Recent rumpus over the murder of journo Jamal Khashoggi has instigated a pressure on US President Donald Trump to revoke dialogues with Saudi Arabia over a prospective civil nuclear agreement. The intentions and accountability of decision-makers in Saudi Arabia have raised serious concerns. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman has been spearheading the negotiation with the Energy and State Department to buy designs for nuclear power plants. The estimated worth is upward of $80 billion, which might vary depending upon the number of plants Saudi plans to build.
Roadblock in the nuclear deal
In the words of American officials familiar with the negotiation, Saudi Arabia is emphasizing on the domestic production of nuclear fuel, whereas it could easily outsource it from abroad, at a cheaper price.
Washington has reservations about Saudi’s intentions behind cracking the nuclear deal. The Kingdom could misuse its fuel to develop a furtive weapons project — just like Iran did before signing the 2015 nuclear accord, which has now been called off by President Trump.
Earlier this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman startled the world, declaring his ambitions to emulate Iran, it’s roughshod rival in developing a nuclear bomb.
The negotiators also hinted that Saudi Arabia would not sign an agreement, which would allow the United Nations investigators to search for signs of bomb development within the Saudi borders, American officials said.
Currently, the negotiations have come to a standstill. The question now arises whether Saudi Arabia, which killed Jamal Khashoggi, and repetitively changed its narrative of the execution, can be trusted with nuclear fuel and technology or not?
“It is one thing to sell them planes, but another to sell them nukes, or the capacity to build them,’’ said Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mr Sherman is in the vanguard to amend the law and make it tough for the Trump administration to sign a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia. He believes that it could be an effective way to punish Mohammed bin Salman.
“A country that can’t be trusted with a bone saw shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons,” Mr Sherman said, speaking of Khashoggi’s barbarous murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Pursuant to regulations of such nuclear accords, Congress may have the opportunity to shun any agreement with Saudi Arabia. However, the House and Senate would separately need a veto-proof majority to halt Trump’s plans.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration argues that if the United States refuses to sell the nuclear equipment designed by Westinghouse to Saudi Arabia, other countries like Russia, China and South Korea may reap the opportunity.
Both the countries, if at all, reach an agreement, it would be clear that strategic relationship between Riyadh and Washington is way more important than the murder of a Saudi critic who was living and writing columns in the United States.