JERUSALEM, Israel – Iran’s Intelligence Minister warned that the Islamic Republic may pursue nuclear weapons if crippling international sanctions against Tehran are not lifted.
"Our nuclear program is a peaceful one and in the fatwa by the Supreme Leader explicitly stated that the manufacturing of nuclear weapons is forbidden by the Sharia and the Islamic Republic won't go after them and considers seeking them as Haram,” Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said in a statement Tuesday reported by state media.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signed a fatwa, or religious decree, in the 1990s stating that nuclear weapons are “Haram” or forbidden.
“However, if a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not. If Iran is pushed in that direction, then it wouldn't be Iran's fault but those who pushed it. Under normal circumstances Iran does not have such a program and intent at all,” Alavi continued.
The minister’s comments are significant because Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is only for civilian use and that it does not intend to create a weapon. The unprecedented statement raised the stakes in the growing nuclear confrontation between Israel, Iran and the US.
In recent weeks, Iran has ramped up its violations of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers.
Iran said last month that it began enriching uranium to 20% purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade. The country also said it wants to experiment with uranium metals, a key ingredient for a nuclear warhead.
While the enrichment goes on, Iran’s Khamenei and President Biden are in a faceoff. Khamenei says no new deal unless the US lifts sanctions and Biden says no sanctions relief unless Iran stops its enrichment of uranium.
The Trump administration hit Iran with crippling sanctions after Washington pulled out of the Iran deal in 2018. The Biden administration wants to negotiate a stronger agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but says the US is a long way off from negotiations.
Israel has long accused Iran of actively seeking a nuclear weapon and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has said the Israeli military is preparing plans to hit Iran’s nuclear program in the coming year.
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