Saudi Arabia is close to completing a nuclear reactor. The Saudis getting unfettered access to nuclear energy, and by extension nuclear weapons, should set off all sorts of warning bells and danger signals.
Most importantly, Saudi Arabia has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Despite its fancy name, the treaty is pretty simple and direct — signees agree that their nuclear technology will be used for peaceful means. No games, no subterfuge, a simple pledge.
Congress has heard the call and is taking up the cause. To do so, they must challenge The White House.
It seems that the Trump administration is helping Saudi Arabia obtain access to the nuclear material. And Congressional leadership, almost in one voice, is in serious doubt as to the wisdom of this move by the president.
Senators from both sides of the aisle, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bob Menendez, penned a letter asking Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to explain the rationale behind this decision to come to the aid of the Saudis over nuclear energy. In their letter they touched upon the “many deeply troubling actions and statements that have provoked alarm in Congress.” They also pointed out the obvious, noting that in the past, the Saudis have acted irresponsibly.
These overtures from the Administration have been hidden from Congress dating back to November of 2017 and were only revealed this week during Congressional hearings.
The United States should be trying to keep the cap on irresponsible nuclear activity — not helping it advance. Not advancing it for Saudi Arabia and not for any other country living and operating on the cusp of global propriety and responsibility. Obviously, China, Russia, and North Korea do not care about the Saudi agenda. That knowledge alone should have served to strengthen the U.S. effort to interdict and block Chinese, Russian, and North Korean assistance to countries like Saudi Arabia — not to join them in the effort.
The Saudi advance on nuclear technology is not mere speculation.
Press reports and intelligence reports show satellite pictures of the nuclear facility they are constructing in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The facility is in the technology and science section of the city known, appropriately enough, as Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology. According to experts this nuclear facility is being built by the Argentinean company INVAP.
As far back as November 5, 2018, Al Jazeera, the Arab/English language newspaper, reported that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince bin Salman wanted to acquire a nuclear reactor.
In March of 2018, about eight months earlier, in an interview with CBS the Crown Prince spoke about Saudi Arabia's nuclear technology advancement and explained that he does not want nuclear weapons and that his objectives are peaceful. There was a caveat. If Iran starts working on a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will need to get one first.
The logic is understandable and frightening at the same time. During the CBS interview, the Crown Prince spoke bluntly. He said: "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible."
Despite the inherent and potential dangers, it seems that so far, Saudi Arabia has kept its word. The reactor they are completing in Riyadh is, almost everyone agrees, built for research purposes. But that is not the issue bringing Congress and the president into conflict.
They are in conflict over a huge set of facilities that will be built by companies like Westinghouse, facilities that will require nuclear fuel.
There are issues with the small reactor, too, but not as dramatic. The Saudis have not submitted any of the specs or safety standards — especially the safeguards, for anyone to review. They have not articulated a plan to maintain the safety and integrity of the facility or a plan outlining how they will react when or if something goes wrong.
Congress is correct to challenge the president.
The president and his advisers want to help Saudi Arabia protect itself against Iran. But there are certain hot button issues that should not be on the table. Nuclear activity ranks number one.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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