US attempts to share nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia

Photo courtesy of Flickr Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was implicated in the report.

Photo courtesy of Flickr
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was implicated in the report.

BY SAMAN BHAT ’22

The Democrat-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued an interim staff report raising concerns about the Trump administration’s efforts to share U.S. nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia last Tuesday, Feb. 19. The contents of the report have opened up an of cial investigation into the administration’s actions.

Early in Trump’s presidency, top of officials in the White House, including former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, pursued a project to build dozens of nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, proposed by an energy company known as IP3 International. Derek Harvey, deputy for Middle East and North African affairs, worked closely with Flynn and a group of retired U.S. generals to promote the project, which was known as the Middle East Marshall Plan. But these retired generals were the owners of private companies like IP3, meaning they stood to benefit financially from the deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.The report from the House Oversight Committee was issued after multiple whistleblowers expressed their concerns about the project. They stated that there were “potential procedural and legal violations connected with rushing through a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” according to the report. They also warned about con icts of interest among top White House advisors, whose work on the project could be breaking federal criminal statutes.

IP3 International, the company backing the plan, worked very closely with Trump’s political allies, including Thomas Barrack Jr.

Barrack served as the chairman of the president’s inaugural committee, and is well known as a businessman with deep ties in the Middle East, according to the New York Times. As a result, Robert Mueller, who is currently leading the special investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, shifted his focus from Russia to the Middle East. According to the New York Times, “the special counsel’s investigation has spent months examining contacts between Trump advisers and both of officials and in- formal emissaries from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” in attempts to determine the legality of the Trump administration’s relationship with the Middle East.

According to TIME, Flynn and other White House advisors ignored countless legal and ethical warnings by lawyers and other White House staff to move forward with their plan. Even conservative senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Todd Young (R-IN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to “suspend talks related to a potential civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia.” The letter voiced their “serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decision makers in Saudi Arabia,” according to the Committee on Oversight Reform.

Faryal Mirza ’20, a politics major, said “it appears that many of the key individuals involved on the U.S. side have strong economic motivations for building this plant in Saudi.” Mirza questioned the ethics of the entire situation, saying. “It is my belief that when it comes to international politics and operations, bene ting oneself or a personal relationship should not be allowed,” she said.

According to the New York Times, Saudi Arabia intends to produce its own nuclear fuel with no involvement from other countries, raising serious concerns that the country could be considering diverting their fuel into a “covert weapons project.” Earlier in the year, negotiators from Saudi Arabia refused “to sign an agreement that would allow United Nations inspectors to look anywhere in the country for signs that the Saudis might be working on a bomb,” according to the New York Times.

Overall, the report has brought into question whether the Trump administration is actually concerned with national security interests or is attempting to push a deal that will allow his close supporters to benefit financially. Natalia Naveed ’19, an international relations major, is cynical about the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. “I think both Saudis want better relations with the U.S. in exchange for a greater role in international politics,” she said. “The U.S. sees Saudi as a key ally in the Middle East.”

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