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USA Congress Democrats and Republicans want strict controls on any nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia

Lawmakers Want a Greater Say as U.S. Seeks a Saudi Nuclear Deal, Members of Congress from both parties demand that an agreement to sell Riyadh civilian nuclear technology be based on stringent controls, WSJ . By Michael R. Gordon, Dec. 16, 2018 

The Trump administration’s push to sell civilian nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia is emerging as the next battleground in the struggle between the White House and Congress over U.S. policy toward Riyadh following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The debate over Riyadh’s nuclear ambitions intensified last week after Energy Secretary Rick Perry brushed aside congressional appeals that nuclear talks be suspended because of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he accentuated the role American companies could play in helping the country establish a nuclear energy program.

…….But the CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing has fueled concerns in Congress that the Saudi leader is too ruthless to be entrusted with nuclear technology. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said the crown prince had no knowledge of the operation.

Lawmakers of both parties are demanding a deal be based on the most stringent nonproliferation controls. And some are now pushing legislation that would give Congress more of a say by requiring that a nuclear accord with Saudi Arabia be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Before Khashoggi, I would say our chances were quite modest,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, referring to prospects of House legislation he is drafting. “Now I would have to say our chances are better than 50-50.”

An identical measure is being prepared in the Senate by Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), though the prospects for winning approval are likely to be more challenging.

The prospective nuclear deal comes amid a broader debate over Saudi policy, including a Senate vote last week to halt U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting in Yemen.

Even since the Trump administration signaled its interest in a nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia last year, there has been debate about proliferation controls that should be imposed under an accord authorizing the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology, known as a 123 agreement.

……..Nuclear experts have also said that it would be important for Saudi Arabia to agree to the “Additional Protocol,” a formal arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency that provides for far-reaching inspections. The Saudis have been resisting that step, former officials who have been tracking the talks say. A spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy didn’t respond to a request for comment..

……..Under current law, a nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia would go forward unless congressional opponents backed a joint resolution against it. That means that two-thirds of the lawmakers would need to oppose the accord so Congress could overcome a potential veto.

Mr. Sherman’s new bill aims to put nuclear accord skeptics in a more favorable position by requiring the administration to win approval from both the Senate and the House. That means a simple majority in one legislative chamber would be enough to block the agreement…….


December 18, 2018 - Posted by | politics, Saudi Arabia, USA

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