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Saudi minister says nuclear armament against Iran ‘an option’

November 21, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Tehran’s UN ambassador says rival Saudi Arabia is looking for an excuse to build nuclear weapons and blaming Iran

Iran: Saudi Arabia ‘scapegoating’ its pursuit of nuclear arms, Tehran’s UN ambassador says rival Saudi Arabia is looking for an excuse to build nuclear weapons and blaming Iran.  Aljazeera, By Maziar Motamedi, 18 Nov 2020

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s United Nations ambassador says Saudi Arabia is trying to use Iran as an excuse to develop nuclear arms after a Saudi minister said the kingdom reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

In tweets in Farsi and English, Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Kazem Gharibabadi, said “scapegoating and fearmongering are two common and classic methods used by demagogues”………

The Iranian official’s comments come shortly after Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said Saudi Arabia reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons if Iran cannot be stopped from making one.

Tehran has pursued a nuclear programme for decades but insists it only wishes to use nuclear power peacefully.

More than 10 years ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa – a legal or general decree in Islam by a religious authority or court and issued by a Mufti – declaring all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, a “serious threat against humanity”.

“The Iranian nation is itself a victim of the use of chemical weapons,” Khamenei wrote in reference to the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that ended in 1988.

“It feels the threat of development and proliferation of these weapons more than other nations and is ready to use all its resources to combat it.”

In 2015, Iran signed a landmark nuclear deal with world powers that significantly curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of multilateral sanctions.

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

After a year of remaining committed to the deal under sanctions, Iran gradually scaled back its commitments under the deal but has said it will come back to full compliance if the US does so first and lifts sanctions……..

November 19, 2020 Posted by | Iran, politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China-Saudi nuclear pact can trigger an arms race in West Asia

October 6, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

IAEA and China helping Saudi Arabia with its nuclear ambitions

China and IAEA are helping Saudi Arabia achieve its nuclear ambitionsAlthough Saudi Arabia has pledged that its nuclear program is strictly peaceful, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said the kingdom would develop a bomb if Iran did so. The Print JONATHAN TIRONE 16 September, 2020  Vienna: The United Nations nuclear watchdog has been working in parallel with Chinese officials to help Saudi Arabia exploit uranium — the key ingredient for nuclear power and weapons — despite its inspectors being frozen out of the kingdom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency published a document ahead of its annual conference next week showing the Vienna-based organization assisting Saudi efforts to make nuclear fuel. An institute in Beijing affiliated with the IAEA has been prospecting for uranium in Saudi Arabia……..

The Saudis have stepped up their pursuit of nuclear technologies in recent years, piquing the interest of companies from South Korea to Russia and the U.S. The kingdom is nearing completion of its first reactor, a low-powered research unit being built with Argentina’s state-owned INVAP SE. It has repeatedly pledged that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, but Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said the kingdom would develop a bomb if its regional rival Iran did so.

Nuclear non-proliferation experts have long warned that without adequate safeguards, IAEA technical cooperation can unwittingly help countries develop weapons capabilities………

While Saudi Arabia has been open about its ambitions to generate nuclear power, less is known about the kinds of monitoring the kingdom intends to put in place. President Donald Trump’s administration sent a letter to Saudi Arabia a year ago setting requirements to access U.S. atomic technology. The baseline for any agreement is tougher IAEA inspections that include a so-called Additional Protocol — the same monitoring standard applied in Iran and more than 130 other nations, which allows inspectors wider access to sites including uranium mines.

The kingdom is among only 31 countries worldwide that still applies an old set of IAEA regulations that don’t allow inspections. On Monday, the agency said it was beginning a new initiative to roll back those rules because they can’t provide adequate assurance that all activity is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

“I’m approaching them, telling them that in 2020 this is no longer adequate,” Grossi said. “We have to be up to a minimum standard.”

The IAEA provided financial and technical aid to develop Pakistan’s uranium mines and improve plutonium-producing reactors even after the country tested a nuclear weapon in 1998 in defiance of a non-proliferation treaty. While that aid was intended for civilian nuclear power, scientists involved in those projects said Pakistan used uranium mined with agency help for weapons.

The IAEA similarly helped North Korea develop its uranium mines before it kicked inspectors out in 2003. Syria, under investigation since 2007 for allegedly building a secret atomic-weapons reactor, used an IAEA-built lab to produce uranium ……..,for%20uranium%20in%20Saudi%20Arabia.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | China, politics international, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

IAEA and SAudi Arabia in discussions on nuclear security checks

September 15, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

IAEA Providing Support for Saudi Arabia as It Plans to Adopt Nuclear Energy

September 8, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

The hazards of nuclear reactors in the Gulf region, and Saudi Arabia’s ambiguous energy program

September 5, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

Senators Warn Trump Saudi-Chinese Uranium Plant Risks Spread of Nuclear Weapons

Senators Warn Trump Saudi-Chinese Uranium Plant Risks Spread of Nuclear Weapons, WSJGroup of Democratic and Republican lawmakers request briefings on the matter, in letter to the president, By Warren P. Strobel, Aug. 19, 2020 , WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of U.S. senators warned President Trump on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s undeclared nuclear and missile programs pose a serious threat to efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the region and requested briefings on the subject.

The letter follows a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month that the Saudis, with Chinese help, had constructed a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, an advance in the oil-rich kingdom’s drive to master nuclear technology, according to Western officials.

“Saudi Arabia is positioning itself to develop the front-end of the [nuclear] fuel cycle. These technologies, if unchecked, would give Riyadh a latent capacity to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), along with two other Democratic and three Republican senators, wrote in a letter to the president.

The Saudi Energy Ministry earlier this month categorically denied having built a uranium ore facility in the area of northwest Saudi Arabia described by some of the Western officials. It said that extraction of minerals—including uranium—is a key part of the country’s economic diversification strategy.

Manufacturing uranium yellowcake, a milled form of uranium ore, is a relatively early step in the nuclear cycle. It takes multiple additional steps and technology to process and enrich uranium sufficiently for it to power a civil nuclear energy plant. At very high enrichment levels, uranium can fuel a nuclear weapon……. (subscribers only)

August 22, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Germany urges S.Arabia to comply with nuclear arms control treaty.

Germany urges S.Arabia to comply with nuclear arms control treaty.  Western allies concerned over Riyadh’s nuclear goals after reports reveal secret facility for extracting uranium yellowcake  Oliver Towfigh Nia   |12.08.2020    BERLIN

Germany on Wednesday called on Saudi Arabia “to fully comply” with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) following a news report about the discovery of a secret nuclear facility in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

“The German government’s critical stance on nuclear power is well known. It is of central importance that Saudi Arabia fully complies with its NPT obligations and that its nuclear program is subject to the international verification standards (‘safeguards’) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” the Foreign Ministry told media representatives via an e-mail.

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

With China’s assistance, Saudi Arabia has constructed a facility for the extraction of uranium yellowcake — a potential precursor for a nuclear reactor — in a remote desert location near the small town of Al Ula, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reported last week, citing Western officials with knowledge of the site.

The facility, which has been kept secret, has sparked concern among Riyadh’s Western allies that the kingdom may try to expand its atomic program to keep open its option to build atomic weapons, according to the report.

Revelations of the yellowcake processing facility is expected to further increase concern among Riyadh’s neighbors and its Western allies about Saudi nuclear ambitions, especially after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed in 2018 that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Yellowcake is processed from naturally occurring uranium ore and can be further enriched to create fuel for nuclear power plants and, at very high levels of enrichment, nuclear weapons.

While the Saudi Energy Ministry has “categorically” denied the Wall Street Journal report that the Gulf country has built a uranium ore milling facility, it admitted to contracting with Chinese companies for uranium exploration in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh triggered major concerns about a likely nuclear arms race in the volatile Gulf region by moving forward with building a research reactor and inviting companies to bid on building two civilian nuclear power reactors without agreeing to oversight and inspection by the IAEA, Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, according to the Al Jazeera media network.

A US congressional committee published a report in May 2019, warning the administration of President Donald Trump was allowing US companies to offer Saudi Arabia nuclear technologies without first obtaining non-proliferation guarantees to ensure the know-how would not be used to eventually produce a weapon.

In February 2019, government whistle-blowers had alarmed the US House of Representatives that the Trump administration was evading the Congress to allow future sales of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, without non-proliferation safeguards, thus potentially paving the path for an atomic arms race in the Middle East.

August 13, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

Tehran urges IAEA to shed light on Saudi ‘covert’ nuclear program.

Tehran Times 9th Aug 2020, Tehran urges IAEA to shed light on Saudi ‘covert’ nuclear program.
“Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is a member of the Non-Proliferation
Treaty and has a comprehensive bilateral safeguard agreement with the
Agency, it has unfortunately refused to abide by its commitments to the
Agency’s inspections despite repetitive calls,” Kazem Gharibabadi said,
according to Tasnim.
Gharibabadi urged the IAEA to carry out investigations
and submit a full report on the status of nuclear activities in the Saudi
kingdom. Raising alarm about Riyadh’s nuclear ambitions, the ambassador
said the international community will not accept Saudi “deviation” from a
peaceful nuclear program and will confront it.
The comments came after
American intelligence agencies reportedly said they had spotted an
undeclared nuclear site near Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, scrutinizing
attempts by the kingdom to process uranium and move toward the development
of atomic bombs.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the agencies
had in recent weeks circulated a classified analysis about Saudi attempts
to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could potentially lead
to the development of nuclear weapons. The study shows “a newly completed
structure near a solar-panel production area near Riyadh, the Saudi
capital, that some government analysts and outside experts suspect could be
one of a number of undeclared nuclear sites,” the report said.

August 11, 2020 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia could become a pawn in a proxy nuclear war

Nuclear Gulf: Is Saudi Arabia pushing itself into a nuclear trap?, MBS is prepared to pursue nuclear weapons if Iran gets them. But could he end up making the kingdom a nuclear pawn?   Aljazeera, by Patricia Sabga, 21 Jul 2020   When countries start dabbling in nuclear energy, eyebrows raise. It’s understandable. Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons while allowing countries to pursue civilian nuclear programmes has proven a tough and sometimes unsuccessful balancing act for the global community.

So when atom-splitting initiatives surface in a region with a history of nuclear secrecy and where whacking missiles into one’s enemies is relatively common, it is not just eyebrows that are hoisted, but red flags.

Right now, warning banners are waving above the Arabian Peninsula, where the United Arab Emirates has loaded fuel rods into the first of four reactors at Barakah – the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant.

Roughly 388 miles west, Saudi Arabia is constructing its first research reactor at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

The UAE has agreed not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. It has also signed up to enhanced non-proliferation protocols and even secured a coveted 123 Agreement with the United States that allows for the bilateral sharing of civilian nuclear components, materials and know-how.

But that has not placated some nuclear energy veterans who question why the Emirates has pushed ahead with nuclear fission to generate electricity when there are far safer, far cheaper renewable options more befitting its sunny climate.

Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia insists its nuclear ambitions extend no further than civilian energy projects. But unlike its neighbour and regional ally, Riyadh has not officially sworn off developing nuclear weapons.

The kingdom’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), has publicly declared his intention to pursue nuclear weapons if Iran gets them first.

The spectre of the Saudi-Iran Cold War escalating into a nuclear arms race is not beyond the realm of possibility. There are growing concerns over the nuclearisation of the Arabian Peninsula and where it could lead the Gulf and the Middle East – a volatile region that experts warn could be opening itself up to superpower proxy fights on a nuclear scale.

The economic case against nuclear

Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions date back to at least 2006, when the kingdom started exploring nuclear power options as part of a joint programme with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

More recently, the kingdom laced its nuclear plans into MBS’s “Vision 2030” blueprint to diversify the country’s economy away from oil.

Nuclear energy, the kingdom argues, would allow it to export crude it currently consumes for domestic energy needs, generating more income for state coffers while developing a new high-tech industry to create jobs for its youthful workforce.

But if a bountiful economic harvest is the goal, nuclear energy is a poor industry to seed compared to renewables like solar and wind.

“Every state has the right to determine its energy mix. The problem is this: nuclear costs are enormous,” Paul Dorfman, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Energy Institute, University College London and founder and chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group, told Al Jazeera. “Renewables are maybe between one-fifth and one-seventh the cost of nuclear.”

Utility-scale, average unsubsidised lifetime costs for solar photovoltaic were around $40 per megawatt hour (MWh) in 2019, compared to $155 per MWh for nuclear energy, according to an analysis by financial advisory and asset manager Lazard.

“There are no economic or energy policy or industrial reasons to build a nuclear power plant,” Mycle Schneider, convening lead author and the publisher of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, told Al Jazeera. “If countries decide to build a nuclear power plant anyway, then we have to discuss other issues that are actually the drivers for those projects.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for an interview.

The Saudis have invited companies to bid on building two power reactors, but to date have not awarded a contract. While those plans remain on the drawing board, the kingdom is pressing ahead with construction on its first research reactor.

And there are troubling signs surrounding the project.

No IAEA monitoring

The Saudis announced in early 2018 that they had broken ground on a small research reactor that would be operational by the end of 2019.

Like most nuclear projects, Riyadh’s has fallen behind schedule. But there is strong evidence that the Saudis are pressing ahead with renewed vigor.

Bloomberg news reported that satellite photos taken in March and May of this year revealed that the Saudis have built a roof over the reactor – a development that is alarming nuclear experts because the Saudis have not yet invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor the site and inspect the reactor’s design.

“What it does tend to infer is problematic,” said Dorfman. “Key to IAEA surveillance and regulations is signing up to non-proliferation treaties. In other words, questions of enrichment and how you deal with substances that flow out of nuclear reactors in terms of future weaponisation.”

Saudi has signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which obligates it to have a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. But those agreements do not allow IAEA inspectors to come sniffing around whenever they like on short notice.

That level of access is only granted when a country signs an Additional Protocol with the IAEA – something the UAE has done, but which the Saudis have not.

Nor is Riyadh obligated to make this move, because the Saudis are currently operating under a Small Quantities Protocol (SQP) that exempts states with nuclear ambitions from IAEA inspections.

The presumption is that the countries operating under the SQP do not have enough nuclear material to warrant that level of intrusiveness. But experts say the Saudis will not be able to hide behind the small quantities’ fig leaf once they switch on the reactor.

“It will have more than a small quantity of material, maybe not a large one, but more than the limit under this [SQP] agreement,” Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told Al Jazeera. “Instead of owning up that they need to change the agreement and reaching an understanding with the people in Vienna [where the IAEA is based], they’re playing this out to the last second. That’s not a great look.”

Procrastination is not without its downsides. Riyadh does not have a 123 Agreement with the US that allows for bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation, despite efforts to negotiate one.

A 123 Agreement would give Riyadh a seal of approval from Washington, while it would open the door for US companies to throw their hats into the ring to reap profits from building reactors for the kingdom.

While US lawmakers in Congress have not been willing to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s bad behaviour, the administration of US President Donald Trump has not let it get in the way of fostering closer ties with the kingdom.

Trump, for example, has vigorously supported conventional weapons sales to the Saudis despite Riyadh’s abysmal record on human rights, while his son-in-law Jared Kushner has forged a close relationship with MBS.

This disconnect between Congress and the White House on Saudi policy was noted in a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) – a non-partisan Congressional watchdog – that found that the Trump administration may not have been as transparent as it should be with Congress over nuclear negotiations with the Saudis.

According to the GAO, the sticking points holding up a 123 Agreement between the US and Saudi include Riyadh’s failure to agree to refrain from enriching uranium or reprocessing plutonium – key ingredients in nuclear weapons – or to sign an Additional Protocol with the IAEA.

They don’t want to sign up to that. And you’ve got to ask the question: ‘Well, why? what’s the problem?'” said Sokolski.

“We know that looking at other military acquisitions, particularly in the missile arena, that the Saudis have a bad habit of doing things in secret if they think it’s controversial,” Sokolski added. “Would nuclear be treated the same way as missile acquisitions? If so, this is another lack of transparency you’ve got to be concerned about.”


July 23, 2020 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia’s push for nuclear power – a nuclear weapons danger

Arms control experts concerned by Saudi nuclear reactor push, Aljazeera
Satellite images show work progressing on Saudi reactor even though international IAEA inspectors are still frozen out.   
by Jonathan Tirone • Bloomberg. 22 May 2020  Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead to complete its first nuclear reactor, according to satellite images that have raised concern among arms-control experts because the kingdom has yet to implement international monitoring rules.

Satellite photos show the kingdom has built a roof over the facility before putting in place International Atomic Energy Agency regulations that allow inspectors early verification of the reactor’s design. Foregoing on-the-ground monitoring until after the research reactor is completed would be an unusual move normally discouraged under regulations to ensure civilian atomic programs aren’t used to make weapons.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly pledged that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, but Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman also said the kingdom would develop a bomb if its regional rival Iran did so. Those statements made in 2018 raised a red flag within the nuclear monitoring community which is uneasy that it has more ability to access nuclear sites in Iran than it does in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of energy didn’t respond to a request to comment.

While Saudi Arabia has been open about its ambitions to generate nuclear power, less is known about the kinds of monitoring the kingdom intends to put in place. President Donald Trump’s administration sent a letter to Saudi Arabia last year setting requirements to access U.S. atomic technology. The baseline for any agreement is tougher IAEA inspections.

…….. At issue is the weak and outdated set of IAEA safeguard rules, called the “Small Quantities Protocol,” or SQP, that Saudi Arabia continues to follow, according to Laura Rockwood, the IAEA’s former chief lawyer who drafted stricter inspection guidelines to which the vast majority of countries adhere.

Satellite images show that a thick lattice of roof beams is now covering the 10-meter (33 feet) high steel reactor vessel. Argentina’s state-owned INVAP SE sold the low-powered research reactor to Saudi Arabia.”The problem is that design-information verification has to be carried out while it’s being constructed,” said Rockwood, who now directs the Open Nuclear Network in Vienna

While Saudi Arabia adheres to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the bedrock agreement that regulates the spread of material needed to induce fission, it still has to implement monitoring rules in line with its nuclear program development.

“Saudi Arabia’s agreement right now is completely minimal, out of date, and unequal to the task of providing the kind of transparency that the IAEA and other member states need about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program,” said Sharon Squassoni, a researcher and former diplomat on non-proliferation issues at George Washington University.

–With assistance from Verity Ratcliffe

May 22, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress kept in the dark about government nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia

U.S. should keep Congress informed about nuclear talks with Saudis: GAO,  Timothy Gardner

6 May 20, WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Departments of State and Energy should commit to regular briefings to relevant committees in Congress on talks about nuclear power cooperation with Saudi Arabia, a congressional watchdog said in a report on Monday.

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, report said Congress should consider amending the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, or AEA, to require the briefings for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about negotiations on nuclear power sharing.

Lawmakers concerned about nonproliferation issues associated with nuclear power development had complained they were being kept in the dark about Trump administration talks with Saudi Arabia, many of which were led by former Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Concern grew after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in 2018 that the kingdom did not want to acquire a nuclear bomb, but would do so if its rival Iran did so.

Riyadh could announce a tender this year for two nuclear power reactors, its first commercial ones. Russia, China, South Korea and France have also been in talks about building reactors there.The State Department is required by the AEA to keep Congress “fully and currently informed” about the talks. But the GAO found it was “unclear” whether the department did so. “Congressional staff provided us with examples of having to find information on the negotiations from other sources, such as press articles,” the GAO said.

Some U.S. lawmakers want the United States to insist that Saudi Arabia agree to a so-called gold standard that restricts enrichment and reprocessing, potential pathways to making fissile material for nuclear weapons. The United States struck such an agreement with the United Arab Emirates in 2009. If Saudi Arabia develops nuclear power without the gold standard, the UAE would likely seek to be released from its agreement.

The GAO said Congress should consider whether to amend the AEA to require briefings, perhaps on a quarterly basis, and to specify expectations for the content of the briefings.

Senators Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, had asked the GAO last year to review U.S. agency negotiations with Saudi Arabia on nuclear power, partially because they were concerned the Energy Department, not the State Department took the lead.

The senators said they would explore legislative changes recommended by the GAO. “Congress must reassert its critical role in reviewing nuclear cooperation agreements to ensure these agreements do not pose an unnecessary risk to the United States” they said.

Senators Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, had asked the GAO last year to review U.S. agency negotiations with Saudi Arabia on nuclear power, partially because they were concerned the Energy Department, not the State Department took the lead.

The senators said they would explore legislative changes recommended by the GAO. “Congress must reassert its critical role in reviewing nuclear cooperation agreements to ensure these agreements do not pose an unnecessary risk to the United States” they said.

May 7, 2020 Posted by | politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia’s nuclear reactor will eventually lead to a Saudi nuclear weapon, and to its use

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Reactor Nears Completion, Bringing Prospect Of Saudi WMD – OpEd,  April 19, 2020  Richard Silverstein   Bloomberg reported last week that Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactor is nearing completion.  It purchased the reactor from the Argentinian company, INVAP.  But construction and installation of the plant has proven a huge payday for companies in several European countries and the U.S.

After the Obama administration hesitated to support the project, Trump offered full-throated support.  One of the most attractive propositions in the deal for him was the lucrative contracts for U.S. businesses who participated.

The reactor is one of the crowning achievements of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka “the Headchopper”) in his plan to “modernize” and “reform” the Saudi Arabian economy and military.  Part of his ambition has been to project his country’s power and interests in more muscular fashion in the region.  One of the ways he did this was to invade Yemen and rain terror upon the Houthi regions of that country killing 100,000 Yemenis and starving even more with a crippling blockade.

Saudi Arabia’s chief regional rival has been Iran.  The purpose of the reactor is to send a loud and clear message that Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be met step-for-step by MBS.  If Iran gets nuclear weapons, the Crown Prince wants to be right behind.  The problem with this approach is that Iran, which has not made such a weapon though it could have if it wanted, has pursued a careful, calibrated approach.  While the Saudis have pursued a reckless, aggressive approach in every operation they undertake to project their military power.

If they can decimate Yemen as they have, sinking themselves into a costly quagmire, why would anyone think they would use the products of their nuclear reactor in any more responsible way?  Does MBS’s order to murder Jamal Khashoggi, cut his body into pieces and disappear it in acid, give anyone confidence that he wouldn’t be willing to do the same to entire countries he saw as implacable enemies?

Iran has never threatened to use nuclear weapons. Just the opposite, Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring them forbidden.  MBS, despite the fact that his country is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pact, would never swear off such weapons.  In fact, the moment that he has the ability to build and deliver WMD will likely be the day he threatens to use it.

Every party which collaborated with the Saudis in this project will have blood on their hands when (not if) that country becomes nuclear-capable.

Only a decade ago, the Obama administration supported a regional conference planned to promote a Middle East nuclear-free zone.  Israel, with its 200 nuclear weapons, objected strenuously and the idea died of neglect.  There will come a time in the near future when the world will regret this tragically-missed opportunity.

Despite boilerplate statements that the reactor is for civilian power and research purposes, mark my words: Saudi Arabia’s nuclear reactor will eventually lead to a Saudi nuclear weapon.  That weapon will exponentially increase the likelihood it will be used someday.  Again, not “if,” but “when.”

This article was published by Tikun Olam

April 20, 2020 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains Trump’s plan to kill off the Iran nuclear agreement

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Iran, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment