A senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Sunday that Iran has the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb but has not decided to do so.
“It is no secret that we have the technical capabilities to manufacture a nuclear bomb, but we have no decision to do so," Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations and senior adviser to Khamenei told Al Jazeera's Arabic service.
"In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium,” Kharrazi said while stressing that Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but has not decided to build one.
This is not the first time that Iranian officials say Iran is a nuclear threshold country butdoes not want or need a nuclear weapon and is only enriching uranium for energy and other civilian uses. They often add that Iran's supreme leader has declared that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are all forbidden under Islam (haram).
Khamenei’s fatwa, or religious edict, against the acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons was first revealed in a statement from Iran to the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) in Vienna in August 2005.
But former Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi in February 2021 hinted that the fatwa could change. Former Iranian diplomat and IRGC brigadier-general Amir Mousavi also in an interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television in January 2021 had said fatwas are not permanent and are issued in accordance with developing circumstances. “Therefore, I believe that if the Americans and Zionists act in a dangerous manner, the [Khamenei] fatwa might change.”
Indirect talks between Iran and President Joe Biden
's administration, which aims to bring both Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear pact, officially known as the JCPOA, have been in limbo since March. Tehran and Washington both put the onus of breaking the deadlock on each other.
"There are no American guarantees relating to preserving the nuclear deal, and this will freeze any possible agreement," Kharrazi told Al Jazeera. He was referring to Iran’s demands to receive guarantees that the US would not leave the JCPOA and also lift all sanctions impacting its economy.
The advisor to Iran's Leader further said that direct talks with Washington were difficult “due to the thick wall of mistrust and American policies” while insisting that Tehran would never negotiate over its missile program and regional policy, as demanded by the US and its allies in the Middle East. “Accepting this would mean capitulating [to their demands].”
He also said that speaking of “Middle Eastern NATO” -- a military alliance in the Middle East that similar to NATO -- was “a superficial notion” and that “Saudi Arabia has stressed that such a plan is not on the agenda.”
Kharrazi stressed that the Islamic Republic would directly respond against Israel should its security be targeted. "Targeting our security from neighboring countries will be dealt with a response from us to these countries and a direct response to Israel. We have held extensive drills targeting Israel's depth in case our sensitive facilities are targeted."
But since mid-2020, Israel has reportedly targeted Iran’s sensitive facilities and top personnel several times and Iran has not responded directly.
The US and Israel recently agreed to take a joint stance against Iran's nuclear program and involvement in regional conflicts and said they would work together to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The US and Saudi Arabia also agreed on July 15 on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Riyadh.