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Friday, April 20, 2012

Khamanei's "anti-nuclear fatwa" is a myth

Today, in Israel Hayom, Dore Gold said something quite interesting about the seemingly famous fatwa supposedly issued by Ayatollah Khamanei against nuclear weapons:

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the talks that were held this week between the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany) and Iran, she detailed how the idea for these negotiations was raised. She explained that she had heard a report from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu about their visit with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to the Turks, Khamenei told them that, under Islam, weapons of mass destruction are prohibited.

Clinton suggested that the supreme leader's stance needed to be "operationalized" and explained: "We will be meeting with the Iranians to discuss how you translate what is a stated belief into a plan of action." However, the religious argument being used by the Iranians to prove that their nuclear program is not military in nature is nothing new. In fact, on Aug. 10, 2005, the Iranian government sent an official letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna stating that "Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam." A fatwa is a written opinion on Islamic law, issued by a religious authority.

In the years that followed, several Western governments, including Britain and France, made many repeated inquiries about Khamenei's nuclear fatwa. At the IAEA, Pierre Goldschmidt, the body's former deputy director-general, wanted to see if this fatwa even existed. At a conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Feb. 4, 2012, he said that he had actually asked for a copy of the exact text of the nuclear fatwa in 2005 but the Iranians never presented anything in writing.
It shouldn't be hard to track down a fatwa written by the Supreme Leader of Iran, should it?

Well, it might be a tad difficult if the fatwa is fiction. And MEMRI is now stating definitively that there is no such fatwa:
MEMRI's investigation reveals that no such fatwa ever existed or was ever issued or published, and that media reports about it are nothing more than a propaganda ruse on the part of the Iranian regime apparatuses – in an attempt to deceive top U.S. administration officials and the others mentioned above.

What does exist are Iranian reports starting in 2005, on statements by an Iranian representative, Sirus Naseri, at a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on August 11, 2005 that Khamenei had issued such a fatwa (See Appendix II for documents.)

After 2005, there are additional statements by senior regime representatives about the existence of the fatwa, for example on April 12, 2012 by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in an op-ed in the Washington Post on the eve of the talks. He wrote: "We have strongly marked our opposition to weapons of mass destruction on many occasions. Almost seven years ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a binding commitment. He issued a religious edict – a fatwa – forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons."[6]

Also, the Iranian news agency Mehr reported on April 11, 2012, that Iranian judiciary head Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani had said: "The fatwa that the Supreme Leader has issued is the best guarantee that Iran will never seek to produce nuclear weapons." Mehr itself also noted in the same report that Khamenei had issued a fatwa banning the use of nuclear weapons: "Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are all haram (prohibited in Islam)."[7]

In contrast, a review published April 8, 2012 by Iran's official news agency IRNA giving in detail Supreme Leader Khamenei's past mentions of the ban on the use of nuclear weapons does not mention any fatwa by him.[8] This, even though in August 2005 IRNA had already reported that Iran's special representative to the IAEA Board of Directors had handed a report on Khamenei's alleged fatwa, and that this report – though not the fatwa itself – had been submitted to the IAEA board as an official Iranian document (see Appendix II). It should be noted that this August 2005 IRNA report on the fatwa was reported by other websites, such as mathaba.net[9] but that the original report in IRNA, at http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/menu-236/0508104135124631.htm, can no longer be accessed (see Appendix III).[10]

These reports were designed to, and apparently did, elevate Iran's status vis-à-vis the West, despite Iran's refusal to allow inspections of its nuclear sites. Iranian regime officials' presentation of statements on nuclear weapons attributed to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as a fatwa, or religious edict, when no such fatwa existed or was issued by him, is a propaganda effort to propose to the West a religiously valid substitute for concrete guarantees of inspectors' access to Iran's nuclear facilities
Khamanei has been quoted as saying that nuclear bombs are forbidden in speeches. But, as MEMRI points out,
Since the West does not consider mere statements, by Khamenei or by other regime officials, to be credible, the Iranian regime has put forth a fraudulent fatwa that the West would be more inclined to trust.

It is simply another lies on top of other lies meant to buy time for more nuclear weapons development. Exactly was it has been for years - lies to the EU, lies to the IAEA, lies to the US.

Juan Cole, considered an "expert" on Iran. has stated many times that this fatwa exists. Is he willing to find it? He can really damage MEMRI's credibility if he digs it up. So, will he? Or will be admit he is wrong if he can't?

Of course, the answer to both is "no." Honesty is not an attribute that is too important to some "experts" like Cole, and he considers it beneath himself to admit to being wrong.

But the credibility of a lying academic is not nearly as important as the fact that we see here yet again that the Iranian regime is willing to lie to the West, and that nothing they say can be trusted. 

Let's hope that Western diplomats finally learn that lesson.

(h/t Challah Hu Akbar)