“In his Fatwa, the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] announced that the production of nuclear weapons is Haram [forbidden] and contrary to Sharia, and the Islamic Republic would not pursue them. However, if [foreigners] caught a cat in an awkward corner, it may behave unlikely to a free cat. If they pushed Iran to that path, then [the production of nuclear weapons] is not Iran’s fault,” said Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) Mahmoud Alavi in an interview with the state-run TV Channel Two on February 8.
In his unprecedented remarks, the Intelligence Minister described the establishment as a cat to show the country’s dire conditions. Given recent developments and the Iranian government’s concerns about the next events, Iranian authorities are seemingly right.
Alavi raised these remarks while Tehran suffers from economic pressure and isolation as a result of the ayatollahs’ aggressive and outlaw behavior. Only four days earlier, MOIS agent Assadollah Assadi, who had disguised himself as a senior diplomat in Vienna, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for masterminding a bomb plot against the opposition gathering in June 2018.
On the other hand, “the threshold of society’s tolerance is going to end,” according to state-run media, which poses serious risk at the Islamic Republic’s survival. In December 2017 – January 2018 and November 2019, economic grievances sparked nationwide protests. Currently, citizens face far worse financial conditions in comparison to the past years and government-linked sociologists warn about the “erosion of the state’s social acceptance.”
Furthermore, members and supporters of the Iranian opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI) have recently intensified their anti-establishment activities, inciting the people to voice their protests against the government. Following the MEK domestic network’s activities, there has been no day without protests, rallies, and strikes on behalf of impoverished citizens.
In such circumstances, Tehran is deeply concerned about international developments. Before January 20, when Joe Biden took office as the 46th U.S. President, Iranian officials were hopeful that they could immediately receive financial reliefs and resume their bankrupt economy. However, Biden and his nominees declared that they would not grant privileges to the Iranian government for free, particularly while Tehran has breached many restrictions and limitations under the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Tehran’s Propaganda for Coercing the U.S. to Rejoin the JCPOA
Notably, following the revelations by the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) about Tehran’s attempts for achieving nuclear weapons, Khamenei claimed, “We believe that the production of nuclear is Haram.”
“We do not believe in Atomic bombs and nuclear weapons, and we would not pursue them. According to our ideological beliefs, our religious basics, using these mass destructive devices are forbidden and Haram. They would lead to destroying earth and human generations,” Khamenei said in February 2009.
However, the Supreme Leader currently tries to terrify the international community to make his government’s advantages. This is another flipside of the Iranian government’s hostage-taking method to gain its required privileges. In other words, Tehran follows its renowned blackmailing policy by jeopardizing global peace and security.
On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned his counterparts about the Islamic Republic’s decisions. “Time is running out for the Americans, both because of the parliament bill and the election atmosphere that will follow the Iranian New Year,” Zarif said on February 6, pointing to the Parliament (Majlis) recently passed legislation that ordered the government to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) on February 21.
In response, the U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price described Alavi’s remarks as very concerning. “I would say that we, of course, took note of those remarks. They are very concerning. Would also note – and I referenced this yesterday as well – that Iran has an obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – the NPT – never – never, never, never – permanent prohibition to acquire nuclear weapons, and it reaffirmed that commitment under the JCPOA. I think that’s where we’d leave our reaction,” Price said during the February 9 press conference.
Also, in his first visit to the Department of Defense on February 10, Biden announced, “I would never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interests of the American people and our allies around the world when necessary.”
In this respect, Iranian state-run media slammed Alavi for his recent remarks, displaying the government’s fragile conditions and baseless claims. “It should be asked of the Intelligence Minister… were [his remarks] a personal opinion or a part of the state’s strategy to confront the democrats?” wrote Mashreq daily, affiliated with the Khamenei’s faction.
“The Intelligence Minister’s remarks prepared the atmosphere for a massive wave of propaganda against Iran’s nuclear program. The Islamic Republic’s foes immediately exploited Mahmoud Alavi’s unconsidered comments—which were contrary to the Supreme Leader’s orders— and claimed that [Khamenei’s] fatwa is flexible, and Iran will strive to produce nuclear weapons under special circumstances,” Jahan News daily wrote.
Iran watchers believe that the Intelligence Minister’s recent comments and Zarif’s concerns reveal the Iranian government’s need for negotiations. Furthermore, they indicate that both the Iranian government and the international community are in a new balance of power. It seems that the world has realized that Tehran’s blackmailing and hostage-taking techniques are a sign of its weakness, which should be confronted by firmness and power.