nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Trump, ready to make it easy for Saudi Arabia to get ‘peaceful” nuclear, AND nuclear weapons

Trump Considers Easing Nuclear Rules for Saudi Project https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-12/trump-is-said-to-consider-easing-nuclear-rules-for-saudi-project By Jennifer Jacobs,  Ari Natter,and Jennifer A Dlouhy  

  • Westinghouse is looking for new markets after bankruptcy
  • Past deals barred uranium enrichment for overseas projects

The Trump administration is encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider bids by Westinghouse Electric Co. and other U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in that country and may allow the enrichment of uranium as part of that deal, according to three people familiar with the plans.

 Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Saudi Arabia this month where the projects were discussed, according to two people. The people familiar asked not to be identified discussing the confidential negotiations.
Previous U.S. agreements have prohibited the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, and that had scuttled negotiations to use U.S. technology in Saudi nuclear projects during the Obama administration. The administration is mulling easing that requirement now as a way to help Westinghouse and other companies win Saudi Arabian contracts, two people said.

A meeting to hammer out details of the nuclear cooperation agreement, known as a 123 Agreement for the section of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act that requires it, will be held at the White House Wednesday, two administration officials said.

A successful U.S. bid would help deliver on President Donald Trump’s promise to revive and revitalize the domestic nuclear industry, helping American companies edge out Russian and Chinese competitors to build new fleets around the world. Saudi Arabia plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Westinghouse, the nuclear technology pioneer that is part of Toshiba Corp., went bankrupt in March, after it hit delays with its AP1000 reactors at two U.S. plants. After it declared bankruptcy, Westinghouse — whose technology is used in more than half the world’s nuclear power plants — said it shifted its focus to expanding outside the U.S.

Winning contracts in Saudi Arabia could provide a new market that Westinghouse needs and provide at least a partial vindication for the investment in the AP1000 technology.

“Westinghouse is pleased that Saudi Arabia has decided to pursue nuclear energy,” Sarah Cassella, a spokeswoman, said in a emailed statement. “We are fully participating in their request for information and are pleased to provide the AP1000 plant, the industry’s most advanced technology.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said weakening the prohibition against enrichment and reprocessing, often referred to as “the gold standard,” is disturbing given what he said was Saudi Arabia’s “sub-par nuclear nonproliferation record.”

“We shouldn’t compromise our longstanding efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in order to play favorites with certain companies or countries,” he said in an email, calling the idea “disturbing and counterproductive.”

— With assistance by Chris Martin

Advertisements

December 13, 2017 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

In Middle East – a heightened risk of attacks on nuclear facilities

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 8th Dec 2017, Earlier this week, Yemen’s Houthi rebel group claimed it had launched a
missile at the Barakah nuclear power plant in the western region of Abu
Dhabi, in retaliation for the Saudi-led blockade imposed on Yemen.

Abu Dhabi is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a member of the coalition
that has been targeting the Houthis. UAE officials immediately denied that
the attack had taken place, and the Houthis have not provided any evidence
to support their claim.

However, regardless of the claim’s validity, and despite the lack of evidence, the incident is emblematic of the dangers of
nuclear power in the Middle East.

The UAE should take it very seriously. Even if this “attack” was merely a propaganda ploy, nuclear power
facilities will always be potential targets for enemy states and non-state
actors, including terrorist groups. In the Middle East, in particular,
there is a history of attacks on nuclear sites during regional conflicts.
https://thebulletin.org/yemeni-rebel-claim-highlights-risk-nuclear-power-middle-east11335

December 11, 2017 Posted by | MIDDLE EAST, safety | Leave a comment

It looks as if Saudi Arabia wants uranium enrichment etc as prelude to nuclear weapons development

Beyond Nuclear 6th Dec 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih is extending invitations
to the U.S. nuclear industry to launch the Gulf Region’s most ambitious
nuclear power program. The Saudi atomic energy plan is to build as many as
17 nuclear power plants by 2032. The Saudi Arabia government has stated
that its atomic power program will be “self-sufficient” in the
production of nuclear fuel at 5% enriched uranium-235 and purely directed
for civilian power development.

The pronouncement comes as Saudi energy officials remain silent on their past refusal to not pursue high-grade
uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies as military
weapons production facilities. In any case, the introduction of nuclear
materials will significantly increase instability and tensions in the
region. http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2017/12/6/us-nuclear-companies-invited-to-help-launch-saudi-arabias-da.html

December 11, 2017 Posted by | politics, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

Egypt to go into big debt to buy Russian nuclear reactors that it doesn’t need

Egypt to sign contracts for nuclear power plant during Putin’s visit: sources, CAIRO (Reuters) 10 Dec 17 – Egypt will sign contracts with Moscow during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Cairo on Monday for the country’s first nuclear power plant, three senior sources told Reuters on Sunday.

The construction of the 4,800 megawatt (MW) capacity plant, which is supposed to be built at Dabaa in the north of the country, is expected to be completed within seven years, added the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media……

Moscow and Cairo signed an agreement in 2015 for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Egypt, with Russia extending a loan to Egypt to cover the cost of construction.

Egypt’s official gazette said last year the loan was worth $25 billion and would finance 85 percent of the value of each work contract, services and equipment shipping. Egypt would fund the remaining 15 percent.

The trial operation of the first nuclear reactor is expected to take place in 2022……

The nuclear plant is expected not to just cover the country’s energy needs, but to produce excess which can be exported, the sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Putin is scheduled to visit Cairo on Monday to meet with his counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, where they will discuss bilateral relations, trade and Middle Eastern issues, the Kremlin said last week.

Reporting by Momen Abdelkhalek; Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Toby Chopra

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-energy/egypt-to-sign-contracts-for-nuclear-power-plant-during-putins-visit-sources-idUSKBN1E40MY

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Egypt, marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

Israel’s 54-year-old nuclear reactor a safety risk 

Aljazeera,  by Harry Fawcett  

The Dimona reactor, which began its life in 1963, is one of Israel’s most closely guarded secret installations.

A study made public last year found more than 1500 fissures within the reactor core.

Israel is estimated to have more than 100 nuclear warheads, the plutonium for which comes from its Dimona reactor…….http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/israels-54-year-nuclear-reactor-safety-risk-171209153124924.html

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Israel, safety | Leave a comment

Rick Perry to visit Saudi Arabia – a nation keen to have nuclear reactors AND to highly enrich uranium

U.S. Firms Courting Saudi Arabia to Build Nuclear Reactors; Rick Perry to Visit Riyadh, Haaretz, 3 Dec 17,  One of the sources also said Riyadh had told Washington it does not want to forfeit the possibility of one day enriching uranium – a process that can have military uses.
U.S. firms attracted by Saudi Arabia’s plans to build nuclear reactors are pushing Washington to restart talks with Riyadh on an agreement to help the kingdom develop atomic energy, three industry sources said.
Saudi Arabia has welcomed the lobbying, they said, though it is likely to worry regional rival Iran at a time when tensions are already high in the Middle East.
One of the sources also said Riyadh had told Washington it does not want to forfeit the possibility of one day enriching uranium – a process that can have military uses – though this is a standard condition of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation pacts. “They want to secure enrichment if down the line they want to do it,” the source, who is in contact with Saudi and U.S. officials, said before U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, holds talks in Riyadh early next week.
Another of the industry sources said Saudi Arabia and the United States had already held initial talks about a nuclear cooperation pact. U.S. officials and Saudi officials responsible for nuclear energy issues declined to comment for this article. The sources did not identify the U.S. firms involved in the lobbying.
Under Article 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, a peaceful cooperation agreement is required for the transfer of nuclear materials, technology and equipment. In previous talks, Saudi Arabia has refused to sign up to any agreement with the United States that would deprive the kingdom of the possibility of one day enriching uranium. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil producer, says it wants nuclear power solely for peaceful uses – to produce electricity at home so that it can export more crude. It has not yet acquired nuclear power or enrichment technology.
Riyadh sent a request for information to nuclear reactor suppliers in October in a first step towards opening a multi-billion-dollar tender for two nuclear power reactors, and plans to award the first construction contract in 2018.
Reuters has reported that Westinghouse is in talks with other U.S.-based companies to form a consortium for the bid. A downturn in the U.S. nuclear industry makes business abroad increasingly valuable for American firms.
Reactors need uranium enriched to around 5 percent purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level. This has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, which enriches uranium domestically.
Riyadh’s main reason to leave the door open to enrichment in the future may be political – to ensure the Sunni Muslim kingdom has the same possibility of enriching uranium as Shi’ite Muslim Iran, industry sources and analysts say.
Potential problem for Washington
Saudi Arabia’s position poses a potential problem for the United States, which has strengthened ties with the kingdom under President Donald Trump……….https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.826436

December 4, 2017 Posted by | marketing, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

USA nuclear industry keen to sell to ANYBODY – pushing for Saudi Arabia sales

U.S. firms push Washington to restart nuclear pact talks with Riyadh: sources    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-nuclear-usa/u-s-firms-push-washington-to-restart-nuclear-pact-talks-with-riyadh-sources-idUSKBN1DV586?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews. Reem ShamseddineSylvia Westall RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) 1 Dec 17,  – U.S. firms attracted by Saudi Arabia’s plans to build nuclear reactors are pushing Washington to restart talks with Riyadh on an agreement to help the kingdom develop atomic energy, three industry sources said.

Saudi Arabia has welcomed the lobbying, they said, though it is likely to worry regional rival Iran at a time when tensions are already high in the Middle East.

One of the sources also said Riyadh had told Washington it does not want to forfeit the possibility of one day enriching uranium – a process that can have military uses – though this is a standard condition of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation pacts.

“They want to secure enrichment if down the line they want to do it,” the source, who is in contact with Saudi and U.S. officials, said before U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry holds talks in Riyadh early next week.

Another of the industry sources said Saudi Arabia and the United States had already held initial talks about a nuclear cooperation pact.

U.S. officials and Saudi officials responsible for nuclear energy issues declined to comment for this article. The sources did not identify the U.S. firms involved in the lobbying.

Under Article 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, a peaceful cooperation agreement is required for the transfer of nuclear materials, technology and equipment.

In previous talks, Saudi Arabia has refused to sign up to any agreement with the United States that would deprive the kingdom of the possibility of one day enriching uranium.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil producer, says it wants nuclear power solely for peaceful uses – to produce electricity at home so that it can export more crude. It has not yet acquired nuclear power or enrichment technology.

Riyadh sent a request for information to nuclear reactor suppliers in October in a first step towards opening a multi-billion-dollar tender for two nuclear power reactors, and plans to award the first construction contract in 2018.

Reuters has reported that Westinghouse is in talks with other U.S.-based companies to form a consortium for the bid. A downturn in the U.S. nuclear industry makes business abroad increasingly valuable for American firms.

Reactors need uranium enriched to around 5 percent purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level. This has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, which enriches uranium domestically.

Riyadh’s main reason to leave the door open to enrichment in the future may be political – to ensure the Sunni Muslim kingdom has the same possibility of enriching uranium as Shi‘ite Muslim Iran, industry sources and analysts say.

POTENTIAL PROBLEM FOR WASHINGTON

Saudi Arabia’s position poses a potential problem for the United States, which has strengthened ties with the kingdom under President Donald Trump.

Washington usually requires a country to sign a nuclear cooperation pact – known as a 123 agreement – that forfeits steps in fuel production with potential bomb-making uses.

“Doing less than this would undermine U.S. credibility and risk the increased spread of nuclear weapons capabilities to Saudi Arabia and the region,” said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

It is not clear whether Riyadh will raise the issue during Perry’s visit, which one of the industry sources said could include discussion of nuclear export controls.

Under a nuclear deal Iran signed in 2015 with world powers – but which Trump has said he might pull the United States out of – Tehran can enrich uranium to around the level needed for commercial power-generation.

It would be “a huge change of policy” for Washington to allow Saudi Arabia the right to enrich uranium, said Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Americas office at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

“Applying the ‘golden standard’ of not allowing enrichment or preprocessing (of spent fuel) has held up a 123 agreement with Jordan for many years, and has been a key issue in U.S. nuclear cooperation with South Korea,” said Fitzpatrick, a nuclear policy expert.

The United States is likely to aim for restrictions, non-proliferation analysts say.

These could be based on those included in the 123 agreement Washington signed in 2009 with the United Arab Emirates, which is set to start up its first South Korean-built reactor in 2018 and has ruled out enrichment and reprocessing.

“Perhaps Saudi Arabia is testing the Trump administration and seeing if the administration would be amenable to fewer restrictions in a 123 agreement,” ISIS’s Albright said.

It would be “a huge change of policy” for Washington to allow Saudi Arabia the right to enrich uranium, said Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Americas office at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

“Applying the ‘golden standard’ of not allowing enrichment or preprocessing (of spent fuel) has held up a 123 agreement with Jordan for many years, and has been a key issue in U.S. nuclear cooperation with South Korea,” said Fitzpatrick, a nuclear policy expert.

The United States is likely to aim for restrictions, non-proliferation analysts say.

These could be based on those included in the 123 agreement Washington signed in 2009 with the United Arab Emirates, which is set to start up its first South Korean-built reactor in 2018 and has ruled out enrichment and reprocessing.

“Perhaps Saudi Arabia is testing the Trump administration and seeing if the administration would be amenable to fewer restrictions in a 123 agreement,” ISIS’s Albright said.

December 2, 2017 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

A Terrorist State? Saudi Arabia? (and it might get nuclear weapons)

Is Saudi Arabia also amongst the terrorists? The News, Nigeria Dec 1 2017 By Owei Lakemfa.

I am fascinated by Saudi Arabia. It does not care what others say or think. It simply pursues its own goals and policies, submitting to no other than its master, the United States of America. To it, women are legally inferior to men and no amount of human or women rights campaigns will change that………

When I was in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body, there were constant complaints against Saudi Arabia violating all known labour laws against migrant workers. They simply sack or deport tens of thousands especially Indians, Filipinos, Ethiopians and Pakistanis, without paying them backlog of salaries. In one operation, after rounding up migrant workers for deportation without salaries, the Saudis simply forgot them for days, leaving them stranded without water or food.

Many do not sanction capital punishment, but for the Saudis, it is a way of life. A human being can be beheaded for a sundry of reasons including murder, treason, espionage and rape. But there are others like apostasy and blasphemy. If you are an atheist, and so disclose, your head is severed. It is difficult to prove sorcery and witchcraft, but if a person is in possession of talisman, according to the Saudis, he is guilty, and is a candidate for execution. Execution is primarily, beheading with a sword called SULTHAN and the most infamous star in that art is Muhammad Saad al-Beshi, who described his first execution in 1998: “The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled metres away…People are amazed how fast [the sword] can separate the head from the body.”……….

the Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz disclosed that Israel had held covert meetings with Saudi Arabia on how to jointly fight Iran. There is no love lost between Saudi Arabia which sees itself as the custodian of the Sunni Movement, and Iran which sees itself as the guardian of the Shiite Movement. So can this be the policy of ‘My enemy’s enemy, is my friend’? It should come as a surprise that a Muslim country is working out an alliance with a Jewish state to attack a sister Muslim country.

Saudi Arabia does not waste time rolling out its military might to achieve political goals. For this, it invaded Bahrain in 1994, and when there was a popular revolt against the Al-Khalifa Monarchy, Saudi Arabia on March 14, 2011, again invaded Bahrain and crushed the protests.

But it is in Yemen Saudi Arabia has most displayed it its military prowess. There had been an uprising against the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A combination of Houthi rebels and Yemeni military loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, had removed Hadi. An angry Saudi Arabia fell on Yemen bombing large parts into near extinction. Everything is game to the Saudi bombers which first obliterated schools and hospitals then turned its fury on any gathering; markets, weddings, even funerals. It also imposed a blockade. Over 12,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed. 3.3 million children and nursing mothers are suffering from acute malnutrition, and cholera is rampant, yet Saudi Arabia and its allies will not relent. The cemeteries are over flowing so much that a good foreign investment in Yemen would be the building of new cemeteries.

Nobody is talking about crimes against humanity because the Saudis have powerful friends in the United Nations and “international community’ Many want a slice of the huge Saudi arms budget. When American President Donald Trump visited Riyadh this May, he smiled home with a $350 Billion arms contract for his country. With this, it was not difficult to get America endorse Saudi Arabia’s illegal blockade and sanctions against tiny Qatar who was told to either accept a 13-Point Saudi Demand including the closure of Al Jazeera, or face annihilation………. http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2017/12/is-saudi-arabia-also-amongst-the-terrorists/

December 2, 2017 Posted by | politics, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

Trump administration, Michael Flynn, and dodgy nuclear deals with Saudi Arabia

White House May Share Nuclear Power Technology With Saudi Arabia, The overture follows an intense and secretive lobbying push involving Michael Flynn, Tom Barrack, Rick Gates and even Iran-Contra figure Robert McFarlane. Pro Publica by Isaac Arnsdorf, The Trump administration is holding talks on providing nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia — a move that critics say could upend decades of U.S. policy and lead to an arms race in the Middle East.

The Saudi government wants nuclear power to free up more oil for export, but current and former American officials suspect the country’s leaders also want to keep up with the enrichment capabilities of their rival, Iran.

Saudi Arabia needs approval from the U.S. in order to receive sensitive American technology. Past negotiations broke down because the Saudi government wouldn’t commit to certain safeguards against eventually using the technology for weapons.

Now the Trump administration has reopened those talks and might not insist on the same precautions. At a Senate hearing on Nov. 28, Christopher Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, disclosed that the U.S. is discussing the issue with the Saudi government. He called the safeguards a “desired outcome” but didn’t commit to them.

Abandoning the safeguards would set up a showdown with powerful skeptics in Congress. “It could be a hell of a fight,” one senior Democratic congressional aide said.

The idea of sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia took an unlikely path to the highest levels of government. An eccentric inventor and a murky group of retired military brass — most of them with plenty of medals but no experience in commercial nuclear energy — have peddled various incarnations of the plan for years.

Many U.S. officials didn’t think the idea was serious, reputable or in the national interest. “It smelled so bad I said I never wanted to be anywhere close to that,” one former White House official said. But the proponents persisted, and finally found an opening in the chaotic early days of the Trump administration, when advisers Michael Flynn and Tom Barrack championed the idea……

In 2008, the Saudi government made a nonbinding commitment not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing. They then entered negotiations with the U.S. for a pact on peaceful nuclear cooperation, known as a 123 agreement, after a section of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. A 123 agreement is a prerequisite for receiving American technology.

The talks stalled a few years later because the Saudi government backed away from its pledge not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing, according to current and former officials. “They wouldn’t commit, and it was a sticking point,” said Max Bergmann, a former special assistant to the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security at the time those negotiations occurred……..

The Obama administration held firm with the Saudis because it’s one thing to cap nuclear technology where it already exists, but it’s longstanding U.S. policy not to spread the technology to new countries. As Saudi Arabia and Iran — ideological and religious opponents — increasingly squared off in a battle for political sway in the Middle East, Republicans argued that the Obama administration had it backwards: It was enshrining hostile Iran’s ability to enrich uranium while denying the same to America’s ally Saudi Arabia.

One such critic of Obama’s Iran policy was Michael Flynn, a lieutenant general who was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. Flynn quickly took up a variety of consulting assignments and joined some corporate boards. One of the former was an advisory position for a company called ACU Strategic Partners, which, according to a later financial disclosure, paid Flynn more than $5,000.

Flynn was one of many retired military officers whom ACU recruited. ACU’s chief was a man named Alex Copson, who is most often described in press accounts as a “colorful British-American dealmaker.” Copson reportedly made a fortune inventing a piece of diving equipment, may or may not have been a bass player in the band Iron Butterfly, and has been touting wildly ambitious nuclear-power plans since the 1980s. (He didn’t answer repeated requests for comment.)

By 2015, Copson was telling people he had a group of U.S., European, Arab and Russian companies that would build as many as 40 nuclear reactors in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Copson’s company pitched the Obama administration, but officials figured he didn’t really have the backers he claimed. “They would say ‘We have Rolls-Royce on board,’ and then someone would ask Rolls-Royce and they would say, ‘No, we took a meeting and nothing happened,’” recalled a then-White House official.

In his role with ACU, Flynn flew to Egypt to convince officials there to hold off on a Russian offer (this one unrelated to ACU) to build nuclear power plants. Flynn tried to persuade the Egyptian government to consider Copson’s proposal instead, according to documents released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Flynn also tried to persuade the Israeli government to support the plan and spoke at a conference in Saudi Arabia. (The trip would later present legal problems for Flynn because he didn’t report contacts with foreign officials on his application to renew his security clearance, according to Cummings. Cummings referred the information to Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Trump’s associates and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Flynn’s lawyer declined to comment.)

Copson’s outfit eventually splintered. A retired admiral named Michael Hewitt, who was to head up the security services part of the project, struck out on his own in mid-2016. Flynn went with him.

Hewitt’s new company is called IP3 International, which is short for “International Peace Power & Prosperity.” IP3 signed up other prominent national security alumni including Gens. Keith Alexander, Jack Keane and James Cartwright, former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, Bush Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, and Reagan National Security adviser Robert “Bud” McFarlane.

IP3’s idea was a variation on ACU’s. Hewitt swapped out one notional foreign partner for another (Russia was out, China was in), then later shifted to an all-American approach. That idea resonated with the U.S. nuclear-construction industry, which never recovered from the Three Mile Island disaster in the 1970s and was looking to new markets overseas.

But nuclear exports are tightly controlled because the technology is potentially so dangerous. A 123 agreement is only the first step for a foreign country that wants to employ U.S. nuclear-power technology. In addition, the Energy Department has to approve the transfer of technology related to nuclear reactors and fuel. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses reactor equipment, and the Commerce Department reviews exports for equipment throughout the rest of the power plant.

IP3 — whose sole project to date is the Saudi nuclear plan — never went through those normal channels. Instead, the company went straight to the top.

At the start of the Trump administration, IP3 found an ally in Tom Barrack, the new president’s close friend and informal adviser and an ultra-wealthy investor in his own right. During the campaign, Barrack wrote a series of white papers proposing a new approach to the Middle East in which economic cooperation would theoretically reduce the conditions for breeding terrorism and lead to improved relations.

Barrack wasn’t familiar with nuclear power as an option for the Middle East until he heard from Bud McFarlane. McFarlane, 80, is most remembered for his role in the defining scandal of the Reagan years: secretly selling arms to Iran and using the money to support Nicaraguan rebels. He pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress but was pardoned by George H.W. Bush.

Nevertheless, Barrack was dazzled by McFarlane and his IP3 colleagues. “I was like a kid in a candy shop — these guys were all generals and admirals,” Barrack said in an interview. “They found an advocate in me in saying I was keen on trying to establish a realignment of U.S. business interests with the Gulf’s business interests.”

McFarlane followed up the meeting by emailing Flynn in late January, according to six people who read the message or were told about it. McFarlane attached two documents. One outlined IP3’s plan, describing it as consistent with Trump’s philosophy. The second was a draft memo for the president to sign that would officially endorse the plan and instruct his cabinet secretaries to implement it. Barrack would take charge of the project as the interagency coordinator. Barrack had discussions about becoming ambassador to Egypt or a special envoy to the Middle East but never committed to such a role. (McFarlane disputed that account but repeatedly declined to specify any inaccuracies. IP3 declined to comment on the memos.)

Flynn, now on the receiving end of IP3’s lobbying, told his staff to put together a formal proposal to present to Trump for his signature, according to current and former officials.

The seeming end run sparked alarm. National Security Council staff brought the proposal to the attention of the agency’s lawyers, five people said, because they were concerned about the plan and how it was being advanced. Ordinarily, before presenting such a sensitive proposal to the president, NSC staff would consult with experts throughout government about practical and legal concerns. Bypassing those procedures raised the risks that private interests might use the White House to their own advantage, former officials said. “Circumventing that process has the ability not only to invite decisions that aren’t fully vetted but that are potentially unwise and have the potential to put our interests and our people at risk,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and NSC spokesman.

Even after those concerns were raised, Derek Harvey, then the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East, continued discussing the IP3 proposal with Barrack and his representative, Rick Gates, according to two people. Gates, a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, worked for Barrack on Trump’s inaugural committee and then for Barrack’s investment company, Colony NorthStar.

By then, Barrack was no longer considering a government position. Instead, he and Gates were seeking investment ideas based on the administration’s Middle East policy. Barrack pondered the notion, for example, of buying a piece of Westinghouse, the bankrupt U.S. manufacturer of nuclear reactors. (Harvey, now on the staff of the House intelligence committee, declined to comment through a spokesman. In October, Mueller charged Manafort and Gates with 12 counts including conspiracy against the U.S., unregistered foreign lobbying, and money laundering. They both pleaded not guilty. Gates’ spokesman didn’t answer requests for comment.)

Ultimately, it wasn’t the NSC staff’s concerns that stalled IP3’s momentum. Rather, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior aide tasked with reviving a Middle East peace process, wanted to table the nuclear question in favor of simpler alliance-building measures with the Saudis, centered on Trump’s visit in May, according to a person familiar with the discussions. (A spokesperson for Kushner, asked for comment, had not provided one at the time this article was published; we’ll update the article if he provides one later.)


In recent months, the proposal has stirred back to life as the Saudi government kicked off a formal process to solicit bids for their first reactors. In October, the Saudis sent a request for information to the U.S., France, South Korea, Russia and China — the strongest signal yet that they’re serious about nuclear power.

The Saudi solicitation also gave IP3 the problem its solution was searching for. The company pivoted again, narrowing its pitch to organizing a consortium of U.S. companies to compete for the Saudi tender. IP3 won’t say which companies it has signed up. IP3 also won’t discuss the fees it hopes to receive if it were part of a Saudi nuclear plan, but it’s vying to supply cyber and physical site security for the plants. “IP3 has communicated its strategy to multiple government entities and policy makers in both the Obama and Trump administrations,” the company said in a statement. “We view these meetings and any documents relating to them as private, and we won’t discuss them.”

The Saudi steps lit a fire under administration officials. Leading the charge is Rick Perry, the energy secretary who famously proposed eliminating the department and then admitted he didn’t understand its function. (It includes dealing with nuclear power and weapons.) Perry had also heard IP3’s pitch, a person familiar with the situation said. In September, Perry met with Saudi delegates to an international atomic energy conference and discussed energy cooperation, according to a photo posted on his Facebook page. Perry’s spokeswoman didn’t answer requests for comment.

Other steps followed. Soon after, a senior State Department official flew to Riyadh to restart formal 123 negotiations, according to an industry source. (A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment.) In November, Energy and State Department officials joined a commercial delegation to Abu Dhabi led by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s main lobby in Washington. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Edward McGinnis said the administration wants to revitalize the U.S. nuclear energy industry, including by pursuing exports to Saudi Arabia. The Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration and the Energy Department are organizing another industry visit in December to meet with Saudi officials, according to a notice obtained by ProPublica. And in the days before Thanksgiving, senior U.S. officials from several agencies met at the White House to discuss the policy, according to current and former officials.

The Trump administration hasn’t stated a position on whether it will let the Saudis have enrichment and reprocessing technology. An NSC spokesman declined to comment. But administration officials have begun sounding out advisers on how Congress might react to a deal that gives the Saudis enrichment and reprocessing, a person familiar with the discussions said.

Senators have started demanding answers. At the Nov. 28 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ford, the NSC nonproliferation official who has been nominated to lead the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, testified that preliminary talks with the Saudis are underway but declined to discuss the details in public. As noted, Ford wouldn’t commit to barring the Saudi government from obtaining enrichment and reprocessing technology. “It remains U.S. policy, as it has been for some time, to seek the strongest possible nonproliferation protections in every instance,” he told the senators. “It is not a legal requirement. It is a desired outcome.” Ford added that the Iran deal makes it harder to insist on limiting other countries’ capabilities.

Sen. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who led the questioning of Ford on this topic, seemed highly resistant to the idea of the U.S. helping Saudi Arabia get nuclear technology. “If we continue down this pathway,” he said, “then there’s a recipe for disaster which we are absolutely creating ourselves.” Markey also accused the administration of neglecting its statutory obligation to brief the committee on the negotiations. (The White House declined to comment.)

Any agreement, in this case with Saudi Arabia, would not require Senate approval. However, should an agreement be reached, Congress could kill the deal. The two houses would have 90 days to pass a joint resolution disapproving it. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Ben Cardin, suggested they wouldn’t accept a deal that lacked the same protections as the ones in the UAE’s agreement. “If we don’t draw a line in the Middle East, it’s going to be all-out proliferation,” he said. “We need to maintain the UAE’s standards in our 123 agreements. There’s just too many other countries that could start proliferating issues that could be against our national interest.”

Bob Corker, the committee’s chairman, has been a stickler on nonproliferation in the past; he criticized the Obama administration for not being tough enough. Corker isn’t running for reelection and has criticized Trump for being immature and reckless in foreign affairs, so he’s unlikely to shy away from a fight. (A spokesman declined to comment.) “The absence of a consistent policy weakens our nuclear nonproliferation efforts, and sends a mixed message to those nations we seek to prevent from gaining or enhancing such capability,” Corker said at a hearing in 2014. “Which standards can we expect the administration to reach for negotiating new agreements with Jordan or Saudi Arabia?” https://www.propublica.org/article/white-house-may-share-nuclear-power-technology-with-saudi-arabia

December 1, 2017 Posted by | politics, Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | 1 Comment

France joins the rush to market nuclear power to Saudi Arabia

Reuters 29th Nov 2017, French state-controlled utility EDF intends to take part in a tender to
build two nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, two sources familiar with the
situation told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia, which wants to reduce domestic oil
consumption, is considering building 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear-fuelled
power generation capacity by 2032 and has sent a request for information to
international suppliers to build two reactors

With answers to the request due by the end 2017 or early 2018, a formal tender could be launched by
mid-2018, but more likely toward the end of 2018 or early 2019, industry
specialists say.   https://www.reuters.com/article/saudi-nuclear-edf/update-1-frances-edf-plans-to-bid-in-saudi-arabia-nuclear-tender-sources-idUSL8N1NZ1YN

December 1, 2017 Posted by | France, marketing, Saudi Arabia | 2 Comments

Extreme weather, prolonged drought – helped ISIS to recruit jihad fighters

Climate Change and Water Woes Drove ISIS Recruiting in Iraq  Battered by shifting resources, desperate farmers were driven into terror recruiters’ clutches. Can it happen again?,  National Geographic, It was a few weeks after the rains failed in the winter of 2009 that residents of Shirqat first noticed the strange bearded men.

Circling like vultures among the stalls of the town’s fertilizer market in Iraq’s northern Salahaddin governorate, they’d arrow in on the most shabbily dressed farmers, and tempt them with promises of easy riches. “Join us, and you’ll never have to worry about feeding your family,” Saleh Mohammed Al-Jabouri, a local tribal sheikh, remembers one recruiter saying.

With every flood or bout of extreme heat or cold, the jihadists would reappear, often supplementing their sales pitches with gifts. When a particularly vicious drought struck in 2010, the fifth in seven years, they doled out food baskets. When fierce winds eviscerated hundreds of eggplant fields near Kirkuk in the spring of 2012, they distributed cash. As farming communities limped from one debilitating crisis to another, the recruiters—all members of what soon became the Islamic State—began to see a return on their investment.

Two agricultural laborers in Azwai, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it farming community just south of Shirqat, ran off to join the jihadists in December 2013. Seven more from outlying villages followed a month later. By the time the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seized this swath of Iraq—along with most of the country’s west and north—in a brutal summer-long blitzkrieg in 2014, few locals were surprised to see dozens of former fertilizer market regulars among its ranks.

“We said just wait until the next harvest, life will get better, life will become easier,” Jabouri said. “But things just weren’t getting better. There was always another disaster.”

Across rural Iraq and Syria, farmers, officials, and village elders tell similar stories of desperate farmhands swapping backhoes for assault rifles. Already battered by decades of shoddy environmental policies, which had hobbled agriculture and impoverished its dependents, these men were in no state to navigate the extra challenges of climate change. And so when ISIS came along, propelled in large part by sectarian grievances and religious fanaticism, many of the most environmentally damaged Sunni Arab villages quickly emerged as some of the deep-pocketed jihadists’ foremost recruiting grounds.

Around Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s northern Iraqi hometown, ISIS appears to have attracted much more support from water-deprived communities than from their better-resourced peers. In Tharthar subdistrict, a semi-arid expanse west of the Tigris, farmers with fields closest to the encroaching sands joined the jihadists in greater numbers than their counterparts near the river valley. Throughout 100 plus interviews conducted over three years, farmers and agricultural officials alike sometimes wondered aloud: if only we’d received a little more assistance, might this entire blood-soaked mess have been averted?

“This beast [ISIS] has many causes, but in the countryside these new problems just pushed people over the edge,” said Omar, a former agriculture ministry administrator from Mosul, who fled as the jihadists seized his city three years ago and who wished to withhold his surname for security reasons………

RIPE FOR RADICALIZATION

By 2011, much of the Iraqi countryside was in desperate financial straits. Some 39 percent of people in rural areas were living in poverty, according to the World Bank. That’s two and a half times the country’s urban rate. Almost half lacked safe drinking water. The problems were so devastating in 2012-13 that tens of thousands of villagers ditched their fields altogether, preferring to try their luck in the slum districts of nearby cities instead………

Soaring temperatures also began playing into these [jihadists’] groups’ hands. Amid unprecedented heatwaves, farmers pumped more water in order to keep their crops alive, but in so doing merely added to the burden on the aquifers, many of which were already struggling to keep pace with demand that had previously been met by the rains and rivers. After several years of energetic groundwater extraction near the oil refining town of Baiji, Samir Saed’s two wells ran dry in early 2014, forcing him to lay off the two young men he employed as farm laborers. Jobless and angry, he suspects they soon joined ISIS.

“There are many stories like this; they were frustrated and just saw it as another type of work,” he says.

Summer temperatures in the Middle East are set to soar twice as fast as the global average, possibly threatening the inhabitability of the region by the end of the century, researchers say………

WHAT’S NEXT?

For the moment at least, ISIS is mostly defeated in Iraq. From a high of 40 percent of Iraq’s territory in late 2014, it now only controls a few isolated villages, and small chunks of largely featureless desert. But the conditions that contributed to its success in the countryside are, if anything, more pronounced than ever.

The jihadists adopted scorched earth tactics as they were beaten back, laying waste to hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland. And so for returning farmers, climate change and shoddy governance are now among the least of their worries. ISIS fighters ripped up buried irrigation pipes to mold makeshift mortars. They poisoned wells, blew up water canals, and carted off everything that was of any value, notably generators, tractors, and water pump parts……. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/climate-change-drought-drove-isis-terrorist-recruiting-iraq/

November 15, 2017 Posted by | climate change, MIDDLE EAST | Leave a comment

Report from International Atomic Energy Agency: Iran is sticking to the nuclear agreement

Iran sticks to key limits of nuclear deal: U.N. watchdog report https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear/iran-sticks-to-key-limits-of-nuclear-deal-u-n-watchdog-report-idUSKBN1DD1RS, Shadia Nasralla, VIENNA (Reuters) 14 Nov 17- Iran has remained within the main limits on its nuclear activity set by its 2015 deal with six world powers, the U.N. atomic watchdog said in its first report since U.S. President Donald Trump decertified Iranian compliance with the terms.

 Iran undertook to curb its uranium enrichment program in return for relief from international sanctions that crippled its economy, and U.N. nuclear inspectors have repeatedly verified Tehran’s adherence to the key aspects of the accord.
 Trump has called the agreement between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union “the worst deal ever” and he disavowed Iran’s compliance last month. His decision did not constitute a U.S. exit from the accord but raised concern about its staying power.

Trump’s move, at odds with the commitment of the other parties to the deal, meant the U.S. Congress must decide by mid-December whether to reimpose economic sanctions lifted under the accord, reached under his predecessor Barack Obama.

If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place.

In response, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Tehran will stick to the nuclear accord as long as the other signatories respected it, but would “shred” the deal if Washington pulled out.

If the deal unravels, it would strengthen hardline opponents of Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s pragmatist president who opened up diplomatic channels to Western powers to enable nuclear diplomacy after years of worsening confrontation.

Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium as of Nov. 5 was 96.7 kg (213.2 pounds), well below a 202.8-kg limit set by the deal, and the level of enrichment did not exceed a maximum 3.67 percent cap, said the confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report sent to IAEA member states and seen by Reuters.

Iran’s stock of so-called heavy water, a moderator used in a type of reactor that can produce plutonium, a potential nuclear bomb fuel, stood at 114.4 metric tonnes, below a 130-tonne limit agreed by the parties to the deal.

The 3.67 percent enrichment and 202-kg stockpile limit on uranium, and the 130-tonne cap on heavy water, aim to ensure that Iran does not amass enough material of sufficient fissile purity to produce a nuclear bomb. Such a device requires uranium to be refined to around 90 percent purity.

 IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told Reuters in September he would welcome clarification from the powers on how the agency should monitor Iran’s implementation of the so-called Section T of the nuclear pact that deals with certain technologies that could be used to develop an atom bomb.

Russia had been critical of the agency’s monitoring of Section T provisions, but Monday’s report said the IAEA had verified Iran’s commitment to the section.

Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Mark Heinrich

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Trump and CIA planning war on Iran?

Trump’s CIA Is Laying the Groundwork for a Devastating War on Iran, with Help from Neocon Think Tank, By Ben Norton, Global Research,  AlterNet 10 November 2017

An ex-CIA analyst has raised suspicions about the CIA’s release of bin Laden documents and apparent collaboration with the hard-right organization Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The Central Intelligence Agency appears to have collaborated with the neoconservative think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies to try to link Iran to the Salafi-jihadist group al-Qaeda.

Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesman, has suggested that the move may be part of a wider campaign by the Trump administration’s new CIA director to establish “a rationale for regime change” in Tehran.

In the lead-up to the illegal 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the effort to link Baghdad to al-Qaeda was “a key element of the march to war,” Price explained, implying that the Trump administration might be doing something similar with Iran.

President Donald Trump has, since the beginning of his term, made aggressive opposition to Iran a key feature of his foreign policy. He has surrounded himself with anti-Iran hawks in the White House, and pledged to unilaterally “tear up” the nuclear deal agreed to by major world powers.

Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. proxy in the Middle East, has in recent weeks escalated its campaign against Iran. The Saudi monarchy pressured Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign, and has been accused of holding him hostage. The kingdom then effectively declared war on Lebanon, in the name of countering Iran and its ally Hezbollah.

President Trump has praised Saudi Arabia’s belligerent intervention and foreign meddling, even while accusing Tehran of doing exactly what Riyadh is doing. The U.S. government is working very closely with the Saudi monarchy and Israel to, in Trump’s words, “counter the regime’s destabilizing activity.”

Supposed Al Qaeda links

To justify these aggressive actions, the Trump administration has tried to link Iran to al-Qaeda.

The neoconservative think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies published an article November 1 that aimed to highlight the alleged connections between the two. In order to do so, the staunch right-wing organization cited previously unreleased CIA documents that had allegedly been collected in the May 2011 U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) indicated in the post, “The CIA provided FDD’s Long War Journal with an advance copy of many of the files.”

The right-wing think tank’s Long War Journal project subsequently stressed that the documents purportedly “show Iran facilitated AQ at times.” The Long War Journal also claimed that several al-Qaeda leaders lived in Iran, where they were allegedly detained at the time.

Next, Long War Journal editors Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio conducted a lengthy interview with conservative radio host John Batchelor, in which they hammered on bin Laden’s supposed connections to Iran.

FDD has for years advocated for aggressive U.S. action, including military options, against Iran. It is one of the leading anti-Iran voices in the Beltway’s constellation of neoconservative think tanks. Funded in the past by the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a confidant of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, FDD has been on the front lines of the campaign to undermine the Iran nuclear deal, which the far-right U.S. president has promised to “tear up.”

Suspicious bin Laden leaks

Former CIA analyst Ned Price has spoken out about the agency’s apparent collaboration with FDD, highlighting the anxiety that is consuming a wing of the foreign policy establishment over Trump’s hostile moves against Iran……….https://www.globalresearch.ca/trumps-cia-is-laying-the-groundwork-for-a-devastating-war-on-iran-with-help-from-neocon-think-tank/5617886

November 13, 2017 Posted by | Iran, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran criticises rich nations over climate talks

Iran slams rich nations over climate talks  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/11/12/iran-slams-rich-nations-over-climate-talks   Iran and its fellow developing countries have accused the world’s richest nations of eroding trust and trying to undermine talks about the Paris agreement.   Iran has delivered a blistering assessment of the world’s richest countries’ performance during UN climate negotiations, accusing them of eroding trust and censoring developing nations.

In an unusually strong statement, Iran’s representative told talks in Bonn on Saturday the group of more than 20 like-minded developing countries it spoke for believed others were trying to rewrite the Paris agreement.

The agreement, like the UN climate convention, only worked when all parties had trust in each other and worked together in good faith, he said.

“So soon after the Paris agreement entered into force we are already seeing that trust and good faith being eroded by constant attempts to move away from prior agreements, solemn pledges and treaty obligations,” he said.

“This does not lay a good foundation for long-lasting, equitable and durable action on climate change.”

And in negotiations over finance, technology and building the capacity of nations to cut emissions, suggestions put forward by developing country blocs were “immediately rejected outright by developed countries”.

“What we are seeing now is a concerted effort by developed countries to drop G77 and LMDC proposals from the table in order to focus further negotiations only on developed countries’ positions,” Iran’s representative said.

“Censoring other parties’ views from being included into negotiating text as the basis of negotiations is clearly not in good faith.”

The Saturday evening session was designed as a mid-COP23 update on the various negotiation bodies that have been working on different aspects of implementing the Paris agreement.

While the chairs of each of the bodies generally gave the impression good progress was being made, almost all the country groups said they were disappointed or concerned about the slow pace.

Ecuador said its G77+China group – representing 134 developing countries – was especially worried about the lack of progress on all financial matters.

This concern was echoed by Mali on behalf of African countries.

Finance is important to developing countries, who cannot afford on their own to cut emissions or adapt to climate change.

“One component is still missing – not from (Fiji) but from our developed country parties – and that is the political will that is needed to engage constructively towards the highest priority of ensuring a balanced progress on all agenda items,” Ecuador official Walter Schuldt said.

And the Maldives, speaking for small island states, accused some countries of taking a “seemingly hard stance” by wanting to limit access to finance.

Australian environment ambassador Patrick Suckling said its Umbrella Group of non-EU developed countries – including the US, Canada and New Zealand – was generally heartened that everyone at the negotiations wanted to see progress.

But Australia’s bloc was disappointed by persistent efforts from some countries to work outside the mandates of the Paris agreement.

Tension has arisen over adding extra items to the official agenda, including a formal discussion about increasing pledges for action before the Paris deal starts in 2020.

“(This) is hampering the very progress we are seeking,” Mr Suckling said.

The European Union said it did not recognise any lack of political will during negotiations and there was no disagreement about the urgency of pre-2020 action – only what form discussions should take.

Morocco, which has been working with countries on a solution to this dispute, also reported there was a clearly unanimous view on the importance of early action on climate change.

It said there was no consensus yet but was convinced once could be reached.

Greenpeace’s Jens Mattias Clausen said giving space to constructive discussions about pre-2020 ambitions was a way developed countries could show good faith to their partners.

“These discussions need to take place now, not only on climate action but also on issues such as the adaptation fund, to build trust and ensure that vulnerable countries will get the help they need,” he told AAP.

November 13, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Why North Korea wants nuclear weapons – the lesson from Libya

Libya: The Forgotten Reason North Korea Desperately Wants Nuclear Weapons, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/libya-the-forgotten-reason-north-korea-desperately-wants-23129

Ted Galen Carpenter, The United States and its allies continue to cajole and threaten North Korea to negotiate an agreement that would relinquish its growing nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. The latest verbal prodding came from President Trump during his joint press conference with South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Trumpurged Pyongyang to “come to the negotiating table,” and asserted that it “makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing.” The “right thing” Trump and his predecessors have always maintained, is for North Korea to become nonnuclear.
It is unlikely that the DPRK will ever return to nuclear virginity. Pyongyang has multiple reasons for retaining its nukes. For a country with an economy roughly the size of Paraguay’s, a bizarre political system that has no external appeal, and an increasingly antiquated conventional military force, a nuclear-weapons capability is the sole factor that provides prestige and a seat at the table of international affairs. There is one other crucial reason for the DPRK’s truculence, though. North Korean leaders simply do not trust the United States to honor any agreement that might be reached.

Unfortunately, there are ample reasons for such distrust. North Korean leaders have witnessed how the United States treats nonnuclear adversaries such asSerbia and Iraq. But it was the U.S.-led intervention in Libya in 2011 that underscored to Pyongyang why achieving and retaining a nuclear-weapons capability might be the only reliable way to prevent a regime-change war directed against the DPRK.

Partially in response to Washington’s war that ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003, ostensibly because of a threat posed by Baghdad’s “weapons of mass destruction,” Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi seemed to capitulate regarding such matters. He signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in December of that year and agreed to abandon his country’s embryonic nuclear program. In exchange, the United States and its allies lifted economic sanctions and pledged that they no longer sought to isolate Libya. Qaddafi was welcomed back into the international community once he relinquished his nuclear ambitions.

That reconciliation lasted less than a decade. When one of the periodic domestic revolts against Qaddafi’s rule erupted again in 2011, Washington and its NATO partners argued that a humanitarian catastrophe was imminent (despite meager evidence of that scenario), and initiated a military intervention. It soon became apparent that the official justification to protect innocent civilians was a cynical pretext, and that another regime-change war was underway. The Western powers launched devastating air strikes and cruise-missile attacks against Libyan government forces. NATO also armed rebel units and assisted the insurgency in other ways.

Although all previous revolts had fizzled, extensive Western military involvement produced a very different result this time. The insurgents not only overthrew Qaddafi, they captured, tortured and executed him in an especially grisly fashion. Washington’s response was astonishingly flippant. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quipped: “We came, we saw, he died.”

The behavior of Washington and its allies in Libya certainly did not give any incentive to North Korea or other would-be nuclear powers to abandon such ambitions in exchange for U.S. paper promises for normal relations. Indeed, North Korea promptly cited the Libya episode as a reason why it needed a deterrent capability—a point that Pyongyang has reiterated several times in the years since Muammar el-Qaddafi ouster. There is little doubt that the West’s betrayal of Qaddafi has made an agreement with the DPRK to denuclearize even less attainable than it might have been otherwise. Even some U.S. officials concede that the Libya episode convinced North Korean leaders that nuclear weapons were necessary for regime survival.

The foundation for successful diplomacy is a country’s reputation for credibility and reliability. U.S. leaders fret that autocratic regimes—such as those in Iran and North Korea—might well violate agreements they sign. There are legitimate reasons for wariness, although in Iran’s case, the government appears to becomplying with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Tehran signed with the United States and other major powers in 2015—despite allegations from U.S. hawks about violations.

When it comes to problems with credibility, though, U.S. leaders also need to look in the mirror. Washington’s conduct in Libya was a case of brazen duplicity. It is hardly a surprise if North Korea (or other countries) now regard the United States as an untrustworthy negotiating partner. Because of Pyongyang’s other reasons for wanting a nuclear capability, a denuclearization accord was always a long shot. But U.S. actions in Libya reduced prospects to the vanishing point. American leaders have only themselves to blame for that situation.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author or coauthor of ten books, including The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea. He also is the author of more than seven hundred articles and policy studies on international affairs.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Libya, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment