President Obama noted at the beginning of April that the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)—along with the recent nuclear security summit, next month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and the pursuit of additional UNSC sanctions—is part of a message that “the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn’t change its behavior.” The updated NPR, among other things, limits the scenarios under which the U.S. would use nuclear weapons; violators of the NPT are viewed as exceptional cases and receive no immunity from U.S. nuclear strikes meant to deter conventional or chemical and biological attacks. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: “if there is a message for Iran and North Korea [in the NPR], it is that if you're going to play by the rules, if you're going to join the international community, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that's covered in the NPR. But if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.” It is unlikely that these messages—intended to “allow Iran to make a different kind of calculation,” according to President Obama—have thus far made the regime feel isolated or persuaded it to change its behavior, based on the responses and actions of the regime.
The NPR reiterates that Iran has “violated non-proliferation obligations, defied directives of the United Nations Security Council, pursued missile delivery capabilities, and resisted international efforts to resolve through diplomatic means the crises they have created.” Moreover, the regime’s actions have weakened the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its “illicit supply of arms and sensitive material and technologies has heightened global proliferation risks and regional tensions.” The document goes on to state that the U.S. is taking steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and provides the assurance that “the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” States refusing to comply with their obligations, like Iran, however, face a “narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW attack against the United States or its allies and partners.” This limited option for nuclear deterrence against non-nuclear, non-compliant NPT members is further conditioned with language that the U.S. “would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances” to defend vital American and allied interests.
The retorts to the NPR have emerged from key figures within the Iranian regime as the Obama administration released the NPR and hosted a 47-nation summit on nuclear security in April:
· Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i on April 21: “The international community should not let Obama get away with nuclear threats…We will not allow America to renew its hellish dominance over Iran by using such threats.” Khamene’i initially called President Obama’s statements on the NPR “disgraceful” and an indication that “the US government is wicked and unreliable.”
· Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on April 12: “World summits being organized these days are intended to humiliate human beings…These foolish people who are in charge are like stupid, retarded people who brandish their swords whenever they face shortcomings, without realizing that the time for this type of thing is over.” On April 7, he referred to President Obama as an “inexperienced and amateur politician” and opined that “American politicians are like cowboys. Whenever they have legal shortcomings, their hands go to their guns.”