It's official -- Washington has lost it mind.
Last week, the White House quietly announced that it wants to help the United Arab Emirates (UAE) build a large, advanced nuclear reactor -- a plant critical for making either electricity or nuclear bombs. The White House claims getting the UAE to sign a U.S. nuclear-cooperation agreement next week would be a major diplomatic accomplishment, that the UAE has agreed to take several steps that would make it less likely that the UAE will ever make bombs, and that the deal would serve as a model for similar nuclear deals with Algeria, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.
All of this sounds good -- but Congress is urging Bush to punt. Why?
First, members worry that the UAE's close trade relations with Iran will undermine efforts to isolate Iran. Roughly half of the refined gasoline Iran needs to keep its economy and government -- and, therefore, its missile and nuclear programs -- running comes from India and Europe. All of this imported gasoline is transshipped through ports in the UAE. Those who want to pressure Iran to stop its dangerous nuclear weapons-related activities and its support of terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, think the U.S. and its friends should threaten to block this trade.
Second, Congress is increasingly wary of the UAE transshipments of militarily useful technology to Iran. Most recently, this included computer chips used in improvised explosive devices that Iran has handed off to Iraqi insurgents who have used them against American troops. Also, recall that Pakistani nuclear-weapons proliferator A. Q. Khan used the UAE as a base of operations to transship sensitive material to Iran. A bipartisan group of Congressmen led by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has already tabled legislation blocking the deal until the president can certify that militarily useful transshipments to Iran through the UAE have stopped, and that the UAE's export controls -- which were only announced last year -- are working and effective.
This, then, brings us to Congress's third worry: It is not altogether clear whether the nuclear deal explicitly blocks the UAE from making nuclear fuel -- an activity that, once completed, brings a state within days of acquiring nuclear bombs. (By Henry Sokolski, National Review Online, continue reading at AINA)