Much has been made in the past few weeks of the Obama Administration’s plan to issue a new nuclear weapons doctrine, replacing the Bush Doctrine that included the possibility of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.
But while the Obama Administration is formally renouncing that option on the surface and claiming its arsenal is for “deterrence” only, it appears that the doctrine will include an enormous loophole that will mean the nominal policy shift will ultimately mean very little.
The loophole will insist that the only non-nuclear states free of preemptive nuking are those which are “in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations.” This would, at least from the administration’s perspective, leave open the possibility of attacking Iran with nuclear weapons.
Iran would certainly argue that they are in compliance, of course, but exactly what these obligations are is never altogether clear to the public (the IAEA safeguards agreements are not made public) and President Obama has made clear that he believes Iran is not.
At the end of the day this policy is only a guideline anyhow, and if the president decided to nuke Iran the after the fact argument of if they were really non-compliant will likely be very much beside the point. But while the president still claims to have a goal of a nuclear-free world, the manufacture of such a deliberate loophole for a nuclear first strike is beyond troubling.