US Nuclear Deal With Saudis Could Lead to Catastrophe

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh

A lawmaker denounced the prospect of a US uranium enrichment deal with Saudi Arabia, predicting a "global catastrophe" should the oil kingdom mix nuclear technology with its takfiri ideology.

In a recent talk with ICANA, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said, "Unfortunately, even human rights and international laws have not stopped the Saudi crimes in Yemen. Now, if Saudi Arabia is allowed the uranium technology, it would certainly use it in its military."

Takfiris are hardliners who accuse anyone, including Muslims, not following their extreme interpretation of Islam as infidels and apostates punishable by death.

Reuters has reported that US firms attracted by Saudi plans to build nuclear reactors are pushing Washington to restart talks with Riyadh on an agreement to help the kingdom develop atomic energy. It said the US may be open to the idea of allowing the oil kingdom to one day enrich uranium that can have military uses.

Saudi Arabia's influential Prince Turki al-Faisal said last week that his country should not forfeit its "sovereign" right to one day enrich uranium under its planned civilian nuclear program, especially as world powers have allowed Iran to do so.

Falahatpisheh refuted that argument, highlighting Saudi unaccountability regarding its devastating war in Yemen. He pointed to the Saudi regime's war crimes in Yemen and Bahrain, condemning the broad scale military force used by Al Saud to suppress the impoverished nation.

"Even the European Parliament has passed [a non-binding resolution] banning the exports of weapons to Saudi Arabia because it has breached international laws concerning wars," he said.

A US-backed Saudi-led coalition started a devastating war in Yemen in 2015, killing over 13,000 civilians, displacing three million people and pushing the war-ravaged nation to the brink of famine.

The Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and markets, killing thousands of civilians and prompting rights groups to accuse the coalition of war crimes. Activists have called on western countries, including the United States and Britain, to cease their military support for the coalition.

Riyadh has also imposed a tight blockade on nearly all Yemeni air, land and sea ports, prompting human rights and charity groups to sound alarm over the deteriorating situation in the country as people, particularly children, are increasingly suffering from the lack of food and medical aid.

  Huge Policy Shift

A uranium enrichment deal with Riyadh would be unprecedented, as Washington usually requires a country to sign a nuclear cooperation pact—known as a 123 agreement that forfeits steps in fuel production with potential bomb-making uses.

"Doing less than this would undermine US credibility and risk the increased spread of nuclear weapons capabilities to Saudi Arabia and the region," said David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

It would be "a huge change of policy" for Washington to allow Saudi Arabia the right to enrich uranium, said Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Americas office at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

Falahatpisheh, however, said the deal may go ahead as part of "US-Saudi shared targets" to counter what they portray as an increasingly powerful Iran that could be a threat for the region in the future.

Pointing to the Saudi excuse of a nuclear Iran allowed to enrich uranium, he said, "Iran has never flouted international law [for its nuclear program] and has cooperated with [relevant international bodies] through JCPOA."

JCPOA stands for the formal name of the nuclear accord, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that was signed between Iran and world powers in 2015 to curb Iran's nuclear program—albeit allowing it to enrich uranium up to the refinement level of 3.67%—in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

Reactors need uranium enriched to around 5% purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level.

Ironically, western countries imposed years of biting international sanctions on Iran because of the same technology that Washington is currently considering to sell to Riyadh, which is currently staging a heavy war on Yemen.

Iran, which has never launched a war on any other country in recent history, denies its nuclear program has had any military dimension.

Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, has repeatedly verified that Iran is complying with its commitments under JCPOA, calling the verification measures in Iran "the most robust regime" currently in existence.


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