During the transition period between the 2016 presidential election and the January 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump, retired General Michael Flynn — who was tapped by Trump to become national security adviser — pushed what he and longtime Trump friend and backer Tom Barrack called a "Mideast Marshall Plan" which involved secretly selling United States nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia, possibly in violation of U.S. law, a congressional report revealed last month, according to NBC News.
The plan appeared to involve the lifting on economic sanctions on Russia, allowing the Russians to build and operate nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, along with the U.S. and France, according to a Guardian report.
Though Flynn was forced out of the Trump administration after just weeks due to his ties to Russia, which he had lied about – and Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his Russia contacts — his plan to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis appears to be back on track, at least in some form. According to a Reuters report on Wednesday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved "six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia."
The secret deals lay the groundwork for companies to eventually sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, after a "transfer of knowledge and expertise" to the Middle Eastern kingdom, according to a report by The Daily Beast, which first reported the existence of the secret nuclear authorizations by Perry.
Allowing the Saudis to build nuclear power plants could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, U.S. lawmakers fear, according to Reuters. Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has said that if Iran were to start developing nuclear weapons technology, Saudi Arabia would do the same.
But last year, Trump pulled the United States out of a nuclear treaty with Iran negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama, a deal which prevented the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. Last week according to a Wall Street Journal report, Trump administration officials alleged that Iran is covertly "poised to restart work" on a new nuclear weapons program, and is "using front companies to buy materials from Russia and China that could be used to reactivate its banned bomb program."
The plan pushed by Flynn and Barrack in early 2017 made substantial progress, according to the congressional investigation, as summarized by Vox.
Under United States law, before the U.S. can sell nuclear technology to any other country, the buyer must agree to conditions, including a pledge that the technology will not be converted for nuclear weapons development, according to the Federation of Atomic Scientists. But under Flynn's plan, those conditions appeared to be ignored, according to the congressional report.