Netanyahu Warns Of Regional Nuclear Arms Race As Saudi Arabia Pushes For Right To Enrich Uranium
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned of a Middle East nuclear arms race unless the atomic accord with Iran is fixed or scrapped, amid reports that Washington is considering allowing Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium as part of a deal that would see American companies build nuclear reactors in the kingdom. Netanyahu reportedly pressed U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue during their meeting last week at the White House, however, the American leader refused to make any commitments, instead saying that if the U.S. did not supply the technology, the Russians or Chinese would. Riyadh plans to construct up to 18 such facilities over the next two decades at a cost of more than $80 billion, with the House of Saud having previously made clear that it plans to match the atomic capabilities of arch-foe Tehran. Riyadh is purportedly demanding that it be granted the right to enrich uranium as a precondition to awarding any related contracts, especially in light of the fact that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities will become increasingly lenient over time in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action signed with world powers. President Trump in January de-certified Iranian compliance with the 2015 pact for a second time and announced that he would re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic unless the agreement’s “disastrous flaws” are fixed. These include, in his estimation, the deal’s “sunset clauses” that remove limitations on Tehran’s ability to enrich uranium in just over a decade, and as well as the failure to address both Iran’s “nefarious” regional ambitions and perceived flouting of a United Nations Security Council resolution related to its ballistic missile program. Agreeing to allow the Saudis to enrich uranium would mark a policy reversal for the U.S., which in the past has required most nations to sign a so-called “123 Agreement” that precludes this potentiality along with the reprocessing of plutonium as stipulations for purchasing American atomic technology.