Trump Green Lights Nuclear Tech Transfer to Saudi Arabia Despite Congress’ Objection
“The whistleblowers who came forward have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes.”
President Donald Trump has approved six authorizations for American companies to conduct nuclear-related work in Saudi Arabia, according to a report released on Thursday by The Daily Beast. U.S. companies are required to seek government approval before exporting nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia or developing nuclear material in Saudi Arabia.
The Trump administration has secretly tried to extend an agreement regarding nuclear technology sharing with Saudi Arabia, who is going to build at least two nuclear reactors. Several countries, including the U.S., Russia and South Korea, are competing to win the construction project bid, which will be announced at the end of this year.
The involved companies have asked the Trump administration to keep the Saudi deals confidential, as the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) in the U.S. Energy Agency stated in a document seen by Reuters. It is unclear which U.S. companies are involved.
Congress Voices Its Concern About Trump’s Nuclear Deal
Not all are happy with the idea of sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed concern regarding nuclear technology transfers, arguing that Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if transferred without proper supervision.
Congress is also worried about Trump’s close personal ties with Saudi Arabia. The POTUS is trying to make Riyadh a priority of its Middle East policy and isolate Iran, Saudi’s strong rival.
Last year, Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) told CBS that Riyadh would develop nuclear weapons if Iran did.
Trump still believes that MBS is not involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi’s consulate office in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018. Furthermore, Trump had downplayed Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen war – a war many consider the world’s current worst humanitarian disaster.
Democrats have demanded transparency from Trump over the nuclear authorizations and accused the president of concealing the negotiation process with the oil-rich nation.
“It appears to me that this is an end run around the law in an effort to achieve a policy,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told Pompeo at a House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. officials were “working to ensure that the nuclear power that (the Saudis) get is something we understand and doesn’t present that risk” of allowing them to make nuclear weapons.
How Bad Is the US-Saudi Nuclear Deal?
Many analysts worry that Saudi Arabia has an intention to pursue nuclear weaponry which could trigger a new nuclear war in the Middle East. Other experts claim that the worries are unfounded as a reactor relies on low-enriched uranium, while nuclear bombs need highly-enriched uranium.
Katie Tubb, a nuclear energy specialist at the Heritage Foundation, said that Saudi Arabia is different from North Korea and Iran. The U.S. has the “123 deal” with Saudi Arabia, which are a series of agreements that provide oversight and safeguards in the case of a transfer of any nuclear technology.
Another expert, Joe Cirincione, said otherwise. He said the nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia was “reckless, illegal, and corrupt,” and sarcastically praised Perry for being a super salesman who can convince anyone that the agreement is a good deal. Cirincione also slammed Perry for not having in-depth knowledge about energy.
“Of all the recent secretaries of energy, Perry knows the least about nuclear energy [and] nonproliferation policy,” Cirincione, who is President of the nuclear watchdog Ploughshares Fund, stated.
The US-Saudi Nuclear Agreement Triggers a Conflict of Interest
Last month, the House Oversight Committee announced it’s probing a shadowy firm called IP3 International which is headed up by a group of retired military personnel and has ties with former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
The firm is pushing a proposal for the U.S. to build 40 nuclear reactors across the Middle East, but concern was raised by a series of whistleblowers that the White House placed the financial gain of those involved over U.S. national security interests, as Defense News reported.
“The whistleblowers who came forward have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes,” Cummings said in a letter to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Tuesday.