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, which 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, who reiterated on Sunday 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 (IRGC) 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.”

While Iranian officials have for some time vowed to defend their nation by any means necessary, former Iranian, U.N. and U.S. officials have told Newsweek that the recent change in rhetoric cannot be dismissed as mere posturing.

In the words of Farzan Sabet, a former researcher at the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research now serving as senior research associate at the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Sanction and Sustainable Peace Hub, “It is a serious discursive shift at a time when regional tensions are quite high.”

Source » newsweek