Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran who continues to maintain a loyal following both inside and outside of the country, admitted in an interview with Iranian media that the regime in Tehran commenced a nuclear weapons program at the height of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
Rafsanjani’s revelation marked the first time that a top Iranian regime official (past or present) has publicly acknowledged Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
The Rafsanjani interview, which appeared on the IRNA Persian website and was not translated into English, was first reported on and translated by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a revolutionary group of Iranian exiles and dissidents.
“At the time that we started, we were at war and we were looking to have this capability [the nuclear bomb] for the day that our enemy would want to resort to the nuclear bomb,” Rafsanjani reportedly told IRNA.
“Our basic doctrine was peaceful usage of the nuclear technology [although] we never abandoned the idea that if one day we are threatened and it is imperative, we would have the capability for going the other path [to nuclear weapon] as well,” the former President added.
Later in the interview, Rafsanjani revealed that he and Khamenei pursued A.Q. Khan, who is credited with founding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
North Korea was among [the] countries that was somewhat ahead in this work [of building the nuclear bomb]. They made proposals to us. … For Esfahan we signed an accord with the Chinese to build the UCF [Uranium Conversion Facility]. They gave us the complete design and they started the work. They made advances in engineering and arrived at some achievements. In my second trip to China, the Chinese President … signed an accord with me to build two nuclear reactors.
But in the end, “80% to 90% of the Iranian people” support the nuclear deal with world powers “and want to be done with” the pursuit of nuclear weapons under the Ayatollah, he concludes.
Rasfsanjani, 80, who served as Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997, now heads the regime’s Expediency Discernment Council. As chairman of the body, Rafsanjani was appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In his position, the former President advises Khamenei and supervises the Ayatollah-controlled Parliament.