Khamenei: Iran Wants Nuclear Energy, Not Nuclear Arms

Iran negotiator: Partners closer than ever on deal

It’s far from the first time he’s said so, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, said Thursday that Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons, and that the program is purely civilian, a pursuit of atomic energy that Iran badly needs.

Iranian leadership has been saying this for years, but factions hostile to Iran in the region, notably Israel, continue to push the myth of Iran seeking nuclear arms, and have been doing it so much that the reality of Iran’s intentions are often forgotten.

Heavy sanctions against Iran have limited their ability to maintain a large, potentially valuable oil industry. Iran’s answer to this has been to try to grow a nuclear energy program for internal use, leaving more of the produced oil for export.

Even if no one is inclined to take Iran’s word for it, the nation’s behavior strongly supports Khamenei’s comments. Throughout many years, Iran’s enrichment program has consistently centered on energy production through low-enriched fuel, and there has never even been an attempt at producing weapons-grade uranium.

Iran has consistently given the IAEA access to show that there is no active weapons program, and while this is scorned by anti-Iran hawks, the system in place, even moreso when the P5+1 nuclear deal was intact, gave the IAEA monitors absolute transparency to show that no diversion to military purpose was being done. Iran’s negotiators say restoration of the deal is close, despite hawks opposing it.

On top of everything else, Khamenei is the top religious leader in Iran, and has declared nuclear arms forbidden under Shi’ite Islam. Considering how religiously conservative Iran is, that should be seen as a strong disincentive toward a weapons program.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.