If You Cannot Trust Saudis With Bone Saw, Says US Lawmaker, 'You Should Not Trust Them With Nuclear Weapons'

The revelation that the Trump administration secretly authorized several U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia is generating alarm over ongoing negotiations about a broader deal that critics worry could eventually lead to a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia.

The Daily Beast and Reuters reported Wednesday that Energy Secretary Rick Perry had approved at least six Part 810 authorizations, which “allow companies to do preliminary work on nuclear power ahead of any deal but not ship equipment that would go into a plant.”

Those reports provoked concerns from lawmakers that the development of nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, with crucial assistance from the American government and companies, could potentially enable the key U.S. ally—and serial human rights abuser—to also pursue a nuclear weapon.

“This is incredibly dangerous,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted Thursday with a link to the Daily Beast article. “We must do everything we can to make sure the Saudi regime cannot develop nuclear weapons.”

Worries over a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia have been mounting since Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) said on CBS‘s “60 Minutes” last year that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

While Iranian leaders also insist they do not want a nuclear weapon, President Donald Trump has continued to ratchet up regional tensions since last year, when he ditched the international deal designed to prevent Iran from acquiring one, despite assurances from U.N. watchdogs that nation was complying with the agreement.

Amid the new reports and rising concerns about nuclear weapons, Perry testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Pointing to concerns about the administration’s nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia and potential legal violations—which whistleblowers recently brought to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled Perry on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) compliance with federal rules:

Following the committee hearing, DOE issued a statement—which Perry tweeted at Warren—clarifying that he has actually signed seven Part 810 authorizations for Saudi Arabia. The statement emphasized that “a Part 810 authorization does not authorize the transfer of nuclear material, equipment, or components,” and so far, “no enrichment or reprocessing technology has been authorized to Saudi Arabia.”

Part 810 authorizations do not require congressional oversight, but they are often open to public review. However, according to DOE, “the specifics of these authorizations have not been made public because the companies determined that the authorizations contain proprietary business information.”