In the letter, written in 1988 – near the end of a bloody, eight-year war with Iraq, and released by the former Iranian president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – Khomeni outlines the reasons why Iran must accept a cease-fire with Iraq. It does not specifically call for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but refers indirectly to the matter by citing a letter written by the top commander of the war effort.
"The commander has said we can have no victory for another five years, and even by then we need to have 350 infantry bridges, 2,500 tanks, 300 fighter planes," the ayatollah writes, according to the Times, adding that the army would also need "a considerable number of laser and nuclear weapons to confront the attacks."
In a famous public statement a few days after penning the letter, Khomeini flip-flopped and compared accepting a cease-fire with Iraq to "drinking a chalice of poison," said the Times.
The ILNA Labour News Agency, which first published the newly discovered letter Friday, removed the word "nuclear" within a few hours, after receiving a call from the National Security Council, according to a reporter with the agency. The reporter requested anonymity for fear of official retribution. Other local wire services deleted the word as well.