Why Is the Trump Administration So Eager to See a Nuclear Saudi Arabia?

Why Is the Trump Administration So Eager to See a Nuclear Saudi Arabia?
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, March 20, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The Trump administration twice approved the transfer of nuclear technical expertise to Saudi Arabia after last year’s murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to new revelations this week. The disclosures have fueled frustrations in Congress over the administration’s apparent eagerness to aid Riyadh and its nuclear ambitions, including repeatedly ignoring and blindsiding lawmakers. The new details only add to questions about the White House’s motivations and the implications of a nuclear Saudi Arabia for the Middle East and U.S. national security.

In a statement released Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia disclosed the timing of the two “Part 810” authorizations, named after the relevant provision in the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. They were among seven such authorizations that the Department of Energy under the Trump administration has granted U.S. companies to discuss potential nuclear reactor designs and blueprints with Saudi Arabia, as they have sought to win a chunk of Riyadh’s budding nuclear energy program. Under U.S. law, companies are permitted to block the Department of Energy from publicly disclosing their provision of information to foreign customers in order to keep business secrets confidential. However, the same law states that Congress should be kept fully informed about any U.S. nuclear cooperation with other countries, which lawmakers say the administration has failed to do in this case, raising concerns about potential backroom deals.

Moreover, the revelations come after Trump had ignored congressional objections to a multibillion-dollar arms sales package to Riyadh and to continuing U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen.

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