‘There will be no choice but to change…’: Iran’s nuclear warning to Israel amid spike in tensions

In the light of escalating tensions with Israel, Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hinted at a shift in Iran’s nuclear doctrine if its existence is perceived to be under threat by Israel. 

The latest comment by a top Iranian official raises questions about Tehran’s claims that its nuclear programme is peaceful. 

“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,” Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Khamenei and the nation’s former foreign minister, was quoted by Iran’s Student News Network. 

“In the case of an attack on our nuclear facilities by the Zionist regime, our deterrence will change,” Kharrazi said. 

Tensions between Iran and Israel spiked when the former launched a barrage of drones and missiles targeting Israeli territory, in response to an alleged bombing by Israel on the Iranian embassy in Syria’s capital Damascus earlier in April.  

Kharrazi in 2022 warned that Iran was technically capable of making a nuclear bomb but had not yet decided whether to build one. 

The final say in Tehran’s nuclear programme is that of its supreme leader Khamenei. He banned the development of nuclear weapons in a fatwa, or religious edict, in the early 2000s. 

He reiterated that in 2019, saying that building and stockpiling nuclear bombs was “wrong and using it is haram”, or religiously forbidden. 

But Iran’s then-intelligence minister said in 2021 that Western pressure could push Tehran towards nuclear weapons. 

Amid this backdrop, efforts to engage with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have yielded mixed results.  

Iran is enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, whereas weapons grade uranium is enriched to about 90 percent. If the current nuclear material on hand were enriched further, it would suffice for two nuclear weapons, according to an official UN nuclear watchdog IAEA’s yardstick.  

While discussions between Iran’s nuclear officials and IAEA representatives have been described as positive and productive, tangible progress remains elusive.  

Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, expressed frustration over Iran’s alleged lack of cooperation, highlighting the urgency for concrete measures to address outstanding concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear activities.  

Last year, Iran made commitments to assist in investigating uranium particles found at undeclared sites and reinstall monitoring equipment. However, the IAEA reports indicate that these assurances have not resulted in significant advancements. 

During discussions between Grossi and Iranian officials, both sides acknowledged the 2023 agreement as a potential framework for cooperation, but implementation has been slow. Additionally, concerns were raised about external interference, particularly from Israel, which Iran views as a hostile actor. 

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