Iranian President Slams New U.S. Nuclear Plan as Threat to Russia

Rohani says 'Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new atomic weapon'

File photo: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers remarks at a news conference in New York City on September 20, 2017.
\ Stephanie Keith/ REUTERS

Iranian President Hassan Rohani 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 as a deterrent.

“The Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new atomic weapon,”  said in a speech.

“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,” he said in his televised address.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier warned in a tweet that the U.S. policy document posed the risk of “bringing humankind closer to annihilation."

Zarif also said in his tweet: “(U.S. President Donald) Trump’s obduracy in killing the #JCPOA (Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers) stems from the same dangerous imprudence."

According to a policy document known as the Nuclear Posture Review released on Friday, the United States will expand its nuclear capabilities in reponse to concern over Russia’s growing tactical nuclear weapons, a move some critics say could increase the risk of miscalculation between the two countries.

The focus on Russia is in line with the Pentagon shifting priorities from the fight against Islamist militants to “great power competition” with Moscow and Beijing.

“Our strategy will ensure Russia understands that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is unacceptable,” said the Pentagon document.

The document has riled Russia, with Russia’s Foreign Ministry stating it was confrontational and anti-Russian.

“We, of course, will have to take into account the approach enacted now in Washington and to take the needed measures to secure our own safety,” the ministry said.

The Pentagon document, which is largely in line with the previous review in 2010, said the United States will modify a small number of submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads with low-yield options.

Low-yield nuclear weapons, while still devastating, have a strength of less than 20 kilotons. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had about the same explosive power.

The argument for these weapons is that larger nuclear bombs are so catastrophic that they would never be used and do not work as an effective deterrent. With less power and destruction, the low-yield option would potentially be more likely to be used, serving as an effective deterrent.

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.