Cartoon by Jeff Danziger
Sen. Kaine: Trump approved nuclear tech transfer to Saudis after Khashoggi's murder
Politico: The Trump administration has approved the transfer of nuclear technical expertise to Saudi Arabia seven times — including twice since the Saudi-orchestrated murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Democratic senator said on Tuesday.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the administration approved one of those transfers on Oct. 18, 2018, just 16 days after Khashoggi was brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in an operation that the CIA believes was directed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The second transfer was approved on Feb. 18.
“President Trump’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want, over bipartisan congressional objection, harms American national security interests and is one of many steps the administration is taking that is fueling a dangerous escalation of tension in the region,” Kaine said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has fiercely resisted congressional efforts to punish Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist who was a critic of the Saudi government. Trump has doubled down on U.S. weapons sales to Riyadh, and last month he bypassed Congress to sell more arms to the kingdom, drawing bipartisan rebukes. The administration has also continued to back the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war, despite opposition from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.
Trump has also openly doubted the CIA’s assessment of Khashoggi’s murder, standing by the crown prince and refusing to impose human-rights sanctions. Earlier this year, the White House said it would not comply with a law requiring the administration to issue a report to Congress on Khashoggi’s murder and to impose sanctions — even after the Senate voted unanimously to place the blame squarely on the crown prince.
During a recent interview with Axios, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is close with the Saudi crown prince, refused to blame him directly for Khashoggi’s murder.
The White House did not immediately respond Tuesday when asked for comment.
The Trump administration has long viewed Saudi Arabia as a key strategic ally as part of its long-term campaign to deter Iran’s influence in the Middle East. In Yemen’s civil war, the Saudi coalition is fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Kaine began asking for the information about U.S. nuclear transfers during public hearings more than two months ago. After Kaine’s requests went unanswered by the administration, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-Idaho) stepped in and demanded a response.
The Energy Department has been engaged in negotiations with Riyadh that would allow U.S. companies to build nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia. Last year, five Republican senators called on Energy Secretary Rick Perry to suspend those civilian-level nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi was murdered, citing fears that the kingdom could develop nuclear weapons of their own.
Last month, Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz gave emotional testimony on Capitol Hill, urging the Trump administration to hold Saudi Arabia accountable over the murder. Cengiz was waiting outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed and his body was dismembered.