Iran says it will change nuclear doctrine and build bombs if existence threatened

Top Khamenei adviser Kamal Kharrazi says country will have ‘no choice’ in those circumstances, warns deterrence policy will change if Israel strikes nuclear facilities

Iran's former foreign affairs minister Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi takes part in a panel during the Doha Forum in Qatar's capital, on March 27, 2022. (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)
Iran's former foreign affairs minister Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi takes part in a panel during the Doha Forum in Qatar's capital, on March 27, 2022. (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

DUBAI — Iran will have to change its nuclear doctrine if its existence is threatened by Israel, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi said, raising fresh concerns about an Iranian nuclear weapon.

“We have no decision to build a nuclear bomb, but should Iran’s existence be threatened, there will be no choice but to change our military doctrine,” Kharrazi said, as reported by Iran’s Student News Network on Thursday, adding that Tehran has already signaled it has the potential to build such weapons.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the development of nuclear weapons in a fatwa in the early 2000s, reiterating his stance in 2019 by saying: “Building and stockpiling nuclear bombs is wrong and using it is haram (religiously forbidden)… Although we have nuclear technology, Iran has firmly avoided it.”

However, Iran’s then-intelligence minister said in 2021 that Western pressure could push Tehran to seek nuclear weapons.

“In the case of an attack on our nuclear facilities by the Zionist regime (Israel), our deterrence will change,” Kharrazi, who is a former foreign minister, added in the remarks published Thursday.

Last month Iran’s Foreign Ministry clarified that the ban is still in place after a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander warned that Tehran might change its nuclear policy if pressured by Israeli threats.

Following a spike in tensions with Israel, the IRGC commander in charge of nuclear security Ahmad Haghtalab said that Israeli threats could push Tehran to “review its nuclear doctrine and deviate from its previous considerations.”

In this March 30, 2005 file photo, an Iranian security official in protective clothing walks through part of the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

In April, Iran and Israel reached their highest level of tensions, with Tehran directly launching about 300 missiles and drones against Israel as retaliation for a suspected deadly Israeli strike on what it said was a building in its embassy compound in Damascus that killed two senior IRGC generals and several other officers.

Israel, with the help of the United States and other allies, almost entirely intercepted the Iranian barrage, though a 7-year-old Bedouin girl in the south was severely injured in the attack and a small amount of damage was done to the Nevatim airbase outside Beersheba.

Israel, in response, was reported to have struck an airbase near Isfahan in central Iran, damaging a radar defense system. Iran downplayed the attack, saying no link to Israel was found, thus allaying fears of a wider regional war.

According to The New York Times, the radar system was guarding the nearby secret Natanz nuclear facility, thought to be hidden deep underground. The IAEA and Iranian officials reported “no damage” to nuclear sites in the province.

Illustrative: Israeli forces remove the remains of an Iranian ballistic missile that was found by hikers near Arad, May 2, 2024, some three weeks after Iran’s first direct strike on Israel. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kharrazi’s remarks came as  United Nations atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi on Tuesday decried “completely unsatisfactory” cooperation from Tehran after returning from Iran where he held talks about its nuclear program.

Grossi’s visit came at a time of heightened regional tensions and with his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) criticizing Iran for lack of cooperation on inspections and other outstanding issues.

Iran suspended compliance with a landmark 2015 deal setting caps on nuclear activities after the United States, under former president Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions.

Tensions between Iran and the IAEA have repeatedly flared since the deal fell apart, and European Union-mediated efforts have so far failed to bring Washington back on board and to get Tehran to again comply with the terms of the accord.

The agency has repeatedly criticized Iran for a lack of cooperation on issues including the expansion of its nuclear work, the barring of inspectors, and the deactivation of the agency’s monitoring devices at its nuclear facilities.

In a report presented at its last Board of Governors meeting in March, the IAEA said that Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium had reached 27 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord.

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