Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, claimed on Saturday that the Islamic Republic has decided not to develop nuclear weapons out of principle, not only because it is prevented so by treaties.
Speaking to Defense Ministry officials, Rouhani said, according to The Associated Press (AP), that if Iran wanted weapons of mass destruction, it would be easier for it to make chemical or biological weapons.
As proof of his claims, Rouhani cited a fatwa (religious decree) issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei which bans the production and use of nuclear weapons.
Khamenei has said holding such arms is a sin as well as “useless, harmful and dangerous.”
“We are not after weapons of mass destruction. That’s our red line,” said Rouhani, according to AP. “If Iran was after weapons of mass destruction, it would build chemical weapons. Those are easier to make. It would build biological arms, which are even easier than making chemical weapons.”
He further claimed that Iran’s “beliefs” and commitment to “ethical principles”, not merely the UNs nuclear non-proliferation treaty, prevent it from making a bomb.
“We signed these treaties to show the world we are not after such weapons,” he told military commanders. “Even if there were no NPT or other treaties, our belief, our faith, our religion and principles tell us not to seek weapons of mass destruction.”
Rouhani said his government’s policy of moderation and easing tensions with the outside world is “not a tactic” but a genuine change in the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.
“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on easing tensions and building confidence with the world. This is not a tactic or slogan. Iran is not seeking tensions with others … but we don’t compromise on our dignity, independence, national interests and values,” he claimed, according to AP.
Since being elected, Rouhani has waged a “smile attack” against the West, claiming he is a moderate and is different from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani’s “moderate” policy led to Iran and the six world powers reaching a six-month interim nuclear deal in November, after years of negotiations that went nowhere. The deal went into effect on January 20.
Under the agreement, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, halting production of 20 percent-enriched uranium. In return, the European Union and the United States have eased crippling economic sanctions on Iran.
Israel’s leaders have seen right through Rouhani’s smiles. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said, as have other Israeli leaders, that the interim agreement that was signed with Iran in November is dangerous and will allow Tehran to continue its nuclear program and give nothing back to the West while being rewarded with sanctions relief.
Israel is also unimpressed with Khamanei’s fatwa which “bans nuclear weapons.” When asked about the decree in 2012, then Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN, “I don't buy it. I follow the facts on the ground. Enrichment continues.”