14:02 GMT28 February 2021
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    The Islamic Republic has long maintained that it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons, or weapons of mass destruction of any kind, and has repeatedly demanded that the United States and Israel dismantle their large stocks of WMDs.

    Iran’s nuclear programme is strictly peaceful and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s fatwa (religious ruling) banning the creation of nukes remains in force, but the nation’s non-nuclear future cannot be guaranteed so long as the West continues to try to “corner” Iran, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi has warned.

    “I will tell you – if a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of a behaviour that a cat that is free would not”, Alavi said, his remarks quoted by IRIB TV2 on Tuesday.

    “Our nuclear programme is peaceful and the fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, it would be the fault of those who pushed, not Iran’s”, he added.

    The minister went on to emphasise that under the “current circumstances”, Iran has “no plans” to pursue nuclear weapons.

    Alavi also indicated that his ministry has been kept abreast of US plans to carry out military strikes against Iran to compensate for Washington’s "defeat" in the economic war with Tehran. According to the official, Iranian actions, including the 2019 shoot-down of a US stealth drone by a cutting-edge Iranian-made air defence missile, and the recent testing of a long-range Iranian ballistic missile against a moving target in Indian Ocean waters 1,800 km away, have forced the Pentagon to think twice about launching any military operations.

    Iron-Clad Fatwa

    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons in the 1990s, stating that the creation, deployment, or use of such arms was unacceptable to the nation’s Islamic faith. In the Islamic Republic, fatwas have immense significance, and cannot be broken.

    During the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a similar fatwa banning the use of all weapons of mass destruction. This included Iran’s substantial arsenal of chemical weapons, which Tehran never deployed against Iraq, despite repeated Iraqi chemical attacks that killed over 20,000 Iranian military personnel and thousands of civilians. Under international law at the time, Tehran had the right to use its chemical weapons to retaliate against an adversary’s use of such arms. Iran completely eliminated its chemical weapons stockpile in the 1990s before signing on to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, and has urged other countries, including the United States, to do the same.

    In recent weeks, the Biden administration has sent mixed signals about plans to reverse the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement – which promised Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme. On Sunday, President Biden indicated that the US would not come back to the negotiating table until Iran halts its uranium enrichment activities. Before that, Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised eyebrows by echoing Israeli claims that Iran could be just “weeks” away from accumulating enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb. Israel lobbied Washington intensively to scrap its commitments to the JCPOA in 2018, and has made claims about Tehran supposedly being “weeks” or “months” away from building a nuclear bomb for over a decade.

    Iran maintains that the US must lift all sanctions before demanding that the Islamic Republic rein in its peaceful nuclear activities.

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