Iran could build an atomic bomb if it really wanted to—it just doesn't plan to, at least at the moment. So said Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, on Monday, according to the Fars news agency, echoing similar remarks made last month by a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "As [Kamal] Kharrazi mentioned, Iran has the technical ability to build an atomic bomb, but such a program is not on the agenda," Eslami said in what both Reuters and the BBC note was a "rare" claim on such matters from top Iranian officials.
It's a suggestion that increases concerns over how fast Iran could build up the amount of enriched uranium needed to construct such a weapon. When the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran set up by multiple world powers was still solidly in place, that so-called breakout time was said to be about one year. The Trump administration abandoned the pact in 2018, and in June of this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimated Iran could pull together the required amount of enriched uranium in just a few weeks. In its May report, the IAEA noted Iran had about 95 pounds of uranium enriched to 60% purity (a nuclear weapon requires about 55 pounds of uranium enriched to 90%); the cap under the 2015 pact had limited Iran to uranium enriched to just 3.67%.
Talks to re-up the nuclear weapons agreement have faltered of late, though Reuters notes that Iran's top nuclear negotiator over the weekend sounded hopeful on "a new round" of negotiations. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—which the US has classified as a terror group—has put out a short video on the Telegram platform warning that "if the US or the Zionist regime make any stupid mistakes," the nation can now develop nuclear weapons quickly and "[turn] New York into hellish ruins," according to the Iran International media outlet. (Read more Iran stories.)