Obama threatens to nuke Iran?
Iran announced it will lodge a formal complaint at the UN against remarks by US President Barack Obama that Washington could use nuclear weapons against Tehran. "We will submit our formal complaint against this kind of threats to the United Nations," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast in an interview with the Fars News Agency, calling the remarks "a threat to global security."
In an interview with the New York Times ahead of the release of the new US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), Obama singled out Iran and North Korea as countries that would not be covered by Washington's pledge not to use nuclear weapons against states complying with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Defence Secretary, Robert Gates added: "I actually think that the NPR has a very strong message for both Iran and North Korea."
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Obama's words were "disgraceful and harmful to the Americans." He urged that the "world should not overlook such words" where "the president of a country threatens [another country] with an atomic attack."
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that the move to file a complaint was backed by 255 of Iran's 290 Parliament members. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged that Obama had made his remarks under the influence of Israeli lobby groups. (The Hindu, April 13; Press TV, April 11)
Against nuclear terrorism—but not against nuclear terror
The fracas comes as an historic two-day nuclear summit gets underway in Washington on confronting the threat of nuclear terrorism. Yet even as Obama met with global leaders to discuss control of nuclear materials, his administration highlighted the message that the US nuclear arsenal remains as strong as ever.
While Obama entertained foreign leaders at Blair House, Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave interviews reasserting the nation's military strength. They indicated that the US will spend $5 billion this year to modernize its existing nuclear weapons. "We'll be, you know, stronger than anybody in the world, as we always have been, with more nuclear weapons than are needed many times over," Clinton said on ABC's "This Week."
Among the states attending were Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew from the summit at the last minute. He instead sent a deputy and two senior advisers, "after learning that some countries including Egypt and Turkey plan to say Israel must sign the NPT," an Israeli official said. (WP, April 12; Reuters, April 13)
New START: not this year?
The summit also comes days after Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the so-called New START treaty, pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by soe 30%. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol, both countries would only be allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted. The treaty would also re-establish mechanisms to allow each party to inspect the other's nuclear arsenal. Speaking at a joint press conference after signing the treaty, Obama said that "[w]hile the New START treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey," reiterating his vision of a world without nuclear arms. (Jurist, April 8)
But US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) this week said that Senate approval of the New START treaty not happen this year. Speaking to Fox News, Alexander stated, "there's not a chance the treaty will be approved this year. It took a year and a half to approve the START I treaty." (Jurist, April 12)
See our last post on nuclear fear.