Iranian Lawmaker: ‘In My Opinion, We Have Achieved Nuclear Weapons’

A model of a missile is carried by Iranian demonstrators as a minaret and dome of a mosque
AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Iranian member of Parliament Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani said in an interview this weekend that he believed his country had successfully developed a nuclear weapon, contrary to international law, but would not admit to it.

Ardestani claimed that Iran would still claim to be abiding by the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), the 2015 agreement brokered by American President Barack Obama that dramatically reduced sanctions on Tehran in exchange for promises not to expand its nuclear development. Iran has consistently violated the nuclear deal for years; President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 but the other four countries that joined the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom – remain parties to it.

Ardestani’s comments, as translated by the dissident news site Iran International, followed a fraught visit to Iran by the head of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, in which he declared the Islamist regime’s refusal to properly comply with inspections “completely unsatisfactory” and implored Iran to abide by international regulations.

The lawmaker raised the possibility that Iran already possessed a nuclear weapon in an interview on Friday with the website Rouydad 24.

“In my opinion, we have achieved nuclear weapons, but we do not announce it. It means our policy is to possess nuclear bombs, but our declared policy is currently within the framework of the JCPOA,” Iran International translated Ardestani as saying. “The reason is that when countries want to confront others, their capabilities must be compatible, and Iran’s compatibility with America and Israel means that Iran must have nuclear weapons.”

Ardestani suggested that it was necessary for Tehran to possess nuclear weapons because the United States is one of the world’s few legitimate nuclear powers. He also implied Israel is a nuclear power; Israel has not declared itself to hold nuclear bombs but international observers have long speculated that Israel developed its own nuclear weapons.

“In a climate where Russia has attacked Ukraine and Israel has attacked Gaza, and Iran is a staunch supporter of the Resistance Front, it is natural for the containment system to require that Iran possess nuclear bombs,” Ardestani reportedly said. “However, whether Iran declares it is another matter.”

Iran International suggested that Ardestani being “reelected” to Parliament this year indicates that he is a “trusted regime figure,” as only “supreme leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei only allows preapproved candidates on “election” ballots. Ardestani had long been a partisan with close ties to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, who fell out of favor with Khamenei and was blocked from running for president twice, in 2017 and 2021.

Iran has long publicly denied interest in nuclear weapons, claiming its nuclear development is “peaceful” despite years of reports, including copious amounts of evidence compiled by Israel. Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian repeated the claim during a conference on Sunday, insisting that Tehran opposed the presence of nuclear weapons in the Middle East entirely.

“As a responsible actor and supporter of international peace and security, Iran stresses the importance of holding a referendum as a political solution to the Palestinian issue and establishing a Middle East free of nuclear weapons,” the Iranian state propaganda outlet PressTV paraphrased Amir-Abdollahian as saying.

Amir-Abdollahian’s reported comments follow threats from a senior adviser to Khamenei last week, however, that Iran is ready to abandon its alleged policy of only peaceful nuclear development to threaten Israel. Iran International quoted Kamal Kharrazi as warning that an Israel attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would change Iran’s “level of deterrence.”

“We have experienced deterrence at the conventional level so far. If they intend to strike Iran’s nuclear capabilities, naturally, it could lead to a change in Iran’s nuclear doctrine,” the Khamenei adviser reportedly said.

Shortly before those threats, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Mohammad Eslami, met with the IAEA chief Grossi in Tehran.

“Well-experienced figures have participated in this summit despite acts of obstructionism, and good articles have been presented. Our goal is that these articles and achievements showcase the level of Iran’s science and technology to the world,” Eslami said during a meeting with Grossi. Eslami also claimed Iran was interested in working to “share” nuclear technology with other countries, suggesting the potential of proliferation.

Grossi tempered his comments while in Iran before excoriating its leadership for failing to cooperate with the United Nations once out of the country.

“The present state is completely unsatisfactory for me. We are almost at an impasse and this needs to be changed,” Grossi said upon arriving in Austria following visit to Iran, lamenting that “political conditions” were making interactions with Iran difficult.

In January, Grossi said that he believed that Iran had enriched “enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons,” potentially supporting Ardestani’s claims. He clarified that stockpiling the material does not necessary violate any international laws, however, so long as they do not make moves to explicitly manufacture a weapon.

A month later, he lamented “concerning rhetoric” from Iranian politicians that the country was ready to build a bomb.

“There is a concerning rhetoric; you may have heard high officials in Iran saying they have all the elements for a nuclear weapon lately,” he said.

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