An official told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Iran has the technical capability to build a nuclear weapon but it has not decided to do so. Iran “has the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb,” according to Kamal Kharrazi, head of an advisory board affiliated with Iran’s leadership. But, he added, Tehran has “not made the decision to build an atomic bomb.” The remarks follow US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East this week, during which he signed a security pact with Israel promising to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
It also emerges as efforts to resurrect a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers have stalled.
Former Foreign Minister Kharrazi also told Al Jazeera that Tehran had conducted extensive drills to be capable of striking deep inside Israel “if sensitive (Iranian) installations are targeted.”
He did not say when the drills were held.
The 2015 nuclear agreement offered Iran lifting of sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear programme and ensuring Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon, which it has always denied wanting.
Under then-President Donald Trump, the US withdrew from the agreement and reimposed harsh sanctions, prompting Tehran to abandon many of its own commitments under the agreement.
Iran has held direct talks with the remaining parties to the agreement – as well as indirect talks with the US – in an attempt to resurrect the agreement, but talks have been deadlocked since March.
The new security agreement signed by Israel and the United States this week commits Washington to “never allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” stating that the US “is told to prepare to use all components of its national power to ensure that outcome.”
When asked how long the US was willing to wait for efforts to resurrect the 2015 nuclear deal, Biden said, “We’re not going to wait forever.”
Tehran had earlier accused Washington of inciting tensions in the Middle East after Biden vowed that the US would not “tolerate efforts by any country in the region to dominate another through military accumulations, incursions, and/or threats,” a clear reference to Iran.
Earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Tehran had begun “feeding… a cascade of… centrifuges” at a fuel enrichment plant.
The techniques would make it much easier for Iran to transition to a different level of uranium enrichment.