Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a pro-Israel Florida Republican who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and California Democrat Brad Sherman are blocking a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia unless the Saudis commit not to enrich uranium, The New Arab reported Wednesday.
The two House members this week sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan threatening to “introduce a resolution of disapproval” to block any nuclear deal with the Saudis that without reliable safeguards.
“The issue of enrichment and reprocessing as part of any nuclear cooperation agreement is a serious matter with national security implications and is amplified even more so when considering the proliferation risks in certain regions, like the Middle East,” the two lawmakers said, adding, “We urge you to press for the inclusion of binding commitments against enrichment and reprocessing in a Section 123 Agreement with Saudi Arabia. Failing this, we urge that you secure assurances in some form against the deployment of these sensitive technologies.”
Section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954, titled “Cooperation With Other Nations,” establishes an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the US and any other nation. Such an agreement is called a 123 Agreement. To date, the US has entered into roughly twenty-three 123 Agreements with 48 countries.
On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Saudi crown prince bin Salman, who serves as Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, in which he said Riyadh “will follow suit as soon as possible” should its hostile neighbor Iran develop nuclear weapons.
So far, Riyadh has refused to sign up to any deal that would deprive it of the ability to some day enrich uranium. However, just this month, the Saudis approved a national policy for atomic energy which limits all nuclear activities to treaty-bound, peaceful purposes.