The Uranium One scandal and the implications for Israel.

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Under the George W. Bush presidency, a tough line was taken against the Russian incursion into Georgia and Russian pressure on the Ukraine. Bush laid plans to create a missile-defense shield in Europe.

When Barack Obama became president, he and Hillary Clinton decided to reset relationships with the Kremlin. At the heart of the reset was what Newsweek called “a bevy of potential business deals[1]which included energy sources. This fitted nicely with Putin and the Kremlin’s ambitions to control much of the world’s nuclear market, including uranium stockpiles.

Rosatom, is the Russian State Atomic Nuclear Agency. It controls the Russian nuclear arsenal. It’s head, Sergei Kiriyenko, was Russia’s Prime Minister and its energy minister when Bill Clinton was President of the United States.

Rosatom not only built the Bushehr nuclear reactors in Iran, it also supplies them with uranium. Rosatom also operates in North Korea and Venezuela.

During Hillary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State, she received many diplomatic cables outlining Moscow’s nuclear ambitions. For example, in 2009, she received a classified cables informing her of Rosatom’s plans to impose “a zone of pressure” on Eastern European governments for supplies to the Kremlin-linked nuclear agency, particularly Ukraine and the Kazakhstan uranium market.[2] The cables also mentioned that the Russian military intelligence were involved in these plans.

In June 2009, Rosatom bought a 17% stake in the Canadian Uranium One company which had projects in Wyoming, Utah, Texas, and South Dakota.

In December of 2009, Kiriyenko told a meeting of the Russian presidium of Rosatom’s aggressive plans and President Putin agreed that the Russian government would provide the money for Rosatom’s equity capital to buy American uranium.[3]

This was happening at the time that Hillary Clinton was directing negotiations with the Russian government for civilian nuclear energy. As the State Department explained it, the 123 agreement, as it was called, “would support commercial interests by allowing US and Russian firms to team up more easily in joint ventures,” and in March 2010 Hillary was in Moscow meeting with Putin. By then, Putin had set in motion the purchase of a controlling interest in Uranium One by Rosatom.

By May of 2010, when Secretary of State Clinton brought the proposed text of the US-Russian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement to Congress, Rosatom was ready to become the majority controller of Uranium One.

While this process was taking place, Ian Telfer, the chairman of Uranium One, began donating large sums into the Clinton Foundation, through a Canadian entity called the Fernwood Foundation. According to records released by the Clinton Foundation, Telfer had contributed sums of $100,001 to $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation but, according to Canadian tax records, Ferndale Foundation donated more than two million dollars to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Secretary of State.

The Clinton Foundation’s public disclosures did not list Fernwood as a donor but between 2009 and 2011 Fernwood contributed over two million dollars to the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, named after the Clintons and Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining tycoon that flew Bull Clinton around the world on his private jet to make connections for his mining projects.[4] They were dressed up as projects of the Clinton Foundation to foster economic growth in the developing world but almost all concentrated on projects such as mines and oilfields in which Giustra was invested. According to Canadian tax records, almost all the funds CGSCI collected were transferred directly to the Clinton Foundation.[5]

The fact that these donations were not listed in Clinton Foundation’s public disclosures was an infringement of the memorandum of understanding with the Obama White House and contradicts Mrs. Clinton’s written statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other Russian uranium advisors and agents were multi-million-dollar contributors to the Foundation.[6]

The ties between business and politics are often blurred but there is sufficient evidence that Putin directly ordered acquisitions that were approved by the Russian Presidium.  This is important when one considers the destination and use of uranium.

Several senior congressmen, including Peter King, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Spencer Bachus, and Howard McKeon, were troubled by Rosatom’s activities for United States national security interests. They pointed to Rosatom helping to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran as “raising red flags.” They wrote, “We believe the take-over of essential US nuclear resources by a government-owned Russian agency…would not advance the national security interests of the United States.”

Congressman Ed Markey pushed a bill in Congress said, “Russia continues to train Iranian nuclear physicists and supplies sensitive nuclear technology to Iran.”[7]

Faced with this opposition, Uranium One offered concessions. It did not have an export license that allowed it to export or ship uranium out of the United States. Supporters of the deal argued that, without an export license, it was unlikely that American uranium would end up in Iranian reactors or laboratories.

Despite these concerns, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the Russian purchase of Uranium One. CFIUS is an elusive executive task force that evaluates any investment transactions that might have an effect on American national security. The Secretary of States tends to chair such meetings that includes other senior cabinet officials and intelligence heads. The approval of the Uranium One deal for American uranium assets did not discuss global markets as it assumed the material would remain within America.

Concerns soon grew about “a growing nexus in Russian and Eurasian states among governments, organized crime, intelligence services and big business figures.”[8]  In 2010, Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence warned Congress of “bribery, fraud, violence, and corrupt alliances with state actors to gain the upper hand against legitimate businesses.”[9]

Amidst this background, a small Canadian investment company named Salida Capital became intimately involved with the Clinton Foundation. Salida Capital was identified as a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear agency.

According to Canadian tax records, Salida Capital received an anonymous donation of $3.3 million into its charitable foundation, the Salida Capital Foundation, and it began to pump large sums of money into the Clinton Foundation that amounted to almost three million dollars in less than two years.[10]

Salida Capital also began sponsoring speeches by Bill Clinton. Why would Rosatom, a Russian state nuclear agency, not known for philanthropy, begin funneling vast sums of money into the Clinton Foundation at a time when it was pushing for influence in obtaining America’s uranium assets?  And why would Rosatom begin paying Bill Clinton $500,000 for speaking fees via Salida Capital at a time they were chasing US government approval for the sale of American uranium? His fee rage at that was between $150,000 to $185,000. The timing, and the amount of monies given to the Clintons, raises serious questions.

Bill Clinton hadn’t given a speech in Moscow for five years. Suddenly, at the time that Rosatom was attempting to take over America’s uranium stockpile, he was invited to speak the for half a million dollars by a Cypriot registered company called Renaissance Capital. This firm is top heady with former Russian intelligence officers with close ties to Putin, according to Peter Schweizer in his book “Clinton Cash.”

Hillary Clinton, who had been a hawk in opposing US strategic assets to foreign governments reversed herself and allowed the Russian purchase of Uranium One which was approved on October 22, 2010 by CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. The result was that Uranium One and half of the projected American uranium assets were transferred to a private company controlled by the Russian State Nuclear Agency. Although the Russians said they intended to own just 50% of the company, today it owns the company outright.

The Russian purchase of a large share of America’s uranium stockpile raised serious national security concerns for the very reasons that Mrs. Clinton had rejected previous deals. The question needs to be asked why $145 million was transferred into her Foundation or her Initiative fund, and her husband’s radically increased speaking fees were “pay to play’ for her decision to advance the Russian deal?  As Peter Schweizer points out in his book, based on State Department ethics documents as of 2016 she never revealed these transactions to her colleagues, the Obama White House, or to Capitol Hill.

If Secretary Clinton did not disclose the ties between Uranium One executives and the Clinton Foundation to members of CFIUS she may have violated the terms of the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding that she signed with the Obama Administration designed to avoid conflicts of interests between her role and decisions as Secretary of State and donations to her Clinton Foundation. She may also have violated government rules on ethical conduct.

In September 2013, the presidents of Russia and Iran, Putin and Rouhani, announced that “Tehran and Moscow will cooperate in the future construction of a second nuclear power plant at Bushehr.”[11]

Despite assurances to Congress that no uranium would leave the United States, and despite Rosatom not having an export license, a shipment of yellow-cake uranium – material used to make nuclear fuel and weapons – was sent to Canada followed by shipments to Europe and from there to unknown locations between 2012 and 2014.

On January 9, 2017, the National Post reported that the Obama Administration had approved the Russian shipment of a huge shipment of uranium to Iran on the assurance that Iran had no interest in weapons.[12]

Under the much criticized Iran nuclear deal, inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cannot be performed in Iranian military facilities.[13] Although, IAEA inspectors can check civilian facilities such as Bushehr and Fordow, they are prevented from inspecting suspect activities in the Parchin military complex. The last time inspectors were allowed there was in 2015 where they reported finding amounts of uranium. It is suspected that this facility is one of the off-limits Iranian military sites in which nuclear weapons research and testing, using uranium, is taking place.

Ali Akhbar Salehi, one of Iran’s vice presidents, boasted that Iran could have enriched uranium within five days if President Trump reneged on Obama’s nuclear deal, according to a report in the Independent newspaper on August 22, 2017.[14] How would this be possible if the Iranian’s did not have processed yellow-cake illegally? And where did that yellow cake come from?

What a sad epilogue it would be if the nuclear missile that Iran may launch at Israel contains American uranium sold to the Russians by the Obama-Clinton Administration via the Uranium One deal.

Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/how-obama-bought-russias-expensive-friendship-73289

[2] http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/03/13/use-of-russia-s-military-in-crimean-crisis-pub-54949

[3] http://old.themoscowtimes.com/sitemap/free/2009/12/article/rosatom-gets-465m-to-buy-uranium-assets/396701.html/

[4] http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/st_clintondonor_20081218.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/30/us/politics/canadian-partnership-shielded-identities-of-donors-to-clinton-foundation.html

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/clinton-donors

[7] https://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/may-25-2010-markey-and-fortenberry-introduce-resolution-of-disapproval-of-proposed-nuclear-deal

[8] https://www.usitc.gov/press_room/news_release/2012/er0214kk1.htm

[9] http://johnhelmer.net/putin-asks-clinton-for-us-government-support-of-russian-oligarchs/

[10] “Clinton Cash.” Peter Schweizer. Page50.

[11] https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/moscows-american-uranium-098472

[12] http://nationalpost.com/news/world/iran-to-receive-huge-shipment-of-natural-uranium-from-russia-in-transfer-deal-approved-by-u-s

[13] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-usa/iran-rejects-u-s-demand-for-u-n-visit-to-military-sites-idUSKCN1B918E

[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-nuclear-deal-weapons-uranium-enrichment-five-days-donald-trump-us-deal-a7906276.html

 

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