A Quick Post On Selling Nuclear Technology To The Saudis

Big news this morning about the continuing pressure to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Ken Dilanian was the first with the story, and Washington Post is catching up. Like a lot of stories about the Trump administration’s dicey connections with foreign governments, it adds some new information to a story that I’ve been following for a long time.

The current emphasis is that Saudi Arabia (which I’ll refer to as KSA) wants a nuclear program that might eventually be used to produce weapons. That misses a lot. Michael Flynn was trying to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis for quite some time. That attempt has continued. I have a copy of the report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, but what I want to do here is discuss the context of the actions described there. This post will be a quick outline, without most of the links it should have.

Early on, Flynn was working with IP3 to sell nuclear reactors to KSA. At the time, KSA said they wanted 16 nuclear reactors. Flynn’s plan included working with Russia and perhaps China to provide the reactors; it also included a heavy security plan that looked likely to include a contractor like Erik Prince to provide the muscle.

As the price of oil went down, KSA could no longer afford 16 reactors, and the plan cratered. But Flynn continued to try to sell reactors to them. He also included American reactor manufacturers. When Flynn was taken down by his Russian connections, interactions to sell reactors to KSA continued.

As recently as last week, Donald Trump was meeting with reactor manufacturers on the subject. Current concerns revolve around safeguards against KSA’s using its nuclear technology to develop nuclear weapons. To do this, the United States requires what is called a 123 Agreement, named for its legal basis. The trend has been toward disallowing uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel, the two pathways to nuclear weapons, although they can also be justified for peaceful use. KSA does not want those restrictions. It appears that the news today is that some in the administration are trying to meet KSA’s preferences.

The bigger story is that the administration, via Flynn and now others, has been eager to supply KSA with the technology it wants. Other recent news, like the administration’s unwillingness to admit KSA’s brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, suggests a relationship similar to Trump’s favoritism toward Russia.

In January 2017, Erik Prince met with Russian and Middle Eastern representatives in the Seychelles.

There is a nonproliferation issue here, but I think the larger issue is the quid pro quo. KSA wants the nuclear technology. What is the quo?

 



The Coup Will Be Televised

This just in:

President Trump will support a sweeping budget and border compromise and declare a national emergency at the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday.

McConnell has already signaled he’ll support Trump’s move.

Until its members prove otherwise, the Republican Party is all-in on government by executive fiat, better known as a dictatorship. We appear to be at gut-check time for American democracy.

I’m sure I and/or other FPers will be posting more as events advance. I can say for my part I’ve never feared more for our polity.

PS:  Alternate image:

Image: The Downfall of the Dictators is Assured British propaganda poster betw. 1939 and 1945.

Alternate image: Painting of the USS Dictator — a monitor at war with America’s home-grown traitors in 1864 and 1865



Unweaving The Tangled Web

Over the weekend, Will Bunch did a great tweet stream linking Jeff Bezos, National Enquirer, the Saudis, Jamal Khashoggi, and Donald Trump, along with others. He promised he would put it into a column, and here it is. It’s more cautious than the tweet stream, but fairly interesting. He introduces a number of possibilities by asking questions, a relatively safe way to introduce thoughts that you don’t have journalistic confirmation for. They are good questions, worth keeping in mind as things proceed.

Only now is the world figuring out that making up stories to sell papers may have been the least of the sins committed by the Enquirer, which was propped up in its 1950s’ infancy by Mafia money and which later forged a close relationship with Roy Cohn, the notorious New York fixer attorney who took an up-and-coming New York developer named Donald Trump under his wing while fighting off allegations including (wait for it) extortion and blackmail.

He gives a fair bit of background. It’s not entirely clear how the Enquirer got the material on Bezos. Joel Zamel runs a company or two that do both intelligence and propaganda and may be involved in that and other areas of Trump corruption. It’s becoming clear that blackmail is a major tool of associates of Trump. The National Enquirer has been involved in information operations for Trump for some time. That’s most recently what got them in trouble – buying up stories from a Trump mistress, which amounts to hush money and not quite legal.

As a result of that, the judge gave them a lenient sentence under the condition they not violate the law again. Legal Twitter is somewhat divided, but leaning toward the latest antics being blackmail, extortion, or possibly both.

Trump thinks Bezos is an enemy because the Washington Post has not glorified his reign and has been tweeting against him for some time. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he sent his attack dog National Enquirer after him. Bezos, of course, put an end to that in his own way.

Any link between the Bezos phone hack and the Saudis or their allies (UAE, Team Trump) would be devastating — but what if de Gavin is on the trail of something darker? Like the truth behind Khashoggi’s murder? Or — given the ties between Team Trump, the Saudis, UAE and ex-Israeli intelligence that go back to the summer of 2016 — the truth behind the election of an American president?

This is what occurred to me over the weekend, as this all played out. An international ring of grifters and blackmailers has taken over several important countries, including our own.

Meanwhile, all this talk of blackmail and extortion is a reminder that two years into the Trump administration a president who promised America “the art of the deal” has instead tried to run the country the way he ran his business in the mobbed-up New York of the 1980s — with bullying, bluster, and personal threats. But when forced to play that hand over the border wall and the government shutdown recently, it failed miserably. Would it be a surprise if Trump continues to fall back on the only tactic that’s worked for him and his allies to get things done over the years, the dark art of the blackmailer?

Anyhow, read the whole thing. There’s a lot more there. Enough information is becoming available to start to build narratives of the Trump corruption and how other countries helped him in the 2016 election. But there are still lots of holes and multiple possible narratives. The questions Bunch poses are useful.

The latest New Yorker has a long article by Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow about Joel Zamel’s organizations and others, “Private Mossad For Hire,” and some of their interference in the 2016 elections.

Also, James Bamford, who has written reasonably competently about spying in the past, inadvertently demonstrates for us how disinformation works in an article in The New Republic, which finds that Maria Butina was merely an ambitious and gun-loving student who never should have been arrested. A friend of mine who knows a great deal about Soviet spying during the Cold War commented that what he sees today is complete amateurism. That amateurism could have helped to throw Bamford off the trail.



State of the Rebellion (Open Thread)

Hubby and I opted to skip the SOTU in favor of continuing our Game of Thrones marathon. This morning, I watched WaPo’s three-minute highlight reel and read the transcript. Looks like our prediction yesterday — that the speech would be a discordant amalgam of white nationalist scaremongering and pseudo-loftiness — was on target.

As anticipated, it reflects its authorship, a committee comprising xenophobic incel goon Stephen Miller and Fox News-trained turd-polishers under the tutelage of network hack Bill Shine. But as many societies have discovered at great cost, when you give bigots a seat at the table, they consume the entire feast and then burn down the house with everyone in it.

I watched Stacey Abrams’ response in its entirety and am relieved that she escaped the SOTU rebuttal curse. She received scattered criticism for the staging, but the dim lighting, sharp focus on Abrams and soft focus on the crowd behind her appealed to me. It evoked a Star Wars rebel alliance leader’s speech on the eve of an attack on a Death Star. FWIW, I’d fly my X-wing up Trump’s bunghole on Abrams’ orders.

Still, for my money, Speaker Pelosi’s devastating exasperated participation-trophy clap was the highlight of the evening:

Wingnuts on Twitter are still sputtering with rage about her paper shuffling, impassive expressions during GOP applause lines, eye-widening as Trump unspooled particularly egregious whoppers, etc., so I gather she managed to strike exactly the right balance between decorum and disdain. Well done, Madam Speaker!

During our Game of Thrones marathon, I had an epiphany about which major character I find most relatable: Daenerys Targaryen. Like her, I recently returned to my ancestral homeland, where I am a stranger. I assembled a fleet (of canoes and a jon boat). And I am the mother of (snap)dragons.

Open thread!



My Views On Nuclear Power

Last night we learned that Cory Booker feels that nuclear power will be important in our response to global warning.

So let me give a short summary of my feelings about nuclear power. They haven’t changed since I wrote this in August 2017.

We need nuclear power. I think that we can make it work. But there are a lot of reasons we might not. The fear of radioactivity is a big one. It’s irrational, it comes from a lack of education, the media fan it, and it seems impervious to any sort of persuasion.

The belief that there is no way to deal with the wastes is related, but separate. The repository at Yucca Mountain would be just fine except for politics. Nevada has decided that it won’t take other states’ radioactive garbage. So there. I can sorta sympathize, but not really. We do have a lot of empty space out here in the west, and not many people.

The time it takes to build a new reactor and the cost overruns, as they exist now, are disqualifying. This seems to be a problem in all sorts of areas, though. The solution may have more to do with contracting practices and bad incentives than anything else.

The new, smaller reactors that are being developed may be part of the solution. But it will take time to have them ready to go. Older reactors should not be shut down simply because natural gas is now cheap. Booker is right about that.

Overall, don’t give up on nuclear power. Learn about what radioactivity is. The nuclear industry and its proponents at DOE have to do a better job.