(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that Iran and North Korea will become “more isolated,” in announcing a new policy that restricts America’s use of nuclear weapons except in the event that those states violate their international obligations.
Under the Nuclear Posture Review, released Tuesday, the US pledged not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and “in compliance” with their NPT obligations, Obama said.
“Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure,” he stressed.
Iran and North Korea have signed the NPT, but have been cited for multiple violations. The guidelines do not affect Israel, which has never publicly declared it has nuclear weapons and is not an NPT signatory.
Obama justified the new US nuclear approach on the grounds that “this enables us to sustain our nuclear deterrent for the narrower range of contingencies in which these weapons may still play a role, while providing an additional incentive for nations to meet their NPT obligations.”
In an interview with The New York Times
published Tuesday, he warned that “when you’re looking at outliers like Iran or North Korea, they should see that over the course of the last year and a half, we have been executing a policy that will increasingly isolate them so long as they are operating outside of accepted international norms.”
He said, “We don’t begrudge any country obtaining nuclear energy for peaceful civilian purposes. But Iran has not considered itself bound in many ways by the basic precepts of the NPT, or has violated them on several occasions. And so we are going to continue to try to isolate any countries that are operating outside of that approach.”
He referred to the fact that Iran had “pursued nuclear weapons in the past, and that the current course they’re on would provide them with nuclear weapons capabilities,” saying, “You combine those facts, and the message that we are sending is that this behavior is unacceptable. It is outside of the rules of the road that the international community has observed. They have an opportunity to correct these – what I consider to be a misguided approach.”
Asked whether he thought Israel was likely to launch a military strike on the Islamic Republic, Obama responded, “I’m not going to speculate on Israeli decision-making.”
But he said the US, Israel and other members of the international community have been “very concerned” about Iran’s actions and statements, and that US signals on nuclear policy – including the posture review and conference the president is convening in Washington next week on securing nuclear material – show that “the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn’t change its behavior.”
Obama declined to “parse” whether the US could live with a nuclear-capable Iran – which Israel has ruled out along with a nuclear-armed Iran – but pointed to the example of North Korea, which had been said to be merely nuclear-capable until it kicked out inspectors and conducted nuclear tests.
“Rather than splitting hairs on this, I think that the international community has a strong sense of what it means to pursue civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes versus a weaponizing capability,” he said.
Questioned on how the Bush administration’s failure to adhere to its promise to hold North Korea “accountable” after it aided Syria in building a nuclear reactor affected US credibility, Obama replied, “I don’t think countries around the world are interested in testing our credibility when it comes to these issues.”
When it comes to the credibility of sanctions, several rounds of which
have already been passed by the UN against Iran with the US pushing for
more, Obama said the US was “not naïve that any single set of sanctions
automatically is going to change Iranian behavior.”
He added, “I’ve said consistently that we preserve all options in
looking out for US national security interests as well as the interests
of its allies. But we do think that sanctions that are robust send a
Obama again refused to “parse words” when asked whether he was seeking
“crippling sanctions,” as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once
“I think the intention is to have sanctions that have, that carry with them significant consequences,” he said.