Iran Says Western Policy May Push It to Seek Nuclear Weapons

Iran could eventually be forced to develop a nuclear weapon if the U.S. and other western nations continue to “push it into a corner,” the intelligence minister said in remarks likely to be seized on by the country’s foes.

Mahmoud Alavi reiterated Iran’s longstanding position that its current nuclear program is for peaceful use, citing a decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that forbids the development of warheads. But he told state television on Monday that the Islamic Republic may be pushed toward them.

“If you trap a cat in a corner then it might end up behaving in ways that it wouldn’t if it were free,” Alavi said.

“If they push Iran toward that direction, then it’s not Iran’s fault, it’s the fault of those who are pushing, because Iran has no need for such a program in normal circumstances,” he said.

The U.S. and Iran are locked in a diplomatic stalemate over which side should make the first move toward reviving the nuclear deal that was abandoned by former President Donald Trump three years ago.

Iran was one the first countries in the Middle East to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, and the 2015 accord was designed to limit its atomic activities to civilian purposes amid western concerns of a possible military element. International sanctions were lifted in return. Israel, which opposes the Iran deal and hasn’t signed the NPT, is widely believed to be the only country in the region with a nuclear arsenal.

Trump reimposed a tough sanctions regime that severely hobbled Iran’s economy and triggered a regional crisis that almost led to war when the U.S. last year assassinated a top Iranian general in a drone strike. Iran significantly ramped up its enrichment of uranium in response as well as fueling tensions in the Persian Gulf by seizing oil tankers.

President Joe Biden, who faces strong opposition in Congress to handing Iran a victory, wants the U.S. to return to the accord but insists Iran must first scale back its nuclear work so that it again complies with the deal.

Tehran says the U.S. is obligated to first remove Trump’s sanctions because it was the party that left the deal.

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