(UPDATE 1/25 5:00 PM: Elaine Grossman over at Global Security Newswire reports today that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are in the beginning phases of negotiating a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that may not contain restrictions on reprocessing plutonium or enriching uranium on Saudi soil. Stay tuned, as this issue is not going away!)
The Cable’s, Josh Rogin recently addressed the growing concern among lawmakers and non-proliferation experts from both parties about ongoing U.S. negotiations with other countries on civilian nuclear cooperation.
The concern is prompted by news reports last summer and fall alleging that the U.S. is negotiating deals with Jordan and Vietnam that won’t include restrictions on indigenous enrichment and reprocessing, which could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Lawmakers and non-proliferation experts are calling for all such agreements to mimic the 2009 deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which prohibits enrichment and reprocessing on UAE territory…
According to Rogin’s summary:
[House Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman] Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, wants to reform the Atomic Energy Act by requiring a vote in Congress before a civilian nuclear deal, like the 123 goes into effect. In addition, she wants to make a pre-condition in which, a country must meet a number of requirements before even considering a deal.
Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced a resolution denouncing the 123 agreement between the United States and Russia. Both representatives are put off by Russia’s cooperation with Iran and believe that until they stop their correspondence on nuclear issues with Iran, we should not concede to a nuclear cooperation agreement.
Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Ensign (R-NE) also wrote a letter to President Obama demanding the United Arab Emirates (UAE) standard be applied to all civilian nuclear cooperation deals.
In a final bi-partisan effort in November, non-proliferation experts on both sides of the aisle also wrote a letter to President Obama echoing the previous letter on UAE standards for all civilian nuclear deals.
The Center also put together a letter to President Obama calling for consistency in civilian nuclear deals. The letter states:
We understand that the U.S. stands to benefit from improving bilateral ties with Jordan and Vietnam. However, we believe that a “region-by-region” approach to commercial nuclear cooperation would be counter-productive for at least five reasons:
• First, it would undercut the precedent set by the UAE agreement, thereby weakening the global norm against the spread of enrichment and reprocessing.
• Second, a deal with Jordan that allows indigenous enrichment and reprocessing could prompt Abu Dhabi, as stipulated in the U.S.-UAE nuclear agreement, to renegotiate the terms of the agreement if it determines that a U.S.-Jordan pact contains more favorable terms.
• Third, it will likely encourage other allies and partners to insist on the right to enrich and reprocess in future nuclear cooperation agreements and open the U.S. to charges of applying “double standards.”
• Fourth, it could increase the likelihood of forging nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Vietnam, if it does not already exist, while facilitating nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
• Fifth, it could undermine U.S. leadership and leverage in future Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations.
While the bipartisanship on this issue is welcome, NoH can’t help but notice that some of the GOP voices now criticizing the Obama administration for its negotiating position were nowhere to be found when the George W. Bush administration negotiated the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which didn’t exactly strengthen the NPT.