WASHINGTON — King Abdullah of Jordan wants US lawmakers to speed delivery of sophisticated weaponry to fight the Islamic State after the group burned one of its military pilots to death.
Abdullah huddled with several US congressional committees on Tuesday before heading home early after the release of an Islamic State video showing Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned to death in a cage.
In those closed-door sessions, Abdullah expressed frustration with the length of time it takes weapon sales to weave through the complex labyrinth that is the American federal bureaucracy.
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters Wednesday that Abdullah asked specifically for "more sophisticated air-to-ground weaponry, ground-to-ground weaponry, weapons like anti-tank, [and] spare parts."
McCain said all SASC members — Republicans and Democrats — have agreed to sign a letter to the White House requesting they put shipments of those systems on a fast track. And if the Obama administration opts against acting quickly, McCain says he will.
"If the administration doesn't act right away in response to this letter, which every member is going to sign on this committee," he said, "we will then introduce legislation direct to the floor."
At issue is the cumbersome US foreign military sales (FMS) program, which involves lots of red tape and lengthy turnaround times that even Armed Services Committee members are baffled by.
"Really it is hard for members to believe that [Abdullah] was facing that kind of obstruction," McCain said.
His comments came on the sidelines of a confirmation hearing for former Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter's nomination to become defense secretary.
During the hearing, Carter said he hopes to learn more about what Jordan needs to step up its efforts to fight the violent Sunni group.
Earlier Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Washington's "first and immediate" response to the pilot's murder should be to speed weaponry and fuel to Jordan's military.
Democratic SASC member Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, appearing on the same MSNBC program, predicted Congress will soon take up the kind of legislation McCain is floating.
Any unplanned sales to Jordan would give a slight boost to the US defense sector, which says — despite record profits — it has been hurt by annual across-the-board Pentagon budget cuts.
McCain and Thornberry are close to their chambers' GOP leadership, but the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees oversee American military sales to other countries.