article in Foreign Policy magazine, they simply don't understand how profoundly the Iranians hold this view for both historical and religious reasons.
The prohibition against chemical and nuclear weapons began with what was essentially a fatwa by the Islamic Republic's first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. During Iran's war with Iraq, both its civilians and soldiers were attacked with mustard and nerve gasses. Mohsen Rafighdoost, minister of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps under Khomeini, proposed that Iran develop both chemical and nuclear weapons. Khomeini forbade both as anathema to Islam. Regarding chemical weapons, he pronounced, "It doesn't matter whether it is on the battlefield or in cities; we are against this. It is haram [forbidden] to produce such weapons. You are only allowed to produce protection." Prohibiting retaliation in kind against Iraq's use of chemical weapons put Iran's military at a major disadvantage and contributed to the decision to accept a cease-fire in 1988.
As to nuclear weapons, the Supreme leader told Rafighdoost, "We don't want to produce nuclear weapons. Send these scientists to the Atomic Energy Organization." The Atomic Energy Organization is Iran's civilian nuclear-power agency.
Even though Khomeini's edicts against the use or production of chemical and nuclear weapons was never written down, Rafighdoost took it as a fatwa—a judgment on Islamic jurisprudence by a qualified Islamic scholar. Because it was issued by the nation's "guardian jurist," it is state policy, legally binding on the government. The current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, has maintained the fatwa.
The significance of the Iranians claim they are not attempting to develop nuclear weapons has been demonstrated by their willingness to risk the loss of a war against a merciless enemy rather than take that step. One could hardly observe better proof. When the allies were faced with a similar fate in WWII, they never hesitated in both developing and using the nuclear option, an interesting moral contrast.