Iran miffed by US's nuclear posture
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
"Even [president George W] Bush did not say what [Barack] Obama is saying."
- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad
NEW YORK - Tehran has reacted sharply to the new United States nuclear doctrine
that explicitly targets Iran and North Korea and allows for the threat and use
of nuclear weapons against them. Leading the charge, President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad has accused the Barack Obama administration of nuclear duplicity
and being more warmongering than the predecessor administration of George W
The US Nuclear Posture Review, which was unveiled this week on
the eve of the Prague signing of a new bilateral arms control treaty between
the US and Russia, is notable for its prioritization of nuclear terrorism and
threats of nuclear proliferation, as opposed to traditional Cold-War type
It also has a contradictory position. On the one hand it explicitly reduces the
role of nuclear weapons in the US's national security strategy. On the other it
increases the coercive diplomatic role of the US's nuclear wherewithal as a
strategy for "reversing" the nuclear ambitions of countries such as Iran and
North Korea, and for deterring the would-be nuclear-seekers with the blunt
threat of a US nuclear backlash.
"This document will definitely hurt Obama's image in the world because it shows
an uncivilized superpower that bullies other nations with its nuclear bombs," a
Tehran University political scientist told the author. "From Iran's point of
view, the US government has made a serious error by going public with its
aggressive nuclear intentions that defy the UN charter and international law,"
the Tehran professor said.
Whether this interpretation is correct might become clear at next month's
crucial nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference at the United
Nations in New York, where the US is reportedly seeking to bolster its efforts
against Iran by going on the offensive, hoping for better results than at the
2005 NPT conference that was deadlocked over the division between the two
opposing camps of non-proliferation and disarmament.
According to US nuclear experts, the US's intention at the NPT conference is to
strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear
watchdog, primarily by pushing for tougher rules on inspections and access to
sensitive nuclear technologies and making it more difficult for NPT member
states to exit the treaty. Another US goal, reflected in the agenda of next
week's Washington summit on nuclear security, is to achieve better
international coordination against potential nuclear terrorism.
Meanwhile, Iran has seized on the opportunity of a vacuum of leadership on the
nuclear disarmament front by holding a simultaneous nuclear conference in
Tehran next week devoted to disarmament and "strengthening the NPT", to quote
Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran's ambassador to Japan. Iran's Foreign Ministry,
which is hosting the conference, has announced that high-ranking members of the
IAEA will be among 200 or so foreign dignitaries attending the two-day
"Both these conferences are scene-setters for the NPT conference, one [in
Washington] focusing on the Western priority of non-proliferation and the other
here [in Tehran] focusing on disarmament," says another Tehran expert who works
at a Tehran think-tank.
In some good news for Tehran, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has
flatly denied "rumors" that China has agreed to new sanctions on Iran following
a recent meeting of the representatives of the so-called "Iran Six" nations in
New York, which refers to the UN Security Council's Permanent Five (the US,
China, France, Britain and Russia) plus Germany.
With competitive conference diplomacy adding a new layer to the Iranian nuclear
standoff, Tehran is keen on preventing the US and its allies from having the
final say at the NPT conference next month. A successful disarmament conference
in Tehran would create the momentum for new heat to be applied to the US and
other nuclear weapons states to fulfill their NPT obligations with respect to
both the NPT and a prior 2000 statement of the NPT review conference on "13
steps" toward disarmament. The obligations include "irreversible and
verifiable" dismantlement of nuclear warheads.
The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by Obama and Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday is deficient in this regard in that it doesn't call
for the destruction of one single warhead; excess warheads are simply stored
and, theoretically, could be redeployed.
This aside, the unveiling of the US's new nuclear doctrine has deepened
Tehran's misgivings about Obama, who has repeatedly promised to engage with
Iran based on "mutual respect" and not the annihilation and extermination
reflected in the nuclear doctrine's blunt language.
The doctrine may be primarily for public consumption, rather than a blueprint
for policy, yet the fact that Obama has consented to a clearly aggressive
nuclear posture vis-a-vis Iran (and North Korea) simply throws a fresh log into
the furnace of anti-Americanism in Iran - this at a delicate time when
confidence-building measures between the two countries are called for.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New
Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry,
click here. His
Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing
, October 23, 2008) is now available.