See update below.
When recently presenting the United States’ new nuclear strategy, largely narrowing the potential use of nuclear weapons, two exceptions were explicitly named by President Obama: ‘outliers’ North Korea and Iran. The former had left the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 2003, the latter is assumed, at least by western powers, to be in violation of its safeguards obligations. Naming the two countries reiterates G. W. Bush’s infamous 2002 assignment to an ‘axis of evil’ . Apart from “most immediate and extreme dangers”, i.e., nuclear terrorism,
“[T]oday’s other pressing threat is nuclear proliferation. Additional countries – especially those at odds with the United States, its allies and partners, and the broader international community – may acquire nuclear weapons. In pursuit of their nuclear ambitions, North Korea and Iran have violated non-proliferation obligations, defied directives of the United Nations Security Council, pursued missile delivery capabilities, and resisted international efforts to resolve through diplomatic means the crises they have created. Their provocative behavior has increased instability in their regions and could generate pressures in neighboring countries for considering nuclear deterrent options of their own. Continued non-compliance with non-proliferation norms by these and other countries would seriously weaken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with adverse security implications for the United States and the international community.” (Emphasis added.)
Among the key conclusions of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) are therefore:
“The United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or our allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.
“The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.
“The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are part to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear proliferation obligations.”
So, Obama’s targets are named .
The long-awaited revision of the highly controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which had attested Iran of having halted a military nuclear program in 2003 and not resumed by mid-2007 (‘with confidence’) is overdue, probably due to a staffing issue. Or, due to lack of hard evidence that Iran has in fact resumed the program. Or both? Anyway, the next NIE won’t have de-classified parts, just to prevent bothersome lengthy discussions.
Iran has not been invited to next week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington when leaders of 46 nations will discuss pertinent issues of nuclear terrorisms and nuclear non-proliferation . It may be speculated that Obama might use the conference to reveal new, so far unknown, details of Iran’s nuclear program, as he did on last September’s G20 summit in Pittsburg when he revealed the existence of a then allegedly unknown new enrichment site near Qum. Tougher sanctions on Iran are also on Obama’s agenda.
Bullying Iran might finally lead to the country’s pull-out of the NPT. Then, eventually, the new NPR would make sense, indeed.
 While Iraq has been removed from the list since March 2003 when Operation Iraqi Freedom, recently renamed as New Dawn, commenced, also North Korea has temporarily been relieved in a surprising move by former President G.W. Bush.
 Iran’s own conference on nuclear disarmament next Saturday, April 17, promises to become another ridiculous charade. Yesterday’s unveiling of a new generation of enrichment centrifuges at Natanz won’t lead to confidence building either.
Update April 14, 2010: Iran’s ambassor to the UN Mohammad Khazaee’s letter to the Security Council has been published and can be found here.