On the heels of President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signing a joint declaration last week vowing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a senior Iranian official said the Islamic republic already has the capability to make a nuclear bomb but has made no decision on building one, according to a new report.
“In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60 percent and we can easily produce 90 percent enriched uranium. . . . Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one,” Kamal Kharrazi, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said on Sunday, according to Reuters.
The adviser also told Al Jazeera’s Arabic outlet that Iran will directly respond against Israel if its security is targeted, Reuters reported.
This is a shift in rhetoric from Tehran, which has previously claimed it is refining uranium for civilian energy uses.
Iran’s claim of nuclear know-how is the latest development in the back-and-forth between Tehran and the U.S. on atomic weapons.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump, as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign, officially abandoned the July 2015 nuclear deal Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, orchestrated between Iran and several world powers.
Under the terms of the agreement, Iran ostensibly agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more international inspection in exchange for relief from biting economic sanctions.
The Biden administration has indicated its willingness to sign on to an agreement to revive the Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — but efforts so far have not amounted to much.
Indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran – with Russia serving as go-between – have been stalled since March, Reuters reported.
Even as it pursues diplomatic efforts with Iran, the Biden administration also continues to assure allies in the region it will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power.
“The United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome,” said the statement signed by Biden and Lapid in Israel on Thursday.
After visiting Israel, Biden’s next stop was Saudi Arabia, where he landed on Friday.
Reuters reported Saturday that in a joint statement put out by the Saudi state news agency, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed on the importance of stopping Iran from “acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
The statement went on to say Biden also affirmed the U.S. commitment to supporting “Saudi Arabia’s security and territorial defense, and facilitating the Kingdom’s ability to obtain necessary capabilities to defend its people and territory against external threats.”
Biden’s four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia marked his first visit to the Middle East since taking office.