New debate in Tehran on the production of a nuclear bomb
Several senior Iranian officials and politicians have opened the door over the past two weeks to the possibility of producing nuclear weapons – despite the fact that Iran has long maintained that it never will.
Driving the news: Iran says Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa – a legal Islamic ruling – against nuclear weapons. But in an unusual statement on Tuesday, Iranian MP Mohammad-Reza Sabbaghian Bafghi warned that parliament could ask Khamenei to revise his fatwa if “Iran’s enemies … continue their threats”.
- This followed a series of statements by other political figures claiming that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon if it so desired.
What they say : “It’s no secret that we have the technical capabilities to make a nuclear bomb, but we haven’t decided to do it,” the former Iranian affairs minister told Al Jazeera two weeks ago. Kamal Kharrazi, who currently heads Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations. .
- Shortly after, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a former diplomat and adviser to Khamenei, said Khamenei’s fatwa did not allow the pursuit of nuclear weapons – “but if we want to do that, no one can stop us.”
- Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, then joined the debate. He reaffirmed that Iran had the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb, but stressed that it had no intention of doing so.
- Eslami’s spokesperson later clarified that his remarks were misunderstood. “Iran does not need nuclear weapons because of its strategic capabilities and will never go in that direction,” he said.
- Last Sunday, an unofficial Telegram channel affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a warning that if Iran’s nuclear facilities were attacked, Iran could immediately revert to Project AMAD, Iran’s clandestine effort to build a nuclear bomb that was shut down in 2003.
The other side: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid made an unusual statement during an event with Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, alluding to Israel’s nuclear weapons.
- “The operational arena in the invisible dome above us is built on defensive capabilities and offensive capabilities, and what foreign media tend to call ‘other capabilities.’ These other capabilities keep us alive and will keep us alive as long as we and our children are here,” Lapid said.
Between the lines: Raz Zimmt, a top Israeli expert on Iran at Tel Aviv University, said the “unusual” and “worrying” Iranian statements are largely a response to Israel’s growing threats of a potential military option against Iranian nuclear facilities.
- “However, we should not rule out the possibility of a new debate among Iranian decision-makers on the possibility of changing Tehran’s nuclear strategy, 19 years after it decided to freeze its military nuclear program,” I said. Zimmt.
Go further: Iran nuclear talks to resume in Vienna on Thursday