The Trump administration has consistently raised tensions in the Middle East, specifically with Iran. Severe sanctions and backtracking on the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA, colloquially known as “the Iran Deal”) has significantly increased the potential for conflict. These actions have exacerbated an already devastating economic crisis in Iran and left the country looking for somewhere to offload its oil. As a result of the lack of commitment on the Iran Deal, Iran announced it too would ignore its commitments, and it has already resumed production of enriched uranium and heavy water.
These events have given Saudi Arabia an opportunity to ramp up their own nuclear programs, an effort the Trump administration has backed wholeheartedly. According to a report from the U.S. Congressional Oversight Committee the Trump administration has given a green light for U.S. companies to work on nuclear projects in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the report shows the Trump administration is willing to put corporate profits and an international relationship with Saudi Arabia over the goal of ending nuclear proliferation.
These actions have raised eyebrows in Iran and of the agreement between U.S. companies and Saudi Arabia allowed by the Trump administration the foreign minister of Iran said the following.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been a subject of much contention in American foreign policy circles for decades. And Iran has operated its own nuclear programme since 1967 when the first experimental reactors were built with U.S. technology. In 1973 Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and planned its first nuclear power plant using German technology. Likewise, Saudi Arabia also started looking into its own nuclear capabilities in the 1960s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that these ambitions yielded nuclear power plants. In 1988 Saudi Arabia also signed on to the NPT.
In 2017 the Saudi’s, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, renewed ambitions to build nuclear reactors, an opportunity the Trump administration has seized upon. Similar Iranian ambitions have been met with scrutiny since nuclear research began again under Mahmoud Ahmadineajad, which was met with significant sanctions from the United Nations, the United States, and other international actors. This series of events eventually led to the Iran Deal as President Hassan Rouhani sought to end the economic consequences of the sanctions regime. An implicit goal in all these sanctions and prohibitions on Iranian nuclear weapons, was that of preventing Saudi Arabia from seeking counter nukes of their own.
But now, that entire posturing has gone out the window and the United States is poised to not only allow Saudi Arabia to revive their nuclear ambitions, but they seemed committed to helping them do just that.