House Adopts Sherman Amendment to Prevent Saudi Arabia from Developing a Nuclear Weapon
Washington, DC – Today the House of Representatives passed an amendment, proposed by Congressman Sherman, which blocks the United States from selling nuclear power equipment to Saudi Arabia without strong safeguards to prevent Riyadh from building nuclear weapons. The House adopted the language as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to pass the House on Friday.
Congressman Sherman’s amendment prevents a President from even submitting to Congress an Agreement (known as a 123 Agreement) that would allow U.S. companies to sell nuclear equipment to other countries, unless those countries have signed the Additional Protocol. The Additional Protocol is a strong safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency that allows highly intrusive inspections. Over 130 countries have signed the Additional Protocol.
Saudi Arabia, which is negotiating a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the Trump administration, has thus far refused to sign the Additional Protocol. This refusal has raised further concerns that Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power program’s actually a nuclear weapon program to build a nuclear weapon.
“The only reason for not signing the Additional Protocol is if a country wants to secretly develop nuclear weapons,” said Congressman Sherman. “If you can’t trust Saudi Arabia with a bone saw, you shouldn’t trust them with a nuclear weapon, and this amendment would help ensure Saudi Arabia never gets one.”
As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Nonproliferation, Congressman Sherman has been leading the efforts in Congress to prevent Saudi Arabia from building a nuclear weapon. His amendment is endorsed by the Arms Control Association, Foreign Policy for America, Council for a Livable World, Win Without War, and Friends Committee on National Legislation.
In response to a question from Congressman Sherman at a Congressional hearing on June 25, 2019, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry confirmed that the Trump administration's position is that Saudi Arabia must sign an Additional Protocol as part of an agreement to purchase U.S. nuclear power equipment.
For decades, the United States has insisted that countries it sells nuclear equipment to adhere to the Additional Protocol. Christopher Ford, the current Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, said in March of this year, “We have also in recent years been going beyond the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act in ensuring that our civil-nuclear cooperation partners adhere to the IAEA Additional Protocol as a condition for nuclear exports under those agreements.” Thomas Countryman, Ford’s predecessor in the Obama administration, has made similar statements.
Sherman stated: “Under current law, a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement must be submitted to Congress, but Congress’ authority to reject an Agreement, once submitted, is illusory— it would require a ⅔ vote of both the House and the Senate to reject an Agreement.” Under Sherman’s Amendment, the Administration cannot even submit an Agreement, unless Saudi signs the Additional Protocol.
Sherman added: “Saudi Arabia could pursue a nuclear program without reaching a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the U.S. That’s the route taken by Iran and North Korea. But then we would need to treat Saudi like we treat Iran and North Korea.”