Iran’s Minister of Intelligence told state-run TV on Monday night that the regime could move towards nuclear weapons despite a fatwa by the country’s Supreme Leader forbidding nukes.
“The Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa which stipulates that nuclear weapons are haram (forbidden) but a cornered cat behaves differently from a free cat. If Iran is pushed in that direction, it is no longer Iran’s fault,” Mahmoud Alavi warned.
Alavi is citing a fatwa issued by Khamenei in the 2000s that bans the development of nuclear weapons.
This is while Iran has been using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for clandestine weapons development for years. On 14 August 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed the existence of undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran and put the spotlight on the regime’s pursuit of nukes.
Both Iranian officials and former US officials in the Obama administration have cited Khamenei’s fatwa as proof of the regime’s disinterest in nuclear weapons.
During negotiations that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, former Secretary of State John Kerry had described the fatwa as a very serious and important factor.
In 2014, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the “fatwa of the Supreme Leader is the most important guarantee of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program”.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif has cited the fatwa numerous times to attack US sanctions and Trump’s maximum pressure campaign.
In an interview in June 2014, he stressed that it “can be said that Khamenei’s fatwa was reminiscent of fatwa’s issued 1,000 years ago”.
In May 2019, he tweeted that “Ayatollah Khamenei long ago said we’re not seeking nuclear weapons—by issuing a fatwa (edict) banning them”.
Speaking to CNN’s Christian Amanpour on February 2, Zarif once again dismissed that Iran was “weeks away” from having enough enrichment for nuclear weapons and said that the pursuit of nukes contradicted the regime’s “ideological views”.
The regime’s threats come at a time when the Biden administration has taken a weaker stance on the regime’s nuclear weapons program and has called for diplomacy to curb the Iran threat.