Chairmen Deutch, Castro, Bera Demand Answers from Trump Administration on Saudi Arabia Nuclear Program
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation, sent Secretary of State Michael Pompeo a letter demanding information on recent revelations about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program and the State Department’s response to it.
Recent media reports indicate that China secretly helped Saudi Arabia build a yellowcake processing plant, which is essential to produce nuclear fuel that can be used in nuclear weapons or nuclear power plants, although most countries with power plants, including the United States, do not produce their own fuel.
Saudi leaders have stated their intent to acquire nuclear weapons or the ability to make them quickly if Iran develops its own nuclear bombs. These new reports follow earlier revelations that China built Saudi Arabia a factory to produce ballistic missiles, which are capable of launching nuclear weapons.
According to The New York Times, the U.S. intelligence community is taking Saudi Arabia’s interest in nuclear weapons capabilities seriously, as are U.S. allies like Israel. However, consistent with President Trump’s unconditional backing of the Saudi government, the White House is reportedly “unperturbed” by Saudi Arabia and China’s nuclear cooperation.
“Nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East would be profoundly destabilizing and threaten U.S. interests and allies,” said Chairman Deutch. “The United States must ensure that any new nuclear programs are placed under strict, verifiable international monitoring and restrictions. We expect the Administration to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.”
“From the McMahon Act of 1947 to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, Congress has often served as this country’s moral compass in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons,” said Chairman Castro. “With President Trump unwilling to admit his massive bet on the Saudi government has produced one disaster after another, it’s up to Congress to take the lead in stopping Saudi Arabia from getting the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
“Two years ago, I secured a commitment from Secretary of Energy Perry that the administration would push Saudi Arabia to be a regional leader in upholding the strongest nuclear nonproliferation standards,” said Chairman Bera. “I would hope that our administration’s position is still to encourage Saudi Arabia commit to the ‘gold standard’ and sign the Additional Protocol. These actions have taken on increased importance in light of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear and ballistic missile cooperation with China.”
In their letter, Chairmen Castro, Bera, and Deutch ask Secretary Pompeo about the State Department’s response to Chinese-Saudi nuclear and ballistic missile cooperation. They also ask Secretary Pompeo whether Saudi Arabia has given assurances that it will place its nuclear facilities under widely accepted international safeguards and if the State Department is committed to preventing Saudi Arabia from acquiring additional facilities needed to produce nuclear fuel. Finally, the letter requests a briefing for members of Congress to further consider the issue.
You can read the full letter here.