Washington’s Plan for a Nuclear Agreement with Saudi Arabia May Be in Jeopardy

May 9, 2018
Chen Kane, Ramya Ramjee

The following is an excerpt from The National Interest.

President Trump’s decision yesterday to “nix” the Iran Nuclear Deal was reckless. However, it provides a golden opportunity for the Trump administration to bolster nuclear negotiations with another Middle Eastern State, Saudi Arabia. The two countries are negotiating a nuclear-cooperation agreement but a sticking point has involved whether the Saudis will agree to forego dual-use technologies that can be used to produce either nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. Given the Trump administration’s claim to have left the Iran deal based on nonproliferation concerns, it now has leverage to apply the same policy to Riyadh.

The administration hopes to submit a final agreement with Saudi Arabia for congressional approval by mid-June. Such an agreement is necessary for the United States to transfer significant nuclear material, equipment, or components from the United States to Saudi Arabia and could considerably help U.S. companies like Westinghouse be shortlisted later this year to build the country’s first two nuclear reactors. By submitting the deal by mid-June, the administration would meet the deadline for the shortlist as well as legal requirements that the current Congress have ninety days to block the deal or have it automatically approved.

Trump’s claim that his withdrawal decision from the Iran deal will strengthen his hand in negotiating a better Iran deal is yet to be proven. But Trump can prove that he truly wants to prevent an arms race in the Middle East by insisting on specific provisions in the nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia that will make it harder for Riyadh to use its nuclear energy program for weapons purposes.

Continue reading at The National Interest.

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