Iranian Official Says Iran Could Be Compelled to Search Nuclear Arms
The Iranian intelligence minister on Tuesday raised the possibility that his country would be forced to look for nuclear weapons if American sanctions were not lifted. This is an attention-grabbing break with the country’s pledge that its nuclear energy program would always be peaceful.
The statements of the secret service minister Mahmoud Alavi were published on state television and put new pressure on the three-week-old Biden government to avert a new crisis with Iran.
They came amid an escalating stalemate between Iran and Mr Biden, who has said the United States would lift sanctions if Iran returned to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal for the first time. Iran has stated that the sanctions that President Donald J. Trump imposed following his resignation from the deal in 2018 must first be lifted – and that Iran can demonstrate that they have been lifted.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on military and security issues, issued a religious edict or fatwa in the 1990s declaring that nuclear weapons are banned. That is still the official position of Iran.
But Mr Alavi said American sanctions, which have devastated the Iranian economy, could force plans to change.
“Our nuclear program is a peaceful program and the top leader made it clear in his fatwa that the manufacture of nuclear weapons is against religious law and the Islamic Republic will not pursue it and consider it forbidden,” he said. “But let me tell you, when you corner a cat, it may behave differently from a cat that is free to roam. If they push Iran in this direction, it would not be Iran’s fault, but the fault of those who pushed Iran. “
Mr Trump’s pressure campaign against Iran has resulted in increasing talk among commentators in the Iranian media that nuclear weapons should be viewed as an effective deterrent against enemies.
Mr Alavi’s remarks made this high-level discussion public. His voice carries some weight, Iranian analysts said because he is one of the cabinet members appointed by the top leader.
Analysts on Iran’s stance on Mr Biden said the intelligence minister’s remarks were part of an orchestrated crescendo of threats. They set a February 21 deadline under a new Iranian law that would prevent international nuclear inspectors from visiting Iranian nuclear sites if sanctions are not lifted by then.
Such a move would be a significant new breach of what is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Iran negotiated with major powers six years ago. Since Mr Trump stepped down from the deal, re-imposed old sanctions and added new ones, Iran has systematically ignored elements of the deal, including limiting its nuclear fuel stocks.
“I think this is part of a strategy Iran is currently pursuing to put as much pressure as possible on the Biden administration to return to the JCPOA,” said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech .
“This is the first time anyone in the hierarchy has posed such an obvious threat,” said Boroujerdi. “This guy says, ‘If you push us, we’ll go there.'”