Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the Nuclear Posture Review’s Cautionary Tale
Iran may not be in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea withdrew from it in 2003. According to the Obama administration’s new Nuclear Posture Review, if those two countries or any other NPT violator/non-signatory attacks the U.S., “all bets are off,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBS’s Bob Schieffer yesterday. The New York Times reports that the Iranian regime plans to protest the NPR’s new declaratory posture to the United Nations.
Clinton, however, explained that the new declaratory posture for when the U.S. will reserve the right to nuclear retaliation isn’t actually aimed at Iran or North Korea. It’s to put the rest of the world on notice that there are severe security risks for not being a good-faith member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty:
[The NPR] is also clear that this is putting everybody on notice. We don’t want more countries to go down the path that North Korea and Iran are. And some countries might have gotten the wrong idea, if they looked at those two over the last years. And so we want to be very clear. We will not use nuclear weapons in retaliation if you do not have nuclear weapons and are in compliance with the NPT.
What she might also have added is that since most of the rest of the world’s nations are good-faith members of the NPT, then the world is arguably more likely to support a U.S. effort that tethers nuclear defense to compliance with an international treaty. That calculation will face its first test when the U.S. pushes for economic sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council later this spring.
One big question in the new U.S. doctrine concerns Pakistan. Pakistan isn’t a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Its security services, particularly the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, have nebulous ties to al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the people whom today’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington is concerned with preventing from getting nuclear materials. Those extremists have proven their intent to attack America. The Obama administration surely does not want to even implicitly threaten Pakistan, a nation with whom it has taken great pains for the last year-plus to cultivate relations. But if al-Qaeda in Pakistan directs an attack against the U.S., what does the NPR say about retaliation in that case? What effort must the U.S. accordingly make to determine possible ISI complicity? What does the NPR look like in Islamabad? Already, according to The New York Times, President Obama is paying some calculated inattention to increased Pakistani nuclear development at the summit this week.