Iran Examines the Nuclear Option
Newsweek US|June 14, 2024
Tehran's rhetoric could spark an arms race in the Middle East like never before
ΤΟΜ O'CONNOR
Iran Examines the Nuclear Option

AFTER LONG MAINTAINING ONE of the Middle East's most advanced nuclear programs and most powerful conventional militaries, Iranian decision-makers are beginning to reconsider their nation's official ban on developing weapons of mass destruction in light of rising tensions and deteriorating security conditions in the region.

Such a move, vehemently opposed by Israel and the United States, who are known to possess their own nuclear arsenals, would present both substantial risks and opportunities for the Islamic Republic. But after the severe unrest surrounding the ongoing war in Gaza simmered over into the first-ever direct exchange of attacks between Iran and Israel, influential Iranian figures are seeing greater value in boosting deterrence by going down the nuclear path.

They include Kamal Kharrazi, senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a former foreign minister. He reiterated on May 9 that Tehran was not currently developing a nuclear weapon, but "if Iran's existence is threatened, we will have to change our nuclear doctrine." Such a measure "is possible and imaginable," he said, in the event that Israel sought to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to do.

Similar messages have emerged over the past month within other influential circles in Iran. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Brigadier General Ahmad Haghtalab, commander of the Nuclear Protection and Security Corps, declared that "a revision in the nuclear doctrine and policies of the Islamic Republic and departure from previously stated considerations is possible and conceivable."

The death of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi along with his entourage in a May 19 helicopter crash near the border with Azerbaijan, an incident still under investigation, may only further intensify concerns over the Islamic Republic's stability.

This story is from the June 14, 2024 edition of Newsweek US.

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This story is from the June 14, 2024 edition of Newsweek US.

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