War With Iran: Ayatollah Says They're Not Building a Nuke, But Who Could Stop Them if They Were?

Iran's Supreme Leader is not known for his propensity towards long-winded speeches on ideology or involvement in the humdrum of daily politics. Instead, he is well-acknowledged for his reticent style of leadership which emphasizes backroom dominance of the country's institutions.

That's why Saturday's announcement by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final word on all matters of state in Iran, on nuclear weapons was surprising.

"We believe nuclear weapons must be abolished and we have no intention of building" such a device, said the Ayatollah in remarks posted to his leader.ir website. He added, however, that "if Iran had the intention to build a nuclear weapon, the U.S. could in no way stop the Iranian nation."

The leader emphasized a religious decree he issued more than seven years ago banning nuclear weapons development or possession.

Additionally, Khamenei rejected direct talks with the U.S., but said that he could consider them if Washington chooses to respect Iran's sovereignty rather than resort to brute coercion.

"They want to deny the Iranian nation of its definite and inalienable right to uranium enrichment and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Of course, they won't succeed," Khamenei continued.

"Sanctions hurt the people. But there are two options. One is to surrender and repent in the face of the bullying powers like weak nations ... The other is to activate domestic resources and capabilities like a brave nation and triumphantly pass the danger zone. Undoubtedly, the Iranian nation has chosen the second option."

Addressing Iranians in Tehran, the Ayatollah additionally chastised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his rivals for factional bickering, a rare public rebuke indicative of Khamenei's immense dissatisfaction with internal leadership quarrels during a time of intense sanctions and economic turmoil.

It appears that despite tough sanctions, a brewing leadership struggle, and devastating economic ruin, Iran is still tied to the development and furthering of its nuclear program.