10:55 GMT27 February 2021
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    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called the US plans to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia 'an act of hypocrisy'. Mr Zarif tweeted "first a dismembered journalist, now the illicit sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia fully expose US hypocrisy".

    This comes after US Democratic lawmakers have launched an inquiry into US President Donald Trump's plan to transfer sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. The news comes after Trump met nuclear power developers at the White House on February 12th to discuss the plan to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East.

    Sputnik discussed the US plans to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia with Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait.

    Sputnik: What's your take on the reports about the Trump administration's plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East; after all, it's a very sensitive subject matter and region.

    Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: Of course this is a very sensitive and dangerous news item, but this is not new news because the Gulf Arabs have trying to [get] nuclear reactors for [many] years. For example, the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement with France in 2007, Jordan signed a memorandum of understanding with the US back in 2008. Saudi Arabia was also planning to [build a] nuclear power plant by 2020.

    READ MORE: Mike Pompeo Heralds 'Real New Beginning' in US Middle East Policy

    So that's not really new news, but what's new is the transfer of so-called sensitive technology to Saudi Arabia. That means this technology may be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons, and this has been discussed in the White House with President Trump as the report says, and this is going to shake up the whole region again. In the Middle East, this might create new tensions in the immediate and near future.

    Sputnik: Who benefits the most from this Trump administration plan to build a nuclear reactor or numbers of nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia? After all, you did mention and it's been on the news that Saudi Arabia wants to develop its energy sector, how feasible is it, given the sensitivity then?

    Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: I guess we have to look at domestic and international groups, the powerful international groups both in the US and Saudi Arabia. In the US, the arms-producing companies with close political connections, they're actually exporting weapons to many countries around the world, and in a sense, the arms producers live on hostilities, conflicts, and violence throughout the world and the Middle East happens to be the most lucrative area for them because this is the area where the US can sell more weapons, particularly to the Gulf Arabs.

    If you come down to Saudi Arabia, of course, there are many different powerful princes that would like to have a say in the possible process of nuclear technologies, payments, etc. It goes both ways, there're very powerful international groups and powerful insiders who are looking to make money, though. In Saudi Arabia, nuclear reactors have been justified in the name of pushing economic development, accelerating the pace of development throughout the Kingdom and they're probably connected to Vision 2030.

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    Saudi Arabia is trying to diversify its dependence from oil to other industrial sectors, so this is a formal justification, but in any case, the powerful insiders, they're about to make more gains, more benefits with this. And if you look at the regional context, Saudi Arabia is also trying to cement its leadership role in the Arab world, particularly after the fall of Saddam Hussein. There is no other country that can actually stand up to Iran or any other leadership-seeking party in the region.

    So Saudi Arabia is simply taking advantage. And possibly it would also project itself as the most powerful Muslim country in the world and bring the attention of the Sunni Muslim world in particular. So these are the different interests associated with this nuclear issue here.

    Sputnik: What's your feeling, Mohammed, do you think this deal will be struck? Do you think it will be concluded and it will be conducted and carried through? I think there is a lot of surprise with this particular deal going through, bearing in mind the death of the journalist Khashoggi in the Turkish Embassy a few months ago, but having said that, the ties of the USA and Saudi Arabia have remained quite strong, haven't they? So you think this deal will be concluded?

    Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: I think and personally I believe there is actually less of a possibility. You have to consider a few factors here. First, in the US and other Washington-controlled countries there is a serious concern that the Saudis would eventually divert their nuclear facilities, [choosing] the weaponised option. That would mean that they would seek to develop and produce nuclear weapons. So because of this reason, the Saudi — US nuclear cooperation did not really develop any firm roots in the past.

    Once Congress has actually stepped in, it has launched an investigation to find out the people responsible for it, and what implications it might create for the world as a whole. There is less and less possibility because the Trump administration will not be able to conclude a nuclear deal, including sensitive nuclear technologies transfer to Saudi Arabia.

    Secondly, you also have to consider the case of Israel, because Israel is actually opposed to any Middle Eastern country to have this particular nuclear option because its security is not granted in that case. Saudi Arabia and Israel are inching closer towards each other.

    READ MORE: UN Court Allows Iran to Proceed With Bid to Recover $1.75 Bln Frozen by US

    America believes that Saudi Arabia is its very strong ally, but what about the future? There are uncertainties in the future. Saudi Arabia might not remain an important ally in the future. And Israel would be particularly concerned about this, because we have seen that Israel launched an air attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility called Osirak nuclear facility; that was in June 1981, and Israel has also been trying its best to shutdown the Iranian nuclear facilities.

    So you can expect Israel not to play a passive role and it might be very difficult for the Trump administration to come up with some kind of a final deal with the Saudis. And even if it happens, not in the near future, maybe in the distant future, but nothing can be said with guarantees.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    nuclear technology, nuclear reactor, nuclear power, UAE, US, Saudi Arabia
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