Iran Accuses U.S. of ‘Shamelessly Threatening’ Russia with Nuclear Weapons

Iran accused the U.S. on Sunday of threatening Russia with new atomic weapons, after the Trump administration published a document outlining plans to expand its nuclear capabilities in order to deter others, The Guardian reports.

“The Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new atomic weapon,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday.

Greg Weaver, deputy director of strategic capabilities for the military’s joint staff, told reporters on Friday the “U.S. and Nato require a wider range of credible low-yield nuclear options” to deter Russia from using its own smaller nuclear weapons.

Iran accused the United States on Sunday of threatening Russia with new atomic weapons after Washington published a document outlining plans to expand its nuclear capabilities to deter others.The review of U.S. nuclear policy published on Friday has riled Russia, which viewed the document as confrontational, and raised fears that it could increase the risk of miscalculation between the two world powers.

“The Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new atomic weapon. The same people who supposedly believe that using weapons of mass destruction is a crime against humanity … are talking about new weapons to threaten or use against rivals,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who opened the way to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers including longtime adversary Washington, said in a speech.

Rouhani is a key figure who helped pave the way for the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal with several other global powers. His comments came after the Defense Department on Friday unveiled a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), its first in eight years, which calls for developing smaller nukes in a bid to counter Russia. Rouhani argued the policy is a hypocritical approach coming from a country that has repeatedly warned Tehran about the destructiveness of such powerful weapons.

Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier warned in a tweet that the U.S. policy risked “bringing humankind closer to annihilation”. His comments late Saturday came a day after the Pentagon revealed plans to revamp its nuclear arsenal, largely in response to a perceived renewed threat from Russia.  Zarif said the new policy was “in violation” of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review reflects greater reliance on nukes in violation of the #NPT, bringing humankind closer to annihilation,” Zarif said on Twitter.

Zarif said the same impulse was driving the United States to undermine the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which President Donald Trump has demanded be renegotiated.

“Trump’s obduracy in killing the #JCPOA stems from the same dangerous imprudence,” Zarif wrote, using the technical name for the nuclear deal.

The U.S. military has put countering China and Russia at the center of a new national defense strategy unveiled earlier this month, shifting priorities away from fighting Islamist militants. By expanding its own low-yield nuclear capability, the U.S. would deter Russia from using nuclear weapons, according to American officials. Russia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it was very disappointed by the document, which, it said, has a confrontational feel and anti-Russian orientation.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the U.S. decision showed “the spiral of a new nuclear arms race is already underway” and added that Europe was, much like during the cold war, especially vulnerable.

“That’s why we need to start new initiatives in Europe for arms control and disarmament,” Gabriel said in a statement, adding that developing new weapons sent the wrong message and risked triggering an arms race.

Gabriel acknowledged that Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine had led to a “dramatic loss of trust towards Russia” in Europe as well as Washington, and that “signs that Russia is re-arming, not only conventionally but with nuclear weapons, are obvious”. Gabriel called for “existing arms control treaties to be upheld unconditionally”. Berlin would press “with its allies and partners” for further worldwide disarmament, he said.

“Our long-term aim must continue to be a world without nuclear weapons,” Gabriel said – the stated aim of U.S. nuclear policy under Barack Obama.

Historically a close U.S. ally and key NATO member, nuclear weapons were a divisive issue in Germany’s cold war politics. Berlin does not have its own arsenal, but the Pentagon maintained nuclear warheads in Germany as part of a gigantic military presence designed to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The issue has been rediscovered by politicians in the wake of Trump’s election. Martin Schulz, who challenged Angela Merkel last September, called for remaining American bombs to be removed from Germany.

Trump gave the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated before he took office, a final reprieve last month but warned European allies and Congress they had to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the pact or face a U.S. exit. He said he would waive sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the international deal for the last time unless his conditions were met. The ultimatum put pressure on EU powers – key backers and parties to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iranian nuclear ambition.