House Launches Inquiry Into U.S. Nuclear Plans In Saudi Arabia
By RFE/RL February 20, 2019
A new congressional report says that senior White House officials pushed a project to share nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia despite the objections of ethics and national security officials.
The report by the Democratic-led House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform is based on accounts by whistle-blowers within U.S. President Donald Trump's administration and documents of communications between administration officials and nuclear power companies.
It notes that an inquiry into the matter is "particularly critical because the Administration's efforts to transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing."
The Committee opened an investigation on February 19 into the claims by several unnamed whistle-blowers who said they witnessed "abnormal acts" in the White House regarding the proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors across Saudi Arabia.
Representative Elijah Cummings, the Committee chairman, asked the White House to turn over documents including those related to a meeting two months into Trump's presidency between his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Saudi Arabia's powerful Muhammad bin Salman, who later became crown prince.
The report said that "strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively" to transfer sensitive technology to Saudi Arabia.
"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," the report said.
Washington is not allowed to legally transfer nuclear technology to other states without reaching so-called Section 123 agreements that provide assurances of peaceful energy use.
The report expressed concern that Saudi Arabia could use American nuclear technology to build an atomic bomb, adding to already high tensions with regional rival Iran.
It includes a timeline of events and names other administration officials who have been involved with the matter, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump's inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn was found guilty of lying about Russian contacts by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and BBC
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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