02/20/2019, 19.12
SAUDI ARABIA – UNITED STATES
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Trump wants to sell the bomb to the Saudis, risking escalation with Iran

A report by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives' Oversight Committee notes how the White House is putting pressure on lawmakers in order to sign plush contracts with the Saudis. In the past, negotiations ended in failure because of Saudi opposition to safeguards. The president is directly involved in the matter.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Trump administration is putting pressure on Congress to facilitate the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, despite the risk that Riyadh could produce its own atomic bomb.

House Democrats are saying the White House is lobbying hard to get congressional approval to supply Saudi Arabia through corporate interests close to the US president. Ostensibly, the aim is to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia.

However, this is likely to "destabilise" even more the region and trigger an escalation with Iran, which agreed in 2015 to put on hold its nuclear ambitions in a deal reached with then US President Barack Obama. Trump scrapped the deal in May 2018.

A report by the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee notes that an inquiry into the matter is "particularly critical because the Administration's efforts to transfer sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing”.

The White has not yet said anything about the report. However, President Trump has met with nuclear power developers at the White House on 12 February to discuss building plants in Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia.

Trump's son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, plans to tour the Middle East this month to discuss the economics of the Trump administration's peace plan.

The White House’s willingness to transfer nuclear technology to the Saudis is a further sign of the close economic and diplomatic link between Washington and Riyadh against Iran.

Last November, the two countries signed a US$ 15 billion contract to sell the THAAD anti-missile defence system to the Saudis. In March 2018 they had already inked a deal to sell weapons to the kingdom, despite congressional opposition and criticism from human rights groups.

Many US lawmakers have been critical of the plan as it would violate US laws guarding against the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons programme.

They also believe giving Saudi Arabia access to nuclear technology would spark a dangerous arms race in a region already affected by sectarian violence.

Saudi Arabia has said it wants nuclear power in order to diversify its energy sources and help address growing energy needs as well reduce reliance on oil.

Previous negotiations for US nuclear technology ground to a halt when Saudi Arabia refused to agree to safeguards against using the technology for weaponry, but this is no longer an issue for the Trump administration, which does not seem interested in imposing restrictions.

Congressional Democrats, who have been critical of Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi murder and the Yemen War, control the committee that issued the report. The latter is based on whistleblower accounts and documents showing communications between Trump administration officials and nuclear power companies.

It states that "within the US, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia".

These commercial entities could "reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia". Mr Trump is reportedly "directly engaged in the effort".

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