In a continuation of Iran's policy of "maximum pressure" against the Biden administration, on February 22, 2021 Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei laid out the next steps for Iran's nuclear project.
Speaking to Iran's Assembly of Experts on the eve of the implementation of the Iranian regime's decision, passed into law by the Majlis, to suspend compliance with the Additional Protocol – that is, to no longer allow snap inspections at Iranian facilities – Khamenei stressed the obligation to implement the law, and clarified that had the regime decided to obtain nuclear weapons, neither Israel nor the U.S. would be able to stop it. At the same time, Khamenei noted that Iran does not seek to obtain nuclear weapons.
Additionally, Khamenei declared null and void the Iranian limit on enriching uranium to 20% – in itself a level that constitutes a violation of the JCPOA nuclear agreement – and announced Iran's intention to boost enrichment to 60% for nuclear propulsion, apparently for submarines.
Analysis And Assessment
The following points should be emphasized:
1. In his statements about nuclear weapons and the beginning of enriching uranium to 60%, Khamenei is marking a change in his regime's declared policy. Up until now, he has stated that Iran was opposed to developing and using nuclear weapons, but now he is presenting it as a possibility that neither Israel nor the U.S. could stop.
2. Also up until now, Iranian officials have said that what is keeping them from developing nuclear weapons is a fatwa by Khamenei, who as supreme leader is Iran's spiritual leader and religious jurisprudent. This alleged fatwa prohibiting the manufacture, possession, and use of nuclear weapons was never issued by Khamenei, as MEMRI has reported multiple times (see Appendix).
However, in his statements yesterday, Khamenei refrained from explicitly mentioning this fatwa, merely referring to "Islamic thought and principles" as prohibiting Iran from possessing weapons of mass destruction. This obfuscation is surprising, since for years regime officials insisted that Khamenei had issued a binding fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons; furthermore, it is inconceivable that Khamenei, a religious jurisprudent, is unfamiliar with the term "fatwa," having issued thousands of them himself. Again, as reported by MEMRI, this "nuclear fatwa" is not to be found on Khamenei's official fatwa website.
3. In the past, Iranian officials have pointed out that Iran may need to enrich uranium to 60% and above for submarine propulsion. As is well known, nuclear submarines are not used for commercial purposes, and it is not accepted practice to install nuclear reactors on cargo vessels (see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis 885, Tehran Declares Intent To Enrich Uranium To 90% For Military Purposes – Nuclear Submarines, September 27, 2012; Inquiry and Analysis No 1390 , In Advance Of Iran's April 9 'Nuclear Technology Day': Developments In Iran's Nuclear Program, Deviations From JCPOA April 10, 2018).
4. It appears that Khamenei's statements referring explicitly to the possibility that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons are establishing the regime trend indicated in MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1556, Iran Uses 'Maximum Pressure' On Biden Administration To Have Sanctions Lifted And Be Recognized As Nuclear Threshold State – And Based On This, To Attain Nuclear Balance Of Terror, published February 5, 2021.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: "We May Increase [Uranium] Enrichment To 60% For The Purpose Of Nuclear Propulsion Or For Other Potential Activities"
The following is a translation of the main points of Supreme Leader Khamenei's speech to Iran's Assembly of Experts, from the officially released version of the text:
"The international Zionist clown is constantly saying 'We won't allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons' – but he should be told that if the Islamic Republic [of Iran] decided to obtain nuclear weapons, neither you [Israel] nor those greater than you [the U.S.] would be able to stop it.
"What is stopping the Islamic Republic [of Iran] from producing nuclear weapons are Islamic thought and principles, which prohibit the production of such weapons, either nuclear or chemical, that kill ordinary people."
Noting "the massacre of 220,000 people in the U.S.'s nuclear bombing [of Japan during World War II]" and "the siege of Yemeni civilians, and the bombing of markets, hospitals, and schools with weapons manufactured by the West," Khamenei continued: "The massacre of civilians and innocents is a method used by the Americans and the Westerners, [while] the Islamic Republic [of Iran] rejects this method. Therefore, it is not considering nuclear weapons. But we are determined to acquire nuclear capabilities in accordance with the needs of the country. Thus, the limit on Iran's [uranium] enrichment will [no longer] be 20%, and the country will take action wherever needed. For example, we may enrich [uranium] to 60% for the purpose of nuclear propulsion or for other potential activities.
"Of course, a multi-year agreement was achieved [the JCPOA], and if they [the West] act in accordance [with it], so will we, for the duration specified [in the agreement]. Westerners are well aware that we do not seek nuclear weapons. The issue of nuclear weapons is a pretext. They even object to us acquiring conventional weapons, because they want to take away the means of Iran's power."
Khamenei went on to call uranium enrichment "a national necessity," claiming that "in the near future, nuclear power plants will become one of the most important energy sources, and will provide healthy, clean, and cost-efficient power." He continued: "Enrichment activity cannot begin on the day [such a need arises]. We must prepare today for the necessities of such a time.
"Westerners want Iran to need them when the day arrives when Iran requires nuclear energy, and they want to use our need in order to coerce and extort [us].
"The Islamic Republic [of Iran] will not back down on the nuclear issue, nor on any other issue, and will move forward forcefully [according to] the current and future interests and needs of the country."
To view Khamenei's statements on MEMRI TV, click here or below:
Khamenei Reiterates Statements In Tweets
Also on February 22, Khamenei wrote a series of tweets reiterating his statements. In them he stressed that Iran would not limit enrichment to 20% but could enrich to 60%; that Iran did not aim to obtain nuclear weapons because of "Islamic fundamentals and commands" but that the U.S. had massacred over 200,000 people with nuclear weapons; that the "international Zionist clown" would not be able to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons, and that the Majlis (Parliament) law on the nuclear issue – that is, to stop implementing the Additional Protocol and to allow snap inspections of nuclear facilities – was a good one and should be "executed precisely."
Appendix: Khamenei's Nonexistent "Nuclear Fatwa"
The following are MEMRI reports on Khamenei's alleged fatwa banning Iran's use of nuclear weapons:
Renewed Iran-West Nuclear Talks – Part II: Tehran Attempts to Deceive U.S. President Obama, Sec'y of State Clinton With Nonexistent Anti-Nuclear Weapons Fatwa By Supreme Leader Khamenei, April 19, 2012
U.S. Secretary Of State Kerry In New And Unprecedented Statement: 'President Obama And I Are Both Extremely Welcoming And Grateful For The Fact That [Iranian] Supreme Leader [Khamenei] Has Issued A [Nonexistent] Fatwa' Banning Nuclear Weapons, March 31, 2014
Insights Following Exposure Of Iran's Military Nuclear Program – Part I: The Leadership Of Iran's Religious Regime Lies About Essential Islamic Matters, Manipulates Religion To Justify Its Grip On Power, Regional Expansion; May 6, 2018.