Iran’s intelligence minister warned Tuesday his country would pursue nuclear weapons if sanctions on Tehran are not lifted, directly contravening the regime’s longstanding official stance that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
“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,” Mahmoud Alavi said according to a state-affiliated TV report, referencing a fatwa issued in the 1990s by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei barring nuclear weapons.
“If a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not,” Alavi added.
Last month, a former Iranian diplomat warned Israel or the U.S. if they pursue “dangerous” measures, Khamenei may reverse the religious edict forbidding nuclear weapons.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday warned Tehran will not comply with the 2015 nuclear deal until the U.S. drops all sanctions against it.
The Biden administration, however, has said Iran must first stop enriching uranium.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Tehran was months or even weeks away from a bomb if it continued violating the terms of the deal, echoing a warning made a week earlier by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.
Alavi also said an Iranian serviceman had been involved in the November killing of Mohsen Fakhirzadeh, the mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear program, which the regime blamed on Israel.
“The person who carried out the first preparations for the assassination was a member of the armed forces,” Alavi told the state media on Monday, in remarks carried by AFP.
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that United Nations nuclear inspectors had found traces of undeclared radioactive material at Iranian nuclear sites that could indicate work on nuclear weapons.
Last year, Tehran blocked International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from accessing those same locations for seven months.
One of the facilities in Abadeh was highlighted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2019 as the site of an alleged secret nuclear facility.
Netanyahu said at the time that Iran had “conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons” there and later sought to destroy the site along with any evidence that it had tried.
“This is an actual cover-up. They put gravel on it to try and hide their traces,” he said at the time, adding that the IAEA had found traces of uranium there.
Iran last month announced it was enriching uranium at 20 percent purity.
Once 20 percent purity is reached, it is a short technical step for centrifuges to obtain weapons-grade 90 percent enrichment or even higher.