Bush’s Nuclear Technology Offer To Saudi Arabia Is Fundamentally Flawed
During the recent visit to Saudi Arabia President George W Bush talked about a possible civilian nuclear deal with the King Abdullah. Bush wants to help the kingdom develop nuclear power for medical and industrial uses in addition to generating electricity. Bush called Saudi Arabia a model of non-proliferation for the region clearly pointing out Iran which according to him is a major nuclear technology proliferator.
Iran has pursued numerous routes to acquire an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capability to provide it with fissile material for weapons. Iran is going down the plutonium route through construction of a heavy water research reactor and a heavy water plant. It has conducted experiments to separate and purify plutonium. Iran also has pursued the ability to begin enrichment, thereby going down the uranium route to a bomb. It is building facilities to convert and enrich uranium. All of these efforts involved a dizzying array of cover stories and false statements. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is real — an issue the Bush Administration takes — and believes the international community takes — very seriously.
Robert G. Joseph, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security speaking at the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in November 2005.
Offering Saudi Arabia nuclear technology for power generation is bit hard to justify given the enormous reserves of oil the kingdom has. Helping Saudi Arabia go nuclear won’t make Iran back down from its own nuclear program instead in could start a race among the Middle East nations to go nuclear which could lead to catastrophic consequences.
Voices of concern are loud in Washington where many seem unhappy especially because the involvement of Saudi nationals in the September 2001 attacks and because the Saudis have refused to increase the crude oil output even after repeated requests from Mr. Bush – the last one made during this very visit which was ‘politely’ rebuffed by the Saudis.
The situation is getting even more concerning since many Middle East nations have shown desires to acquire nuclear technology. Although these countries are asking for nuclear assistance ‘openly’ and seem to have no hidden nuclear program like the one Iran has still the situation could get worse given that peace has eluded the region for more many years. Most probably these countries would allow full inspection by the IAEA but having too many nuclear sites in such a sensitive region isn’t a pleasant scenario.
One also has to question President Bush’s motive to offer the deal at this time. The nuclear deal with India is in the doldrums and the deal with Russia is set to face some tough resistance in the US Congress. Since Mr. Bush is coming close to the end of his term most nations have started looking forward to the new administration and more importantly because of an imminent Democratic win in the November election.
It is hard to see what Mr. Bush seeks to achieve by providing Saudi Arabia with nuclear technology. As far as medical and industrial applications are concerned the machines can easily be imported from overseas. Andif Mr. Bush is looking to make the world a better place by pushing the Saudi’s to move over oil in favor of cleaner technologies then why not provide them assistance with solar and win energy instead. It seem that there is no scientific or industrial purpose of the deal and the strategic purpose, if any, evades me.