Trump, Kushner promised money by MBS: Prof. Askari

TEHRAN, Aug. 10 (MNA) – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia, believes that the US will be reducing its footprint in the Middle East and China will be poised to fill the vacuum.

Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at George Washington University, believes that “the US will be reducing its footprint (bases, covert operations and the like) in the Middle East and China will be poised to fill the vacuum.”

“Trump and Kushner have been promised money by MBS,” Hossein Askari, who served as special advisor to the Saudi finance minister, tells the MNA.

Following is the text of the interview:

According to the New York Times, US intelligence agencies have in recent weeks published a confidential analysis of current actions inside Saudi Arabia and in cooperation with China to build the industrial capacity needed to produce nuclear fuel. The analysis has raised alarms that there may be covert moves by Saudi Arabia and China to produce unenriched uranium so that it can later be enriched to fuel nuclear weapons. What will be the reaction of the Trump administration to this report?

First and foremost, please note that Trump could be gone in about five months. So the issue is not just Trump but also the next US administration if Trump loses the election on November 3. As for Trump, I believe that his administration will make some noise but will do nothing. Why? As I have said all along from his first visit abroad as President to Saudi Arabia, Trump and Kushner have been promised money by MBS. This is how Saudi Arabia operates. The Al-Sauds always try to buy people. And buying the US president to do their bidding was the opportunity they craved for and they got in Trump. But if Trump loses, then it will be an entirely new ballgame. Not just the nuclear enrichment but in many other arenas—Yemen, regional cooperation, funding for extremists, human rights, and more will be on the table.

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is a member of NPT and has a comprehensive bilateral safeguards agreement in place with the IAEA, but unfortunately still refuses to accept the Agency's safeguards inspections, and despite repeated requests for several years, the Agency has not amended its obligations to allow the Agency to inspect. According to the New York Times, Saudi Arabia is trying to build a yellow cake factory. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia's nuclear program has entered a critical phase, which requires the IAEA to adopt bilateral agreements with the country to these sensitivities. Why does the IAEA not put pressure on Saudi Arabia in this regard and the IAEA’s Board of Governors does not make a serious decision?

I think that the US Russia and China don’t want Saudi Arabia pressured at this time. We think that we are living in a post-colonial period but colonialism has simply morphed into something elsewhere less than a handful of colonialists call the shots. And for now, the US is still at the top.

Some members of the Trump administration, including Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser to the Trump administration, have been accused of providing sensitive nuclear equipment to Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia appears to have secret ties to both the United States and China over its nuclear program. What is your assessment?

As MBS reputedly has said, he has Kushner in his pocket. So it is not so secret but yes, there is an understanding there. The US administration, for now, supports or at least says nothing, about a number of Saudi excesses. China wants to be a player in the Middle East. So it has ties with a number of countries in the region, including Iran. In this way, it will have options and bargaining chips going forward. In this case, it is getting money from MBS, something that always helps.

Why is China trying to have a secret nuclear plan with Saudi Arabia? What are the goals of this issue?

As I just said, China gets money and influence in the region. It will have more options and chips at the table if and when they are needed. I also believe that the US will be reducing its footprint (bases, covert operations, and the like) in the Middle East, and China will be poised to fill the vacuum.

Some experts have previously said that if the United States does not cooperate with Saudi Arabia under the 123 agreement and does not allow the country to enrich uranium and have a full fuel cycle, the country may resort to a secret program to have a full cycle. Do you think the United States will be willing to give Saudi Arabia the right to enrich uranium, or does it want an agreement like the United Arab Emirates that does not allow uranium enrichment and reprocessing of plutonium (golden standards)?

“We are in a state of flux. Will Trump win in November or not? It will all depend on the outcome. If Trump wins, I believe Trump will not demand much from MBS. But if he loses, then things will change radically. MBS will have to change if he wants continued US support. A support that has been essential for the Al-Saud rule of the Kingdom. In that case, yes, the directive from the US will be something along the lines of the UAE agreement.”

Interview by Javad Heirannia

News Code 162106

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