The Biden administration can mollify Riyadh by restoring enrichment restrictions on Tehran
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reportedly made a joint U.S.-Saudi nuclear-enrichment program a top condition for a peace deal with Israel. This is untenable. Putting aside the practical and technical challenges posed by establishing such a facility, the U.S. can’t discount the potential for a future Saudi leader to use an industrial-scale enrichment infrastructure to produce fissile material as part of a nuclear weapons program. Once Saudi Arabia builds an enrichment program, Turkey and Egypt will want one too.
A race to enrich throughout one of the world’s most dangerous and unstable regions is a national-security recipe for disaster. But when any American tells a Saudi official that the U.S. can’t support enrichment on Saudi soil, an obvious question comes back quickly: You’re saying you can support an enrichment program in Iran, which is trying to kill Americans every day, but you can’t support an enrichment program in Saudi Arabia, a close strategic partner?
There’s an easy fix for President Biden to deliver Saudi-Israeli peace without giving in to Saudi demands: Restore the international standard of zero enrichment for Tehran.
Tantalized by the prospect of a historic peace agreement that could change the face of the Middle East, there is increasing pressure in both Israeli and American circles to accommodate the Saudi request. After all, the 2015 nuclear deal and subsequent negotiations have all but normalized illicit Iranian nuclear activity. But instead of making an already flawed nonproliferation policy even worse, Mr. Biden should opt for the more obvious path: opposing Iran’s enrichment, too.
Alongside the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in 2015 that erased yearslong demands that Iran stop enriching uranium and halt the testing of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Worse, the JCPOA included an entire annex detailing how the world would support Iran’s enrichment alongside hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief while the Security Council resolution set a timetable for all other U.N. restrictions on Iran to expire. The conventional arms embargo would end in 2020 and the missile embargo in 2023. Meantime, Tehran would be free to research and develop advanced centrifuges to threaten the West with the capability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb in a matter of days. The U.N. arms embargo did end in 2020 and the missile embargo will expire in two months, though Europe has pledged to keep its own unilateral sanctions in place…