US House launches probe
February 21, 2019 | Expert Insights
The US is rushing to transfer sensitive nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia, according to a new congressional report. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has launched an investigation into the possibility of President Trump transferring Nuclear technology to Riyadh.
The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they comprise the legislature of the United States.
The House is charged with the passage of federal legislation, known as bills, which, after concurrence by the Senate, are sent to the President for consideration. In addition to this basic power, the House has certain exclusive powers, among them the power to initiate all bills related to revenue; the impeachment of federal officers, who are sent to trial before the Senate; and, in cases wherein no candidate receives a majority of electors for President, the duty falls upon the House to elect one of the top three recipients of electors for that office, with one vote given to each state for that purpose.
Despite the differences between the two countries, Saudi Arabia, an ultraconservative Islamic absolute monarchy, and the US, a secular, constitutional republic have been close allies.
A Democratic-led House panel has launched an inquiry over concerns about the White House plan to build nuclear reactors across the Kingdom. Whistleblowers told the panel it could destabilise the Middle East by boosting nuclear weapons proliferation. Firms linked to the president have reportedly pushed for these transfers.
The House of Representatives' Oversight Committee report notes that an inquiry into the matter is "particularly critical because the Administration's efforts to transfer sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing".
President Donald Trump met nuclear power developers at the White House on 12 February to discuss building plants in Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia. And Mr. Trump's son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, will be touring the Middle East this month to discuss the economics of the Trump administration's peace plan.
Lawmakers have been critical of the plan as it would violate US laws guarding against the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons programme. They also believe giving Saudi Arabia access to nuclear technology would spark a dangerous arms race in the volatile region. Saudi Arabia has said it wants nuclear power in order to diversify its energy sources and help address growing energy needs. However, concerns around rival Iran developing nuclear technology are also at play, according to US media.
Previous negotiations for US nuclear technology ended after Saudi Arabia refused to agree to safeguards against using the tech for weaponry, but the Trump administration may not see these safeguards as mandatory.
The House report is based on whistleblower accounts and documents showing communications between Trump administration officials and nuclear power companies. It states that "within the US, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia".
These commercial entities could "reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia". Mr Trump is "directly engaged in the effort".
The report includes a timeline of events and names of other administration officials who have been involved with the matter, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Mr Kushner, Mr Trump's inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
The report says an investigation will determine whether the administration has been acting "in the national security interests of the United States or, rather, [to] serve those who stand to gain financially" from this policy change. These apparent conflicts of interest among White House advisers may breach federal law, and the report notes that there is bi-partisan concern regarding Saudi Arabia's access to nuclear technology.
The oversight committee is seeking interviews with the companies, "key personnel" who promoted the plan to the White House, as well as the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Defence, State, Treasury, the White House and the CIA.
Our assessment is that if President Trump has made covert attempts to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, it will seriously dent Washington’s decades-old non-proliferation policy in the Middle East. We believe that if Saudi Arabia is assisted by the US in acquiring nuclear technology, regardless of whether it is for civilian or military purposes, it will kick off a nuclear arms race in the region, and will result in the US losing its credibility as a champion of nuclear disarmament.