Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh restated on Monday that Tehran’s official policy prohibits the development of nuclear weapons. His comments came after Iran’s intelligence minister suggested pressure from the US could cause Iran to consider a different policy.
“Iran’s position remains unchanged. Iran’s nuclear activities have always been peaceful and will remain peaceful,” Khatibzadeh said. “The supreme leader’s fatwa banning weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons is still valid,” he said, referring to a religious edict from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Last week, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi made comments that were taken by Western and Israeli media as a “threat” that Iran is considering making a nuclear weapon. But even in his remarks, Alavi repeated that nuclear weapons were prohibited by Khamenei.
“Our nuclear program is peaceful and the fatwa by the supreme leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it,” Alavi said.
“But if a cat is caught in a corner, it may behave differently … If they are pushing Iran in that direction, then it is not Iran’s fault, but those who pushed it,” Alavi added. He also said that Tehran has no current plans to pursue a bomb.
While Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, it has increased the activity of its civilian nuclear program as a direct result of Washington’s pressure and failure to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Iran is currently enriching some uranium at 20 percent and researching uranium metal. Iran hawks frame this as the Islamic Republic racing towards a bomb, but it has a civilian purpose.
Uranium enriched at 20 percent is needed to power the Tehran Research Reactor, a facility that was built by the US in the 1960s that can produce medical isotopes. To make fuel rods for the TRR, uranium metal is needed.
Since Iran is still under crippling economic sanctions, increasing enrichment to power the TRR and produce medical isotopes can help its medical sector and also gain leverage over the US. Iranian officials have made it clear that they are willing to scale back this nuclear activity to come within the limits of the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions.