Kharazzi raises possibility of nuclear policy change

TEHRAN – In the past five years, Western powers have repeatedly lost the chances to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as they seem to believe that with or without a deal, Iran is unlikely to move towards making drastic changes to its nuclear doctrine.

However, recent statements by senior Iranian officials suggest that Western policymakers may be mistaken in their belief that they can pressure Iran without prompting it to change gears.

When Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, global leaders and U.S. Democrats alike warned that the move would undermine a historic agreement that prevented Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons at least in the foreseeable future.

Washington’s European allies and signatories to the JCPOA established INSTEX, a mechanism designed to mitigate the impact of U.S. sanctions. Presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged to rejoin the deal upon taking office.

Upon Biden’s election, multiple negotiations were held to revive the nuclear agreement. Iran’s demands were straightforward: reinstatement of the JCPOA and guarantees against future U.S. withdrawal.

But several rounds of talks later, the U.S. has not returned to the JCPOA and the INSTEX, which never even worked, was dismantled.

Western powers viewed the negotiations as an opportunity to impose additional conditions on Iran. While the JCPOA solely addressed Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S., the UK, Germany, and France sought to expand its scope to include Iran’s missile and drone capabilities. They believed that Iran’s economic vulnerability and occasional domestic unrest would compel it to accept these new demands.

Meanwhile, despite Washington’s official and Europe’s de facto withdrawals from the deal, Iran has tried to keep the air clear about its unwillingness to pursue nuclear weapons. Though the country ended up enriching uranium at higher levels than agreed in the JCPOA, it alleviated concerns about its potential development of nuclear weapons by staying in close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) which inspects Iran’s nuclear sites more vigorously than anywhere else in the world.

Western powers have interpreted Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA as a sign that the agreement should only be revived and pressure on Iran should only be eased if Iran agrees to further curtail its capabilities. Capabilities that are legitimate and essential for a nation facing threats from terrorist groups and forces backed by Israel.

Iran could decide to turn the tables

Iranian officials have been receiving backlash back home for their adherence to the JCPOA in the face of Western non-compliance. Critics argue that Israel’s growing aggression and its recent threats to use nuclear weapons against Gazans have rendered Iran’s previous stance untenable. They advocate for an accelerated nuclear program to strengthen Iran’s deterrence against Israel, arguing that the consequences would not be significantly worse than those Iran is already experiencing.

Recent statements by senior Iranian officials suggest that this view is gaining traction within the Iranian leadership.

“We have no decision to build a nuclear bomb, but should Iran’s existence be threatened, there will be no choice but to change our military doctrine,” said Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, on Thursday.

Previously, a senior IRGC commander also warned that Tehran could change its nuclear policies if Israel continues to threaten to attack Iran’s nuclear sites.

These remarks have yet to elicit significant concern in the West. However, just as Iran’s direct attacks on Israeli positions in the occupied territories surprised many observers, the country could decide to alter its nuclear doctrine if it concludes that the JCPOA has become permanently defunct.


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