IN the week since President Bush announced an arms-reduction plan
for the Middle East, his administration has announced several new
United States military sales to the region - immediate evidence of
just how difficult implementation will be for the plan's US sponsor,
Calling the Bush plan long on rhetoric and short on detail, they
charge that the US, instead of initiating restraint, is caught in an
The key element of the president's plan, announced May 29, would
require the five largest arms suppliers - the US, Britain, China,
France, and the Soviet Union - to notify one another in advance of
certain conventional arms sales that could prove "destabilizing."
Mr. Bush has asked representatives from the five to meet in Paris
later this month to discuss the proposed restraints. His plan also
included a provision, however, that supported weapons sales to meet
the "legitimate need of every state to defend itself."
In the last seven days, the administration has been more active
selling arms than building a consensus to limit them, say critics,
who expect little progress from the Paris meeting. "It's a mistake
to go through another round of arms sales," says Alan Platt, an
international security specialist who was chief of the arms transfer
division of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Carter
Continuing US sales to the region only undermine Washington's
efforts to win international support for something the US itself
does not subscribe to, he says.
A senior Pentagon official announced on Tuesday that 20 Apache
attack helicopters will be sold to the United Arab Emirates and six
to Bahrain. Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, who last week
pledged to supply Israel with 10 F-15 fighter planes and to pay $200
million into the next phase of developing Israel's Arrow missile
defense system, denied that the sales contradict Bush's plan to
reduce arms sales to the Middle East.
Other deals are pending, such as the sale of several hundred
M1-A2 tanks to Saudi Arabia. Mr. Platt says that US officials now in
"Saudi Arabia to put together a shopping list of Saudi needs" will
likely return with a large order.
Mr. Cheney says halting US military sales to the Middle East
"would be unwise policy."
Seth Carus, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy, says "several parts of the overall proposal - like
tightening the biological weapons convention and enhancing existing
export controls on missiles - are a given, with or without the Bush