Friday, January 25, 2008
Talking Nuclear Turkey
You wouldn't know it from the American press, but President Bush just cleared the way for a nuclear cooperation agreement with Turkey that had been on ice since 2000, submitting it to Congress for approval on Wednesday. The deal, signed under the Clinton administration, had been stalled by a subsequent finding that certain Turkish "private entities" posed a proliferation threat. That threat has been addressed by Turkey, according to President Bush in his message accompanying the bill to Congress.
This is a very significant move, part of a larger initiative I've written about before, designed to help Turkey secure its energy supply, and to keep it from slipping further out of the West's sphere of influence and into energy-based tactical alliances with Russia and Iran. The nuclear angle will become even more central to that effort given the difficulties encountered in moving the EU's Nabucco pipeline project forward.
The deal does not allow for the transfer of sensitive technology or data, and the Secretaries of State and Energy as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission all signed off on the updated Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS). Still, the timing of the Bush administration's announcement seems suspect, coming as it does on the heels of a meeting between President Bush and Turkish President Abdullah Gul where energy policy figured prominently, as well as on the eve of Turkey's call for tenders for the construction of its first reactor. It also comes in the immediate aftermath of Sibel Edmonds' accusations, reported widely in the English and Turkish press but ignored Stateside, that Turkey was the longstanding beneficiary of nuclear secrets funneled out of Washington.
The agreement is being submitted for disapproval, which means it will take a Congressional majority within the next ninety days to keep it from taking effect. And the bulk of the NPAS is classified, so it's unlikely we'll ever know just who the "private entities" are, what they were doing, and what's been done to remedy the situation. So despite Turkey's strategic importance to American regional interests, it seems like a bit of media attention on the issue might be worthwhile.