A top aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Sunday that his country has the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, but is choosing not to do so.
Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, told Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel: “It is no secret that we have the technical capabilities to manufacture a nuclear bomb, but we have no decision to do so.”
“In a few days, we were able to enrich uranium up to 60 percent, and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium,” he said.
Iran is in the throes of negotiations to save a failing 2015 agreement it signed with world powers that was supposed to prevent it producing a nuclear weapon. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action provided Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. It was signed between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.
However, in 2018 the Trump administration pulled out of the pact — saying it did not go far enough to prevent Iran producing nuclear weapons and also due to its concerns over Iran missile development program. Washington reimposed stiff sanctions on Iran which responded by dropping many of its own commitments to the deal, ramping up its nuclear activities and in particular increasing uranium enrichment beyond the limits of the JCPOA.
European-sponsored talks to bring the US back into the JCPOA have stalled for months and another recent round of negotiations between Iran and the US in Qatar also failed to make progress.
Kharazi said negotiations on a return to the nuclear deal with the US are difficult, due to distrust between the sides and because, he claimed, Washington will not provide any guarantees that it will remain in the agreement.
He further rejected any possibility of including Iran’s missile program or its regional policies in the negotiations — as to do so would be “surrender.”
Israel, which opposes a US return to the JCPOA, has threatened to act alone in striking Iranian facilities if it feels there is an existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran equipping itself with nuclear weapons.
Kharazi also commented on the recent visit to the region by US President Joe Biden, which included a stop in Israel where he signed a declaration of security commitment to Israel, and a visit to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for a summit with Gulf Council leaders.
He claimed that Israel “is in a phase of weakness, and US President Joe Biden’s support for it will not bring it back to the fore.”
Kharazi dismissed the Jerusalem Declaration — signed by Israel and the US last week — as repeated dogma that will not produce any significant results. At the signing ceremony, Biden vowed to use all power available to stop an nuclear Iran.
He also described efforts to organize defense cooperation among some Arabs states — together with Israel and including Saudi Arabia — against threats from Iran as empty threats. He pointed to the Saudis who themselves have publicly said the idea is not an option.
Kharazi said Tehran is willing to open dialogue aimed at normalizing ties with Riyadh, and also warned that “targeting our security from neighboring countries will be met with a response to these countries and a direct response to Israel.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan insisted Saturday that he was not aware of any talks at the Jeddah summit on including Israel in an integrated Middle East air defense network — an initiative that Washington and Jerusalem have both discussed openly in recent months.
The idea of a joint air defense network between Israel and its Arab neighbors was raised during the Negev Summit of foreign ministers from Israel, the US, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Egypt in March.
In late June, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said an air defense pact between Israel and its regional allies to combat Iran was “already in action.”