Rowhani to Iran generals: cut hostile rhetoric
The moderate Iranian president Rowhani told defense ministry officials that Tehran decided not to develop nuclear weapons out of principle
President Hassan Rowhani urged Iran’s military leaders on Saturday to let diplomacy prevail in dealing with potential foreign threats, in a clear reference to efforts to end the nuclear dispute and decades of hostile relations with the West, Reuters reported.
“It is very important to formulate one’s sentences and speeches in a way that is not construed as threat, intention to strike a blow,” Reuters quoted Rowhani as saying in a meeting with Iran’s top military echelon.
“We must be very careful in our calculations. Launching missiles and staging military exercises to scare off the other side is not good deterrence, although a necessity in its proper place,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
He added: “A misfire could burst into flames and wreak havoc to everything.”
A moderate elected by landslide last June, Rowhani has broken with tradition and pursued compromise with the United States and its allies on uranium enrichment, a sensitive issue that resulted in global economic sanctions against Iran.
The Associated Press reported Rowhani as telling defense ministry officials that the Islamic Republic has decided not to develop nuclear weapons out of principle, not only because it is prevented so by treaties.
“We are not after weapons of mass destruction. That’s our red line,” he said.
He added: “If Iran was after weapons of mass destruction, it would build chemical weapons. Those are easier to make. It would build biological arms, which are even easier than making chemical weapons.”
He reiterated a policy set by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who issued a religious decree banning the production and use of nuclear weapons.
He has said holding such arms is a sin as well as “useless, harmful and dangerous.”
Iran is a signatory to the NPT and says it will remain committed to its obligations not to build nuclear weapons under the treaty but will not compromise on its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
“We signed these treaties to show the world we are not after such weapons,” he told military commanders.
“Even if there were no NPT or other treaties, our belief, our faith, our religion and principles tell us not to seek weapons of mass destruction.”
Rowhani’s efforts run counter to belligerent slogans from Islamic hardliners who dominate the elite Revolutionary Guards and the regular army to a lesser extent.
While Iranian nuclear negotiators were haggling with world powers in Vienna last month, many generals were beating war drums at home and flexing their military muscles.
“Our forefathers primed us for the final epic battle,” said the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad-Ali Jafari last month.
Such belligerence was absent from Rowhani's speech on Saturday.
“Our foreign policy is based on detente and trust-building with the world. This is not just a slogan,” he said
“Iran is sincere in saying it is not out to attack anyone. Aggression is our red line. Weapons of mass destruction are our red line.”
(With Reuters and Associated Press)