Senate AWACS stand shifting?

Prospects for Senate approval of the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia may have improved with Sadat's assassination -- but only marginally. The new selling point, which may be persuasive with some undecided senators, is this: with the loss of Sadat, the United States cannot risk losing another friend in the Mideast.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, who had been one of the 50 senators who had earlier expressed objections to the sale, now says he will support the transaction.

And while outwardly unwilling to say so, the administration is letting it be known through private conversations that it believes the Senate is beginning to move behind the President on the AWACS sale.

Some evidence of this emerged Wednesday after the President held a meeting with 43 GOP senators in the White House. Sen. John Danforth (R) of Missouri described the session as "a hard sell. . ." While he continues to oppose the sale, two senators reportedly reversed their positions and aligned themselves with the President. On the Senate floor, three previously undecided GOP senators announced they would support Reagan.

Further, there is speculation here among Washington observers that the Jewish lobby will let up a bit in its efforts to defeat the sale -- lest by pushing too hard and defeating the AWACS plan they lose a friend in the President.

By underscoring the threat to peace in the Mideast, Sadat's departure from leadership appears to have strengthened public -- and congressional -- support for building up US defenses.

These heightened fears of possible Mideast conflict could help Reagan's MX/B- 1 proposal.

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