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USA government will appease murderous Saudi Arabia regime – or maybe not?

US Nuclear Energy Policy & Khashoggi Murder: Appeasement Or Threat? Clean Technica, December 12th, 2018 by Tina Casey 

The horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October continues to fester, and some of the blowback has been falling on the shoulders of the US tech sector. Rightfully so, considering the connection between Saudi wealth, Japan-based SoftBank, and Silicon Valley A-listers. Meanwhile, US President* Donald Trump has dismissed evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly responsible for the crime, but a recent nuclear energy announcement could indicate that someone in Trump’s cabinet is stirring the pot.

Khashoggi Or Not, Trump Administration Still Sharing Nuclear Energy Love With Saudi Arabia…

There is also a nuclear weapons angle to the story, but for now lets focus on the nuclear energy angle.

Despite its vast solar and wind resources, Saudi Arabia has expressed a growing interest in building a fleet of power plants fueled by nuclear energy.

CleanTechnica has been among those taking note, though not in any particular depth — until earlier this week, when the US Department of Energy released a readout of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent visit with the Saudi Minister of Energy, as well as the CEO of Saudi Aramco and other officials.

The readout hit the Intertubes just about the time word leaked out that there is now a written transcript of the audiotape that recorded the last minutes of Khashoggi’s life.

Anyone — even those who do not speak Arabic — can now read and understand the last words that Khashoggi screamed out in the course of his murder.

So, was the readout yet another example of Secretary Perry tone deafness? Or was it yet another one of his curiously timed missives that undercut White House policy even while seeming to affirm it.

Here, you do the math. This is where the readout deals with the visit to Saudi Arabia (Perry also went to Qatar on the same trip):

…the Secretary expressed that the United States continues to view Saudi Arabia as an important ally, particularly in the energy space. Perry and Al-Falih spoke about last week’s OPEC announcement of production cuts and Perry reiterated the need for stable supply and market values. They also discussed the 2018 increase in Saudi oil production and the impact it has had on world markets in the wake of the Iran sanctions.

And, here’s the summary message (emphasis added):

Secretary Perry underscored the message that he carries all over the world: any nation seeking to develop a truly safe, clean, and secure nuclear energy program should turn to American companies who have the ability to provide the technology, knowledge, and experience that are essential to achieving that goal.

The US nuclear energy industry is in a state of near collapse, domestically speaking. As with coal power, the only hope for growth is to export the technology elsewhere…but the readout makes it clear there are standards to be met.

Or Not

The readout is not particularly startling in and of itself, though there is a lot to chew on between the lines.

What really sticks out is the summary message. It could be read in two different ways.

Number one, Secretary Perry was blithely pitching the US nuclear energy industry to the Saudi government, ignoring — as per White House policy — the latest revelations about the Khashoggi murder.

That would be consistent with the Rick Perry, who toes the Trump line on a whole host of other issues, inside and outside of the energy space.

Number two relates to the other Rick Perry — the one who has consistently pushed for the Department of Energy’s scientific and renewable energy missions, even when (or perhaps especially when) those missions clash with Trump’s anti-science, pro-coal rhetoric.

In this scenario, the nuclear message is not a pitch. It’s practically the opposite: a reminder that the US holds the nuclear energy cards.

To be clear, the US doesn’t hold all the nuclear energy cards, but it does hold enough of them to make trouble. Earlier this fall, for example, the Trump administration announced new restrictions on nuclear technology exports to China. Though some have downplayed the impact, that’s gotta hurt.

As applied to the Saudi government, Perry could wield the authority of his agency under its nonproliferation mission as a stick, not a carrot.

Or, maybe not. If you apply Occam’s razor to the readout, it is just what it is: a message that, Khashoggi or not, it’s business as usual between Saudi Arabia and the US.

What do you think? Drop us a note in the comment thread! …………

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

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