The Middle East plan that was too crazy even for John Bolton

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Did you know there was a Middle Eastern initiative in the works that was so insane, U.S. National Security Adviser John “Strangelove” Bolton repeatedly avoided meeting with its peddlers? What kind of proposal could possibly have violated Bolton’s ethical sensibilities? This is, after all, someone who has overtly called for the bombing of Iran.

Apparently, Bolton isn’t keen on seeing anything described as “nuclear” in the hands of Saudi Arabia, even if the Saudis hate Iran as much as Bolton does.

According to a report issued by the House Oversight Committee this week, a group of mothballed U.S. generals and admirals formed a company called IP3 International and plotted with Trump fundraiser and friend Thomas Barrack to partner with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to buy U.S.-based nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric. Documents indicate that the IP3 plan was to keep foreign ownership low enough to “bypass scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States,” minimizing public scrutiny while nonetheless taking government money for the project.

The plan appears to have been hatched around 2015 and was spearheaded in part by President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, who’s now awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI in the special counsel investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election. It involved Westinghouse building 30 to 40 nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia as part of what was pitched to the Trump administration as a “Middle East Marshall Plan.” The companies involved referred to themselves as “Team USA.” They should have called it “Team Nuke USA.”

“Team USA” sounds like something that Michael Phelps or Megan Rapinoe would be on, rather than a team of people who would have pocketed millions for selling nuclear reactors to a terror-sponsoring state that murdered a member of the American media inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year and dismembered him with a bone saw.

If you’re concerned about U.S. interests selling Saudi Arabia the same kind of nuclear capability that Trump wants to deny the Iranians, rest assured that the executive branch of the U.S. government isn’t as worried as you might be. For all the government hand-wringing about the potential for nuclear weapons in the Middle East, the dirty little secret is that Israel already has nukes, the Emirates will get them if Saudi Arabia does, and the U.S. has been trying to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia since at least 2012. The sticking point is that Saudi Arabia refuses to pinky swear that it won’t hold a centrifuge-spinning party to enrich uranium. And why should the Saudis make such a promise? They’ve literally gotten away with murder.

Judging by the emails detailed in the report, “Team USA” generals seemed to be less concerned with potential nuclear proliferation in the Middle East than with possibly losing a nuclear contract in Saudi Arabia to either Russia or China. It’s alarming that even nuclear technology is considered fair game in global economic competition, with national security put at risk in order to stuff the pockets of a select few.

We already know that military-grade technology — the kind that was developed to track terrorists in war zones — has been laundered through private companies and deployed outside of war zones. Such technology is often sold directly to a government or government contractor, which then deploys it under the guise of improving security or responding to a threat. And it’s under this pretext of “safety” that all information is handed over to some kind of tech company — whose boards of directors are often loaded with high-ranking retired military members or cutouts for foreign governments.

The buyout of American nuclear tech giant Westinghouse would have favored self-interested generals and wealthy foreign investors over the interests of average Americans. Ultimately, the optics became so glaringly problematic that the people involved figured it would be best to launder their proposal through a partnership with South Korea. That way, no one could blame America for selling nuclear technology directly to the Saudis.

The total lack of transparency is worrisome. During his testimony last week to the House Intelligence Committee, former special counsel Robert Mueller said that his office referred some counterintelligence matters to the FBI for further investigation. Hopefully this case is among the 14 referrals that Mueller made to the FBI. We should know if there’s anyone in or around the White House pushing for these nuclear technology transfers when even John Bolton is hiding behind the couch with the lights off, pretending not to be home.

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