saudi Arabia has firmly supported every significant diplomatic effort to end the Iran-Iraq war. Mediation missions under the auspices of the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and third countries acting independently have received Saudi diplomatic and facilitative assistance. In encouraging a negotiated settlement of the conflict, the Saudis have made clear their preference that the war end without concessions of sovereignty by either side.

Saudi efforts to advance the Arab-Israeli peace process have been substantial. The Fahd Peace Plan and the Arab endorsement of the plan embodied in the 1982 Fez Communique significantly and irreversibly modified the Arab consensus of the three "no's" enunciated at the 1968 Khartoum Summit, i.e., no recognition, no negotiation, and no conciliation with Israel. The Fez Communique moved the formal Arab position from rejection of peace to consideration of how to achieve peace with Israel. The plan's statement that all states in the region should be able to live in peace was an implicit acceptance of the right of Israel to a secure existence. The concept of land for peace was a direct reflection of U.N. Resolution 242. While various elements of the Fez Plan differ from our views, the Plan remains the single largest step toward peace on which the Arab world has been able to agree. The existence of this consensus provided a base from which King Hussein felt he could launch his initiative to bring Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians to the negotiating table in 1984-85.

Saudi Arabia has signaled its tacit support for King Hussein's moves to lay the foundation for peace negotiations by continuing substantial financial assistance payments to Jordan following critical steps in the process, i.e., after Jordan resumed diplomatic relations with Egypt and again after the February 1985 agreement between Hussein and PLO Chairman Arafat. Despite vocal Syrian opposition, the Saudis sent official observers to the Amman Palestine National Council meeting in late 1984 where moderate Palestinians made a decision to break with the radicals thereby opening the way for King Hussein to begin his peace initiative.

During the subsequent and continuing debate over how to make peace with Israel, the Saudis have consistently lent support to moderate Arab governments. Egypt's readmission to the Organization of the Islamic Conference was significantly assisted by crucial Saudi support for a procedural motion calling for a secret ballot on the readmission vote. Following the police riots in Cairo in February of this year, the Saudi Council of Ministers issued a statement supporting President Mubarak.

Although its efforts, like our own, met with limited success, Saudi Arabia played a major and highly visible role in attempts to arrange a lasting cease-fire in Lebanon. In the August 1983 efforts of Crown Prince Abdullah and Prince Bandar to bring an end to fighting in the Shuf mountains, and again through observers at the Geneva and Lausanne Lebanese national reconciliation talks, Saudi Arabia sought to bring peace to a moderate Arab nation and establish the framework for stable government. The Saudis also proved supportive of Lebanese efforts to negotiate directly with Israel conditions for Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. In this regard, the Saudis supported Lebanese efforts to win Syrian consent to compromises necessary to reach agreement.

Saudi Arabia has provided crucial support for Sudan during that country's transition to a democratic form of government. Furthermore, it has established a significant record in working for regional stability and settlement of regional disputes in countries beyond its immediate neighborhood. Saudi aid has been crucial to the Afghan cause and significant to Pakistan, Morocco, and Tunisia. Despite limitations imposed by concern for its own security, the depth of regional animosities, and the need to establish and work within an Arab consensus, Saudi Arabia has assisted substantially the significant progress that has been made in the peaceful resolution of disputes in the region.

Saudi Arabia has publicly condemned terrorism and terrorist actions, having itself been a victim of terrorism. More important, it has taken practical actions to oppose terrorism regardless of its origins.

I am convinced that the assurances I made in my letter to Senator Baker have been amply fulfilled. A firm foundation has been laid for close and continued U.S.-Saudi cooperation in operating the Saudi AWACS and in building an air defense system for Saudi Arabia and the GCC. By contributing to the self-defense of these countries, we are diminishing the likelihood of direct intervention by U.S. forces in defense of vital Western interests. At the same time, we are encouraging forces of moderation which, if they prevail, will bring lasting peace to a turbulent region.



Certification of Conditions Requisite To Transfer of AWACS Aircraft to Saudi Arabia

In accordance with Section 131 of the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985, P.L. 99-83, I hereby certify that the conditions set forth in my communication of October 28, 1981, to the Senate with respect to the transfer to Saudi Arabia of five E-3A airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft have been met, specifically:

1. Security of Technology

A. That a detailed plan for the security of equipment, technology, information, and supporting documentation has been agreed to by the United States and Saudi Arabia and is in place; and

B. The security provisions for Saudi AWACS aircraft are no less stringent than measures employed by the United States for protection and control of its equipment of like kind outside the continental United States; and

C. The United States has the right of continual on-site inspection and surveillance by U.S. personnel of security arrangements for all operations during the useful life of the AWACS. It is further provided that security arrangements will be supplemented by additional U.S. personnel if it is deemed necessary by the two parties; and

D. Saudi Arabia will not permit citizens of third nations either to perform maintenance on the AWACS or to modify any such equipment without prior, explicit mutual consent of the two governments; and

E. Computer software, as designated by the United States Government, will remain the property of the United States Government.

2. Access to Information

That Saudi Arabia has agreed to share with the United States continuously and completely the information that it acquires from use of the AWACS.

3. Control Over Third-Country Participation

A. That Saudi Arabia has agreed not to share access to AWACS equipment, technology, documentation, or any information developed from such equipment or technology with any nation other than the United States without the prior, explicit mutual consent of both governments; and

B. There are in place adequate and effective procedures requiring the screening and security clearance of citizens of Saudi Arabia and only cleared Saudi citizens and cleared U.S. nationals will have access to AWACS equipment, technology, or documentation, or information derived therefrom, without the prior, explicit mutual consent of the two governments.

4. AWACS Flight Operations

That the Saudi AWACS will be operated solely within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, except with the prior, explicit mutual consent of the two governments, and solely for defensive purposes as defined by the United States, in order to maintain security and regional stability.

5. Command Structure

That agreements as they concern organizational command and control structure for the operation of AWACS are of such a nature to guarantee that the commitments above will be honored.

6. Regional Peace and Security

That the sale contributes directly to the stability and security of the area and enhances the atmosphere and prospects for progress toward peace. Significant progress toward the peaceful resolution of disputes in the region has been accomplished with the substantial assistance of Saudi Arabia.

I will provide separately to the Congress, under appropriate procedures, those contracts and agreements pertinent to this sale and certification, including those whose confidentiality must be preserved.

Note: Identical letters were sent to Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, and George Bush, President of the Senate.

Ronald Reagan, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate on the Sale of AWACS Aircraft to Saudi Arabia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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