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Understanding Iran's increasingly open rhetoric about atomic bombs

Several Iranian officials and military generals have recently abandoned earlier reservations on nuclear policy, sending out the message that the country could be turning into an atomic weapons possessor to deter Israel.
This handout image supplied by the IIPA (Iran International Photo Agency) shows a view of the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant as the first fuel is loaded, on Aug. 21, 2010 in Bushehr, southern Iran.

TEHRAN — A top aide to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Al Jazeera television network on Wednesday that Iran holds the capability to produce nuclear weapons and will have "no choice" but to change the current doctrine should its "existence" come under threat.

"If the Zionist regime [Israel] dares to damage Iran's nuclear facilities, our deterrence will be different," said Kamal Kharrazi, a seasoned diplomat and former foreign minister who has for years advised Khamenei on key policy matters. 

Kharrazi's statement appeared as an updated version of and a departure from a similar interview in 2022, when he said while Iran does have the capability, it has no intention to build a bomb. 

A review of other remarks by Iranian authorities also indicates that the veteran diplomat's statement has not come in isolation. It fits into a new pattern in which the Islamic Republic seems less reserved about its nuclear program, which has, for two decades, been at the core of a stand-off with its Western foes. And the veiled message intended for the adversaries is that time has come for them to embrace the long-feared bitter truth, to accept Tehran as a potential possessor of nuclear weapons.

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