Wednesday, September 19, 2018

No Way will Israel attack Iranian-backed forces in Iraq

Will Israel attack Iranian-backed forces in Iraq?
Sean Savage
Situated in the cradle of human civilization, modern-day Iraq has been no stranger to gruesome bloodshed and violence in recent years. With the scourge of the Islamic State largely defeated, many hope that Iraq can now turn a page on its bloody recent past and start building for a new future. However, Iraq’s Persian neighbor, Iran, has different plans. As one of the region’s major powers, Iran has been focused on taking advantage of the chaos to its west to fulfill one of the core tenants of theocratic regime: Shi’ite Muslim expansionism and revolution.
While modern Iran’s involvement in Iraq goes back decades—from the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the bloody Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s to support insurgent groups in the years following the U.S. invasion—more recently, Iran has sought to leverage Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslim population as the final piece in its corridor of control, dubbed the “Shi’ite Crescent” from Tehran to Beirut in Lebanon.
“Currently, Iran has control over numerous Iraqi [mostly Shia] political and militia organizations,” Phillip Smyth, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told JNS.
“These groups generally follow the same organizational and ideological model as Lebanese Hezbollah,” he explained. “Their creation and growth are part of a longer-term Iranian strategy that follows the successes they’ve built when it comes to influencing Lebanon. They wish to construct groups that push their ideologies, policies, and whose armed groups can be utilized.”
Indeed, Iraq’s diversity has been its downfall in recent decades. Stitched together by former colonial powers the British and French following World War I, Iraq is torn between three dominant groups—the Kurds, Sunni Arab Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims, who make up about 65 percent of the population. Iran, which is also Shi’ite Muslim, has had long and complicated ties with its neighboring Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims, but has grown to fill the political vacuum left behind by recent wars to extend its domination over the community.
“Iran is deeply insinuated into Iraq’s political and security apparatuses. It used the Islamic State invasion of Iraq as a pretext to establish an IRGC [Iran Revolutionary Guards Corp] military presence in the country and expand its funding, training and equipping of Iraq’s major Shi’ite militias, which have since been incorporated into the Iraqi government as a direct conduit for Iranian influence over Iraq’s security policy,” Jonathan Ruhe, associate director of JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy, told JNS.
As such, domination over Iraq is seen as one of the last pieces extend its “land bridge” of Shi’ite Muslim communities from Iran to Lebanon in order to directly threaten Israel.
“Control of this land bridge would expand Tehran’s ability to proliferate advanced weapons to Hezbollah, establish a second front against Israel in the Golan, and threaten U.S. and Israeli partner Jordan,” said Ruhe.
“More geostrategically, it would also bolster Iranian hegemony in the heart of the Middle East, which is critical to its objective of replacing the United States as the preeminent power in the region.”
Iranian build-up in Iraq
Earlier this month, it was reported that Iran had transferred ballistic missile to its Shi’ite proxies in Iraq.
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own,” Reuters reported.
Among the missiles transferred include the Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar, which have ranges of about 200 kilometers (125 miles) to 700 kilometers (435 miles), putting both regional foes of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel within striking distance.
“If these reports are indeed true, it represents the next logical step in Iran’s efforts to replicate and expand the threat posed to Israel from Hezbollah’s Iranian-made missile arsenal in Lebanon,” said Ruhe. “Iran is pursuing a similar project in Syria, which has prompted Israeli airstrikes to prevent Syria becoming a second front for threatening Israel with precision missiles.”
“In putting new missiles in Iraq capable of reaching Israel, Iran would be presenting Israel with a dilemma: escalate its preventive campaign against Iranian proliferation of strategic weaponry by forcing Israel to expand its strikes to another country, or allow Tehran to establish yet another way to threaten Israel?” he asked.
Will Israel attack Iraq?
Already, Israel has signaled that it would not tolerate this new Iranian front in Iraq, as it has done with hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian military assets in Syria during its seven-year civil war.
“We are certainly monitoring everything that is happening in Syria, and regarding Iranian threats, we are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in reference to Iran’s buildup in Iraq earlier this month.
“I am saying that we will contend with any Iranian threat, and it doesn’t matter from where it comes … Israel’s freedom is total. We retain this freedom of action,” he added.
Israel, of course, is no stranger to carrying out an attack on Iraqi soil. In 1981 Israel’s air force destroyed the Osirak Iraqi nuclear reaction near Baghdad.
However, the United States, which has about 5,200 troops in Iraq as part of its mission to stabilize the country and defeat the Islamic State, reportedly warned Israel not to carry out any airstrikes in Iraq.
American officials were reported to have told Israeli defense officials to “please leave Iraq to us,” Israel public broadcaster KAN reported.
Yet Ruhe remains unconvinced that America would target Iran or Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
“To date, the United States has demonstrated a desire to coexist, however uneasily, alongside Iranian-backed forces in Iraq as part of the overarching goal of restoring a semblance of political and military stability to Iraq, and minimizing risks and burdens to U.S. forces operating there,” he said.
For Smyth, an attack by Israel in Iraq would be a “major escalation” from how the Jewish state has targeted these groups in the past.
“The farthest strike [likely launched by the Israelis] was near the Syrian-Iraq border some weeks ago. Of course, this may have been a signal by Israel to the militias that as soon as they enter Syria, they will be subject to Israeli attacks.
“However, going directly into Iraq would be a move in the direction of saying that all of these targets on the table, and it could have much harsher repercussions for U.S. forces.”
As such, Ruhe sees any Israel attack on Iranian proxies in Iraq as part of a broader campaign.
“It seems more realistic to envisions Israeli forces attacking Iranian proxies in Iraq—either as an expanded part of its counter-missile campaign against Iran in Syria, or as part of a major conflict between Israel on the one hand and Iran and it proxies [including Hezbollah] on the other,” Ruhe said.
“Indeed, Israel has made clear at least since Netanyahu’s Munich speech in February that if attacked, it would address the Iranian threat in its totality—regionwide, and not just from Syria.”

Antichrist Chooses New Prime Minister (Revelation 13)

KUWAIT-IRAQ-OIL-ECONOMY

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s rival Shiite blocs in parliament have agreed on who they want as the next prime minister after making progress in negotiations towards forming a government, negotiators told Arab News.
The two factions, one pro Iran and the other anti, have agreed to work together as a coalition, negotiators told Arab News on Tuesday.
The veteran Shiite politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi was informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi, negotiators said.
He will be assigned on Sept. 25 to form a government if his nomination is approved by the Kurdish blocs.
Before the appointment of prime minister, the president has to be selected. There is no indication that the Kurds, who get the post according to the Iraq’s power sharing agreement, have decided on who to nominate.
Iraq’s parliament has been split between the Reform alliance and Al-Binna’a alliance after elections in May.
Reform is controlled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the country’s most influential Shiite clerics who opposes Iranian influence in the country.
Iran-backed Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of Badr organization, the most prominent Shiite armed faction.
At the first parliamentary session earlier this month, both coalitions claimed they have the most number of seats which would give them the right to form a government.
Within hours, violent demonstrations erupted in Basra, Iraq’s main oil hub, killing 15 demonstrators and injuring scores of people. The Iranian consulate was set on fire along with dozens of government and party buildings.
The violence on the street reflected the stand-off in parliament and threatened to erupt into fighting between the armed wings associated with the different Shiite groups.
The agreement between the two blocs was the only way to end the violence and prevent a slide into intra-Shiite  fighting, senior leaders involved in the talks said.
Several meetings between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri were held in Al-Sadr’s residency in the holy city of Najaf last week to defuse the crisis.F
Both parties’ desire for a truce seemed clear on Saturday at a parliament session to elect the speaker and his deputies. The two blocks showed their influence without colliding with each other. Al-Binna’a presented its candidate for the speaker post and stepped down after winning to make way for the Reform bloc to present its candidate for the post of first deputy of the speaker without competition.
The negotiations teams continued their meetings over the following days to agree on the details of the government program and select the nominee for the prime minister among the dozens of candidates presented by the forces belonging to the two alliances.
The first results of talks between the two blocs came out on Tuesday when Al-Amiri withdrew from the race “to open doors for more talks,” and avoid  conflict between the alliances.
“We will not talk on behalf of Al-Binna’a or the Reform. We both will agree on a candidate. Compatibility is our only choice,” Al-Amiri, said at a press conference in Baghdad.
“Today, Iraq needs to be saved, as we saved it from Daesh, so we have only two options, either we choose to impose the wills and twist each others arms or choose the understanding between us.”
Iraq has been a battleground for regional and international powers, especially Iran and the United States, since 2003 US-led invasion.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, and General Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran's Al Quds Force, are deeply involved in the negotiations.
The candidate for prime minister should also enjoy the blessing of the religious powers in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader and most revered figure in Iraq, negotiators said.
“The situation is complicated as there are three different sides that enjoy the right to use veto. They are Iran, US and Najaf,” a key negotiator of Al-Sadr’s negotiation team told Arab News.
“One ‘no’ is enough to exclude any candidate. Not only that, Sadr and Amiri also have their conditions and we still have difficulty reconciling all of them.”
The marathon negotiations, which run every day until late at night, finally reached a shortlist for prime minister.
The three names reached were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Falih Al-Fayadh, the former national security adviser, and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the head of the intelligence service.
Adel Abdul Mahdi was the chosen one, three negotiators from different sides told Arab News.
“We have agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi as he is the only one who was approved by the three sides (Iran, the US and Najaf),” an Al-Sadr negotiator told Arab News.

The Sixth Seal: A Stack of Cards (Revelation 6:12)


Experts Warn NYC Could Fall Like ‘House of Cards’ With 5.0 Earthquake
A 3-D rendering of a destroyed NYC. (Pavel Chagochkin/Dreamstime.com)
By Mike Dorstewitz    |   Wednesday, 04 April 2018 06:30 PM
A magnitude-5.0 earthquake in New York City would cause an estimated $39 billion in damage after buildings topple like a “house of cards,” according to the Daily Mail.
And the city is overdue for a quake of that size, seismologists say. The last one was in 1884 and they occur about every 100 years.
An estimated 30 million tons of debris would litter the streets after a 5.0 earthquake in NYC , and anything bigger than that would almost certainly collapse buildings and cause loss of life to the city’s 8.5 million residents.
“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” said Lynn Skyes, lead author of a study by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Daily News reported. “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”
New York City is riddled with fault lines. The largest runs down 125th Street, extending from New Jersey to the East River. The Dyckman Street Fault runs from Inwood to Morris Heights in the Bronx. The Mosholu Parkway Fault line runs a bit farther north. The East River Fault is an especially long one, running south, skirting Central Park’s west side then heading to the East River when it hits 32nd Street.
New York’s main problem isn’t the magnitude of earthquakes, it’s how the city is built.
“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation wrote on its website.

Australian Nuclear Horn Aids India (Daniel 7)

'Australia hopeful of sending uranium shipment to India soon'
ANI | Updated: Sep 19, 2018 04:34 IST
New Delhi [India], Sept 19 (ANI): Australia's High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu, on Tuesday expressed hope that the country would be sending a consignment of uranium to India in the near future.
Speaking at the Australia Fest here, Sidhu said, "Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was here (in India last year) and after Prime Minister's visit, she had mentioned some samples were sent to the Indian authorities for testing to make sure that uranium was fit to be sold. I understand that conversations are going on and we are genuinely hopeful that there will be a shipment of uranium in the near future. I can assure that from the Australian government's perspective, there is a high level of support and we're very keen to see such progress."
Australia is one of the world's largest exporters of uranium ore, having 40 per cent of its reserves. Both India and Australia had signed a civil nuclear agreement in 2014 to facilitate the supply of uranium to India.
The exports of uranium in India are banned as the country is not a part of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, Australia has been a supporter of India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG).
Yesterday, Sidhu unveiled the program for Australia Fest - a six-month celebration of Australian culture, involving over 75 events across 20 cities in India.
At the event, Sidhu launched the festival website and also introduced three Australia Fest Ambassadors, Australian cooking sensation Gary Mehigan, and renowned Australian author John Zubrzycki and well-known music composer and Australian alumnus Raghav Sachar.
Australia Fest will culminate on March 30, 2019. (ANI)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Antichrist's new pawn challenges US sanctions on Iran

In a blow to Iraq's leading political coalition that has attempted to distance itself from Iran, Baghdad's newly elected parliamentary speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi voiced his support for Tehran on Monday and opposed Washington's renewed economic sanctions on its neighbour.
Iran is a key power broker in Iraq and many of the militias that played a central role in ousting ISIS are known to have close ties to Tehran. Iraq has been in political paralysis since May elections that saw nationalist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's bloc win most seats in parliament but fall short of forming a majority.
Mr Al Halbousi, a Sunni politician backed by a pro-Iran bloc led by Hadi Al Ameri’s Conquest Alliance, said on Monday that lawmakers in Baghdad oppose any economic pressure on Iran during a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Larijani.
"Iraq will always be with the Iranian people,” he said, adding that the country will support Tehran in restoring stability and security to the region.
US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from an international deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program earlier this year and reimposed trade sanctions.
Those restrictions include penalties for transactions with Iran in US currency, gold, precious metals, graphite, coal and semi-finished metals, as well as large sales of Iranian rials and the issuing of Iranian debt. US imports of food and carpets from Iran are also restricted.
Washington warned there will be consequences for countries that do not respect the sanctions.
There is an internal Sunni dispute in government that pushed Mr Al Halbousi to become speaker of the house, Renad Mansour, senior research fellow at London's Chatham House told The National.
"Halbousi and Khamis Al Khanjar [a Sunni business mogul] is seeking to maximize his power and influence by allying with Nouri Al Maliki and Hadi Al Amiri who are much closer to Iran," Mr Mansour said, adding the businessman was able to get ride of the stronger Sunni political opposition.
Sunni rivals of Mr Al Khanjar describe him as a self-promoter and accuse him of putting his desire for power above Iraq’s stability.
"That’s why the decision was made to stick to the Amiri-Maliki bloc and so Al Halbousi was a product of that," Mr Mansour said.
After Mr Al Halbousi was elected as speaker of the house, members of Mr Al Sadr's coalition walked out of Saturday's parliamentary session.
Mr Al Sadr has challenged foreign influence in Iraq, especially Iranian and American. The anti-corruption cleric whose "Iraq First" message during his electoral campaign appealed to voters across sectarian divides has left both Washington and Tehran on edge.
Iran hailed the selections made by Iraq’s parliament. Lawmakers picked candidates backed by a pro-Tehran bloc as speaker and first deputy.
Mr Al Halbousi's election marks the starts of a 90-day process outlined in the constitution, designed to eventually lead to a new government
“The Islamic Republic of Iran supports decisions made by the Iraqi people’s elected representative,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on Sunday. “Iran has always supported Iraq’s democracy, territorial integrity and national sovereignty,” he said.
"We hope we will soon witness the election of the president and prime minister to form a new Iraqi government," said Mr Ghasemi.
The post of first deputy speaker was given to Hassan Karim, put forward by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr whose list won the largest share of seats in the election.
Before running in May's national election as a candidate on the Anbar Our Identity electoral list, Mr Al Halbousi was governor of the Sunni-majority province of Anbar, one of the main battlegrounds of the war against ISIS, until he was elected to parliament in the May 12 polls.

The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

NEW YORK IS 40 YEARS OVERDUE A MAJOR EARTHQUAKE AND AMERICA ISN'T PROPERLY PREPARED, 'QUAKELAND' AUTHOR KATHRYN MILES TELLS TREVOR NOAH
BY TUFAYEL AHMED ON 9/27/17 AT 9:28 AM
Updated | An earthquake is long overdue to hit New York and America isn’t prepared, author and environmental theorist Kathryn Miles told Trevor Noah on Tuesday’s Daily Show.
Miles is the author of a new book, Quakeland, which investigates how imminently an earthquake is expected in the U.S. and how well-prepared the country is to handle it. The answer to those questions: Very soon and not very well.
“We know it will, that’s inevitable, but we don’t know when,” said Miles when asked when to expect another earthquake in the U.S.
She warned that New York is in serious danger of being the site of the next one, surprising considering that the West Coast sits along the San Andreas fault line.
“New York is 40 years overdue for a significant earthquake...Memphis, Seattle, Washington D.C.—it’s a national problem,” said Miles.
Miles told Noah that though the U.S. is “really good at responding to natural disasters,” like the rapid response to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, the country and its government is, in fact, lagging behind in its ability to safeguard citizens before an earthquake hits.
“We’re really bad at the preparedness side,” Miles responded when Noah asked how the infrastructure in the U.S. compares to Mexico’s national warning system, for example.
“Whether it’s the literal infrastructure, like our roads and bridges, or the metaphoric infrastructure, like forecasting, prediction, early warning systems. Historically, we’ve underfunded those and as a result we’re way behind even developing nations on those fronts.”
Part of the problem, Miles says, is that President Donald Trump and his White House are not concerned with warning systems that could prevent the devastation of natural disasters.
“We can invest in an early warning system. That’s one thing we can definitely do. We can invest in better infrastructures, so that when the quake happens, the damage is less,” said the author.
“The scientists, the emergency managers, they have great plans in place. We have the technology for an early warning system, we have the technology for tsunami monitoring. But we don’t have a president that is currently interested in funding that, and that’s a problem.”
This article has been updated to reflect that Miles said New York is the possible site of an upcoming earthquake, and not the likeliest place to be next hit by one.

US Seeks to Nuclearize Saudi Arabia (Daniel 7)

The Barakah nuclear power plant in United Arab Emirates is seen in an undated photo released by the state-run WAM news agency.U.S. Pursues Saudi Nuclear Deal, Despite Proliferation Risk

Michael R. Gordon and Timothy Puko in Washington and Summer Said in Riyadh

The Trump administration is pursuing a deal to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom’s refusal to accept the most stringent restrictions against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, U.S. officials say.
Saudi Arabia’s nuclear energy ambitions could open a new market worth tens of billions of dollars, drawing countries including Russia, South Korea and China to compete for the business. Administration officials consider it too important to overlook, especially when the U.S. nuclear power industry is on the decline.
But Saudi Arabia’s resistance to the toughest proliferation controls—a ban on enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel—already is stirring concern among U.S. lawmakers, who must review any accord to transfer U.S. nuclear technology, known as a 123 agreement.
“The new Saudi ambassador came into my office in January, just last month, and I told him that I would demand a vote and debate on the Senate floor on any proposed 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.). “It seems crazy to loosen important nonproliferation standards just to try to secure an uncertain commercial deal.”

Proliferation Paths

The nuclear fuel cycle offers two routes to build a weapon, one using enriched uranium and one using plutonium.


Civilian and military nuclear programs both start with unrefined uranium.
Centrifuges isolate the part of uranium that is suitable for nuclear fission.
Centrifuge
Civilian power reactors require uranium enriched to 3% to 5% purity.
5%
5%
Spent fuel from power reactors can be reprocessed to extract plutonium that could be used in making nuclear weapons.
20%
90%
90% enriched uranium is needed to produce nuclear weapons.
U.S. Pursues Saudi Nuclear Deal, Despite Proliferation Risk
The impending debate has confronted the administration with a dilemma: If it lowers standards in the hope of securing the Saudi deal it will spur criticism about its commitment to fighting proliferation.
Critics of reducing standards say it will send a signal at a time more countries across the volatile region aspire to acquire nuclear technology. But supporters of a deal with Saudi Arabia argue there are other ways to address nonproliferation concerns and that if the U.S. isn’t willing to sell nuclear technology, other nations will.
The kingdom is playing competitors, especially the U.S. and Russia, against one another. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak visited Riyadh on Wednesday, meeting Saudi King Salman. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited in the autumn, and 17 U.S. companies, including Westinghouse Electric Co. and Exelon Corp. , followed.
Formal talks on the reactor sale are expected to start in coming months.
Saudi Arabia has abundant sources of energy, and some analysts question whether nuclear power would be cost effective. It can expand its capacity for solar and other renewable power, and can tap huge natural-gas reserves to phase out oil, said Ali Ahmad, the director of the energy policy and security program at the American University of Beirut.
The new Saudi Arabian leadership’s aggressive approach to Iran is shifting the balance of power across the Middle East and is having huge repercussions for the region. Iran, in response, has warned Saudi Arabia against its hawkishness. WSJ’s Niki Blasina explains the four main proxy conflicts between the two nations.
“The kingdom does not need nuclear power,” he said.
Saudi officials say they want to diversify their fuel sources and can make more money exporting their crude rather than burning it for power.
But while the Saudis insist their program will be peaceful, they have refused to rule out the right to enrich uranium. They have pointed to their archenemy Iran’s ability to enrich uranium as part of the 2015 accord aimed at preventing Tehran from producing nuclear weapons.
“I’m not saying Saudi would want to enrich uranium tomorrow or anytime soon but they don’t want to be committed to anything that bans them from doing it,” said a senior Saudi official. “It is quite political.”
That has stirred speculation that one purpose of the Saudi nuclear program is to compete with Iran’s nuclear technology and perhaps even preserve an option to develop nuclear weapons.
“I think that the Saudis legitimately believe that a nuclear power program is an essential element of their political competition with Iran, if not their strategic competition with the country,” said Richard Nephew, of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
During the George W. Bush administration, U.S. officials negotiated a 123 agreement with the United Arab Emirates that precluded that Gulf state from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel to produce plutonium, essential steps in producing nuclear weapons. President Barack Obama later submitted a new version of that deal to Congress, saying it had the potential to serve as a “model for other countries in the region.” The U.A.E. subsequently purchased four reactors from South Korea, which incorporated U.S. technology.
That assurance become known as the “gold standard,” and some U.S. nonproliferation supporters argue it should become the norm for the region. A provision in the agreement also allows the U.A.E. to ask for a reconsideration of the “gold standard” if the U.S. sells nuclear technology to other Middle East nations under less strict standards.
The Trump administration has yet to publicly detail its position on Saudi Arabia. But officials say that a 123 agreement with Riyadh that didn’t incorporate the gold standard still could provide important safeguards, including restrictions on enriching U.S. supplied nuclear material without its approval.
The U.S., they signaled, also will press Saudi Arabia to accept a special protocol on nuclear safeguards, as Iran has done, so that the International Atomic Energy Agency can carry out on-site inspections if suspicions arise. If the U.S. insists on the U.A.E. standard, the Saudis may simply buy reactors from Russia or China, who don’t demand such stringent protections.
Ernest J. Moniz, who served as Energy secretary during the Obama administration, said it is possible to devise a strong 123 agreement that doesn’t include “gold standard” restrictions. The kingdom, he suggested, could be supplied with low-enriched uranium for its reactors, and have its spent fuel removed, in return for a promise not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. The agreement might last a decade or more and then could be renewed.
But critics say that would merely delay, and not resolve, the problem. “We would be saying ‘later’ instead of ‘no’ to something we shouldn’t allow at all,” said Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.
The Saudis aim to complete the first step—awarding contracts for two reactors capable of 1 to 1.6 gigawatts—by year’s end. It is the beginning of an ambitious plan to construct 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032—enough to power over 12 million Saudi homes. The ultimate goal, which some analysts doubt Saudi Arabia will achieve, is to build 16 reactors at a cost of some $80 billion.
Other companies talking to Saudi Arabia about nuclear technology include South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp. , France’s EDF Group and China’s General Nuclear Power Group. Many of the competitors, including Russia, are state-backed enterprises, making it especially difficult for the U.S. entrant, Westinghouse.
The company is in bankruptcy, stung by a series of delayed, over-budget and failed projects in the U.S. and abroad. Canada’s Brookfield Business Partners LP is spearheading a deal to buy the troubled company’s assets, but it is uncertain how much funding Brookfield will put into the business and what parts it will keep open.
State-backed firms, by comparison, have higher, more assured capacity for multibillion-dollar financing deals, and sometimes are even subsidized.
Even if Westinghouse wins the project, some of the billions in the deal won’t go to the U.S. economy. The company’s headquarters and design work are based in Pittsburgh, but the heart of its reactors often are built overseas in places like Japan and South Korea, and its supply chain is global, analysts said.
Despite that, U.S. officials have urgent reasons to pursue the deal as a way to boost its domestic nuclear industry. Once an innovator and world leader, the U.S. nuclear industry is beset by competition from natural gas, solar and wind power at home, and frequently outbid by rivals abroad.
The Saudi project is one the few remaining globally that could sustain a nuclear business, with decades of work servicing and refueling new reactors, and it would be an “embarrassment” if the U.S. gets left out, said Chris Gadomski, head of nuclear research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“This is a barometer, an indicator of where the world market is going to go,” he added. “If we’re the world leader in nuclear technology, are we going to let that go?”
—Benoit Faucon in London contributed to this article.
Write to Michael R. Gordon at Michael.Gordon@wsj.com, Timothy Puko at tim.puko@wsj.com and Summer Said at summer.said@wsj.com