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Iran protests: Is the Islamic Republic a threat to the US? Do they have nuclear weapons?

THOUSANDS of people have been protesting in Iran over the last few days, and the Supreme Leader has blamed “the enemy”. But is the Islamic republic a threat to the US?


IRAN PROTESTS: A string of violent protests has stirred in Iran

A string of violent protests has stirred in Iran over the past few days, which has left at least 22 people dead.

The demonstrations are been said to stem from dissatisfaction about the weak economy, unemployment and the rising food prises – among other things.

The Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – has blamed “enemies” for the recent uprising.

He said: “The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime.

“The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation.”

Although the Supreme Leader did not specify which enemies he was speaking about, it is likely he was referring to the US.

Analysts say the comments were likely directed towards the US and Saudi Arabia.

The Supreme Leader said in November that the US is Iran’s “number one enemy”.

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani also claimed that “enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran” are trying to destabilise the country.

He added that the threat could be “converted into an opportunity” to address national issues.

“The American president’s foolish remarks against our people show the depth of America’s hostility towards the entire Iranian nation”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Is Iran a threat to the US?

In 2015 a deal was struck between Iran and six world powers, promising to lift economic sanctions on Iran in return for limitations to their controversial nuclear energy programme.

In October 2017 US President Donald Trump refused to formally certify Iran’s compliance with the deal.

In response, Khamenei said in a speech: “The American president’s foolish remarks against our people show the depth of America’s hostility towards the entire Iranian nation.

“America is the number one enemy of our nation.”

Since the deal was reached Khamenei has continued to denounce the US publicly, leading to tensions between the two countries.

Iran and the US formally ended diplomatic ties after the revolution.

Some security experts have warned that Iran may not be a short-term threat to the US, but has a large potential for developing a nuclear weapon.

Michael Pregent, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and former US Army intelligence officer in Iraq said: “For us, 15 years seems like a long time, for them it doesn’t… They’ll be able to weaponise in 15 years.

“And then they’ll be the dominant force in the Middle East.”

A fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said: “While Iran’s nuclear weapons capability will grow, the tools available to the United States to counter and contain it will be diminished.


ENEMIES: President Rouhani claimed that ‘enemies’ are trying to destabilise the country

“Iran’s growing nuclear activities and its remaining nuclear infrastructure will have been granted legitimacy by the international community, its defensive and offensive military capabilities will be greater, and the United States will have agreed not only to refrain from imposing additional sanctions on Iran for nuclear advances but will also have suspended its most significant sanctions.”

Mr Rouhani promised to boost their weapons capabilities following sanction threats from Mr Trump.

Mr Rouhani said the country would not seek permission to “defend” itself.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has also unveiled a powerful missile – the Khorramshahr ballistic missile – which can carry warheads up to 1,200 miles.

Mr Trump published a Tweet backing the demonstrations.

He said: “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.

“All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights.”

A report published by the Eurasia group said: “Trump has it in for Iran, rightly or wrongly, he sees the country as the root of much evil in the world.”

“Iran will push back, including by harassing US naval vessels, a gambit that can lead to deadly and escalatory action.”


DEMONSTRATIONS: The protests stem from general dissatisfaction

Does Iran have nuclear weapons?

Iran is not currently known to own any weapons of mass destruction.

The 2015 treaty prohibits Iran from possessing any such weapons.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative the status of Iran’s chemical and biological activities are unknown, but intelligence estimates the country to have a downgraded likelihood of maintaining a significant offensive programme.