Why Are We Helping Saudi Arabia Build Nukes?

Congressman Edward J. Markey, in an opinion published in the Wall Street Journal, asks why we are arming an oil and sun rich Islamic country with nuclear energy. Does Saudi Arabia really need nuclear energy? How does Israel feel about this? Are we trading nuclear secrets for an increase in oil production? Will this come back to bite us?

Link: Why Is Bush Helping Saudi Arabia Build Nukes? – WSJ.com.

Last month, while the American people were becoming the personal ATMs of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Saudi Arabia signing away an even more valuable gift: nuclear technology. In a ceremony little-noticed in this country, Ms. Rice volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure. While oil breaks records at $130 per barrel or more, the American consumer is footing the bill for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia has poured money into developing its vast reserves of natural gas for domestic electricity production. It continues to invest in a national gas transportation pipeline and stepped-up exploration, building a solid foundation for domestic energy production that could meet its electricity needs for many decades. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, would require enormous investments in new infrastructure by a country with zero expertise in this complex technology.

Have Ms. Rice, Mr. Bush or Saudi leaders looked skyward? The Saudi desert is under almost constant sunshine. If Mr. Bush wanted to help his friends in Riyadh diversify their energy portfolio, he should have offered solar panels, not nuclear plants.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in nuclear technology can only be explained by the dangerous politics of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, a champion and kingpin of the Sunni Arab world, is deeply threatened by the rise of Shiite-ruled Iran.

The two countries watch each other warily over the waters of the Persian Gulf, buying arms and waging war by proxy in Lebanon and Iraq. An Iranian nuclear weapon would radically alter the region’s balance of power, and could prove to be the match that lights the tinderbox. By signing this agreement with the U.S., Saudi Arabia is warning Iran that two can play the nuclear game.

In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "[Iran is] already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. No one can figure why they need nuclear, as well, to generate energy." Mr. Cheney got it right about Iran. But a potential Saudi nuclear program is just as suspicious. For a country with so much oil, gas and solar potential, importing expensive and dangerous nuclear power makes no economic sense.

The Bush administration argues that Saudi Arabia can not be compared to Iran, because Riyadh said it won’t develop uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing, the two most dangerous nuclear technologies. At a recent hearing before my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman shrugged off concerns about potential Saudi misuse of nuclear assistance for a weapons program, saying simply: "I presume that the president has a good deal of confidence in the King and in the leadership of Saudi Arabia."

That’s not good enough. We would do well to remember that it was the U.S. who provided the original nuclear assistance to Iran under the Atoms for Peace program, before Iran’s monarch was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Such an uprising in Saudi Arabia today could be at least as damaging to U.S. security.

We’ve long known that America’s addiction to oil pays for the spread of extremism. If this Bush nuclear deal moves forward, Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars could flow to the dangerous expansion of nuclear technologies in the most volatile region of the world.

While the scorching Saudi Arabian sun heats sand dunes instead of powering photovoltaic panels, millions of Americans will fork over $4 a gallon without realizing that their gas tank is fueling a nascent nuclear arms race.

PS: Atanu Dey  has an explanation:

All indications are that one of these days the US will have to take action against Iran for their ambition to develop nukes. In the meanwhile, the US is putting the next country — Saudi Arabia — in the pipeline for the same old routine: sell them technology, and then go invade them and take over the oil fields under the pretext that they have WMD.

It’s quite impressive. I am not only impressed by the American strategy but also impressed by the foolishness of the countries that fall for it.

Link: Iraq now, Iran next, Saudi Arabia for later

Talk about Energy Independence — But No Leadership

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times provides some insight into how the U.S. became addicted to oil and how leaders avoid the tough love required to face the problem.

Link: Business Spectator – Oil’s slippery slope.

Mr McCain’s promise to eliminate American dependence on Middle Eastern oil is hardly original. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made similar pledges. President Bush himself swore to end America’s “addiction to oil” a couple of years ago. President Richard Nixon made similar promises after the first oil shock of the 1970s. The reality is that things are moving in the opposite direction. In 1973 the US imported 33 per cent of its oil; today it imports about 60 per cent and this figure could rise to 70 per cent by 2020. America’s transport system is still completely dependent on oil.

American politicians have, so far, responded to this problem with a mixture of wishful thinking and anger. The calls for “energy independence” are all but universal. Money has been poured into the production of biofuels, which has helped push up food prices. But no leading politician is yet prepared to say that Americans may have to adjust their lifestyles to a world of permanently higher fuel prices.

Last week Senator Pete Domenici, a Republican, issued a plaintive appeal for “more oil and lower prices”. The Democrats are pressing for the US attorney-general to bring price collusion charges against members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. But any such action significantly overrates America’s power over the world’s oil producers. Opec members could retaliate by selling some of their huge reserves of dollars – which would hit the dollar and US consumers very hard. The world’s main oil producers have no shortage of potential customers. More than 50 per cent of Saudi oil is now exported to Asia.

Competition for the world’s oil supplies is intensifying. Chinese oil consumption doubled between 1994 and 2003 and will have doubled again by 2010. China’s foray into Africa is largely driven by its own search for “energy security”. The International Energy Agency predicts that in 2010 China will become the world’s largest consumer of energy. The IEA also thinks that the world’s energy needs will be 50 per cent higher in 2030 than they are today – and that we are going to become more, not less, reliant on fossil fuels.

This seems all too plausible. At present there are about 10 cars in China for every 1,000 people; there are 480 cars per 1,000 people in the US. But by 2015, China could be the world’s largest market for new cars.

While western politicians routinely worry about globalisation, they have yet to focus on a more plausible threat. It is not the outsourcing of well-paid jobs; or the inflow of cheap goods: it is the globalisation of western patterns of consumption. If the Chinese and Indians eventually eat and drive like Americans and Europeans, the current inflation in fuel and food prices could be just the beginning. The environmental implications are also obvious – and alarming.

So although the search for energy security is now central to American foreign policy, as it is for both the European Union and the main Asian powers, in the long run there is no real foreign policy fix for the problem. A future dominated by conflict over scarce oil resources – or truckling to oil-rich dictators – is not attractive.

The only plausible routes to “energy security” lie at home in the US – in the development of new technologies and in a change of lifestyles. Americans may have to drive their cars less. But it will be a brave presidential candidate who says that.

Empires, Freedom, and Liberty

Below is an excerpt from a speech by anti-big government libertarian Lew Rockwell. This speech was delivered on October 28, 2006, at "Imperialism: Enemy of Freedom," the Mises Institute Supporter’s Summit. He mentions that fall-out from the Iraq invasion may tarnish good Republican causes, such as free markets. Don’t read this if you believe US foreign policy is in good hands.

Link: How Empires Bamboozle the Bourgeoisie – Mises Institute.

What must a person forget in order to believe in the unity of interest between US foreign policy and the American people? They must forget that the United States was born in revolt against not only the British Empire but also the very idea of empire itself. They must forget that the only way the US Constitution was adopted was the promise that it would not act imperialistically at home or abroad. They must forget the warnings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many other leaders of the 18th and 19th centuries. They must forget about the history of failure of our own imperial wars in the 20th century, in which guerrilla armies have consistently beat back our regular troops.

Every American is right to be mighty angry at the Bush administration. Bush originally campaigned against the big government of Clinton and called for humility in foreign policy. And what did the Republicans do with their political capital? They squandered every last bit of it on an imperial adventure. In so doing, they further discredited other causes with which the Republicans are linked in the public mind, including the cause of free markets. War is all they have to show for themselves, and it’s a disgrace.

And at this late stage in the Iraq conflict, the Bush-run state is asking us to forget even how the Iraq war began. Recall that the idea was to bomb Baghdad, create shock and awe, decapitate the head of state, and then watch as the rest of the country celebrated their liberation from Saddam. Today, Iraq is a country in ruins. Death and violence are everywhere. The reconstruction is going nowhere. Almost 10% of the population has fled. The only immigrants coming in are those swearing to kill.

And yet I read the headline of the New York Times, which quotes what is passed on as some sort of revelation from the military commanders in Iraq. They have decided that the future of Iraq depends heavily on taking Baghdad, cleaning out its rebels and dissidents, and enforcing this through massive violence.

Folks, this is how this war began. And it is how this war is ending.

But let me say something in defense of the US military commanders in Iraq who concocted this latest scheme. There is something intuitively plausible and honest about the statement that if a government can’t control its own capital, it cannot control the rest of the country.

In fact, I propose that the same approach be used domestically. Before the federal government makes any more attempts to bring their proposed utopia to the rest of the country, let them eliminate poverty, crime, gang war, hate, despair, abuse, corruption, and injustice in Washington, D.C. Once that city is cleared of all such vice, we can talk about moving on to other parts of the country.

I think we can safely predict a quagmire.

The United States has no business attempting to run a government in Iraq, halfway across the world. A policy maker who claims to be surprised by the resistance is feigning ignorance of the heritage of the US. We are all rebels in our hearts. Anyone who longs for freedom must be.

Winning the War on Terror

Tom Evslin at Fractals of Change offers six steps to victory for Winning the War on Terror. These ideas are probably too reasonable to be supported in Washington, where strategy is too often based on cliches and under-the-table profiteering.

Link: Fractals of Change: Winning the War on Terror.

Start a dramatic program to reduce US dependence on foreign oil (and establish US leadership in alternatives). 

Way too much oil money ends up directly supporting terrorists or running schools for future terrorists or supporting absurd monarchies in countries which spawn terrorists. 

End the war on drugs. 

We aren’t going to “win” this one.  Attempts to keep drugs illegal just drive up drug prices and profits for the drug trade.  Terrorists and drug cartels are natural allies.

Partition and leave Iraq.
Time’s up.  I’m still not at all sorry Saddam was toppled.  I still remember that he did not allow the UN inspections required to assure that he did not have WMD.  That was his mistake and not ours.  But creating a democracy in Iraq is a job for Iraqis. 

Take effective action to topple the regime in North Korea.
The most dangerous illusion in the world is that joining the nuclear club puts a country beyond restraint. 

Depolarize our domestic debate on civil liberties.
This debate is much too important for the name-calling it’s degenerated into.

Rename the war on terror.
…much of the world is at war, with Islamic fascists. In fact, no one suffers from radical Islam more than Moslems.  There is no point in being politically correct and not recognizing our enemy.