Friday, February 22, 2019

Saudi Arabia and American Nuclear Technology - Another Tale of Unintended Consequences

This press release recently appeared on the website for the Committee on Oversight and Reform:

Here is the letter from the Committee that was sent to the White House regarding the matter:

It turns out that a number of anonymous whistleblowers came forward to warn the Committee about the apparent rush by some members of the White House staff to transfer highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia which may have been in violation of the Atomic Energy Act.

Here is the cover page of the Interim Staff Report for the Committee:

In the Executive Summary, we find these paragraphs:

"Within the United States, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia—a potential risk to U.S. national security absent adequate safeguards. These commercial entities stand to reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia—and apparently have been in close and repeated contact with President Trump and his Administration to the present day."

It is important to keep in mind that under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act you will find this:

"No cooperation with any nation, group of nations or regional defense organization pursuant to section 53, 54a., 57, 64, 82, 91, 103, 104, or 144 shall be undertaken until–

a. the proposed agreement for cooperation has been submitted to the President, which proposed agreement shall include the terms, conditions, duration, nature, and scope of the cooperation; and shall include the following requirements:

(1) a guaranty by the cooperating party that safeguards as set forth in the agreement for cooperation will be maintained with respect to all nuclear materials and equipment transferred pursuant thereto, and with respect to all special nuclear material used in or produced through the use of such nuclear materials and equipment, so long as the material or equipment remains under the jurisdiction or control of the cooperating party, irrespective of the duration of other provisions in the agreement or whether the agreement is terminated or suspended for any reason;

(2) in the case of non-nuclear-weapon states, a requirement, as a condition of continued United States nuclear supply under the agreement for cooperation, that IAEA safeguards be maintained with respect to all nuclear materials in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such state, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere;

(3) except in the case of those agreements for cooperation arranged pursuant to subsection 91c., a guaranty by the cooperating party that no nuclear materials and equipment or sensitive nuclear technology to be transferred pursuant to such agreement, and no special nuclear material produced through the use of any nuclear materials and equipment or sensitive nuclear technology transferred pursuant to such agreement, will be used for any nuclear explosive device, or for research on or development of any nuclear explosive device, or for any other military purpose." (my bolds)

Under Section 123, the United States government may not transfer nuclear technology to a foreign country without the approval of Congress.

As background and to help put this story into perspective, we have to look at a company called IP3 International (International Peace, Power and Prosperity) which is mentioned in the Committee's report.   Here is the company's mission statement:

IP3's goal is to revitalize America's flagging nuclear industry by exporting its expertise around the world.

Here are three screen captures showing the heavy involvement of former United States military personnel in the leadership of the company:

Can we say "Deep State"?  Mike Rogers is a former Congressman from Michigan's Eighth District and was an officer in the U.S. Army and FBI special agent.  John Tanner is a former Congressman from Tennessee's Eighth District and served in the Tennessee Army National Guard where he achieved the rank of Colonel.  According to the Committee report, over the period from June 2016 to December 2016, General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor was also serving as an "advisor" to one of IP3's subsidiaries, IronBridge Group Inc.  Frances Fragos Townsend whose name you will see later in this posting served as an Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and chaired the Homeland Security Council from May 2004 to January 2008. She served as Deputy National Security Advisor for Combatting Terrorism from 2003 until 2004. Prior to serving the President, she was the first Assistant Commandant for Intelligence for the U.S. Coast Guard.

In documents released with the Committee report, we find two very interesting emails.  The first one was emailed from Frances Fragos Townsend at IP3 to staff at the National Security Council on March 28th, 2017 and appears to be an overview of the Middle East Marshall Plan that is proposed by IP3, keeping in mind that the original Marshall Plan was a U.S. program that provided aid to Europe following the devastation wrought in Europe during Second World War:

You will note two interesting points:

1.) America's Middle East allies have a sense of abandonment by the U.S.  Russia has been moving aggressively to fill the void through military aggression, security dependence and energy cooperation.

2.) The JCPOA (nuclear agreement with Iran) has set into motion a new arms race where Sunni nations (Iran is Shia) will seek equivalency with Iranian nuclear capability.  Left unchecked, the potential for a "Mutually Assured Destruction" scenario could develop in the next ten years.

One of the key goals of the plan is to "Make America Great Again in Nuclear Energy" (an appeal to Donald Trump) and reestablish U.S. commercial nuclear supplier base.  The authors claim that the Middle East Nuclear Marshall Plan will create 500,000 highly skilled jobs for workers in the Middle East and will create 200,000 jobs and $350 billion jobs in revenue in the United States.  It will also reposition the United States as the preeminent partner in the Middle East, countering the expansionist plans of Russia and China in the region.

Here is the second emailed document which was emailed from Bud McFarlane at IP3 to Micheal Flynn on January 28, 2017 that has been reformatted as a memorandum for Donald Trump:

In case you were wondering, the American companies involved in this project include Excelon Corporation, Toshiba Energy, Bechtel Corporation, Centrus, GE Power and Siemens USA according to this emailed document to Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Frances Fragos Townsend at IP3: 

Let's close with this final quote from the Committee report:

"However, experts worry that transferring sensitive U.S. nuclear technology could allow Saudi Arabia to produce nuclear weapons that contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms throughout an already unstable Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conceded this point in 2018, proclaiming: “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” (my bold)

Even though IP3 is touting the project as a "prosperity project" for the Middle East as a whole and as a part of Donald Trump's plan to Make America Great Again and given that Washington's global agenda is almost always accompanied by a wide range of unintended consequences, we can pretty much be assured that the transfer of America's nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia will result in the creation of yet another nuclear power, Saudi Arabia.  This will further upset the delicate balance that has kept the Middle East from ending up in a widespread regional war since the 1973 conflict in Israel.

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