Not enough news agencies reported this.
Iran has been caught hiding facilities in the past. They still won’t open up controversially ambivalent sites such as Parchin. But now they have actually admitted to the pathological nature of their mendacity. Those media outlets who last week decided to report on Iran’s self-confessed deception, also managed to include this oft-quoted sentence:
“For Iran’s part, its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has banned nuclear weapons as un-Islamic.”
It is about time this ‘fatwa’ is put into context.
Firstly, Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei’s website, this year posted a telling link to an article justifying the possession of nuclear weapons. The article on fardanews.com noted that “If nuclear weapons are a means for saber rattling and bullying, obtaining these arms against those who possess it — and their hostility is proven — is necessary. It is not necessary that we use these arms, but they are necessary because of their deterrent quality and creation of fear.”
The enigmatic nature of this fatwa has been noted by few scholars and commentators. This NPR piece makes some important points:
“As far as anyone knows, the fatwa was never written down”. Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute on Near East policy adds that “This fatwa — or any fatwa — is not inscribed in stone… Fatwa is changeable by nature and the Shia theology gives this freedom to be flexible and go for the most updated interpretation and circumstances,”
As the nuclear program progresses and the needs of reality change, the fatwa has an inbuilt dynamism which renders it worthless as a long-term guarantee.
The Middle East Media Research Institute’s recent paper noted that, “An exhaustive search of the various official websites of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei turned up no such fatwa, either on his fatwa website or on his personal website.”
Furthermore, the paper notes:
“On March 15, 2012, the following question on the possession and use of nuclear weapons and referring to the alleged fatwa was submitted to Supreme Leader Khamenei, via Facebook, by a group called The Light of Freedom (Cheragh-e Azadi): (for image, see Appendix IV).”
“Q: Your Excellency has announced a ban on the use of nuclear weapons, and considering that nuclear weapons are a requirement for deterrence and that the aim of obtaining them is to intimidate the enemies in order to prevent them from acting aggressively, and in light of what is written in Surat Al-Anfal, Verse 60… is it also forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?”
“A: Your letter has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent position, then it will be possible to answer it.”
“Summary: No answer was given.”
The Middle East Research Institute also produced a fascinating paper (well worth a read in its entirety) which clearly demonstrates (using legislative bills and declarations by senior Iranian officials) Iran’s intent to enrich Uranium to 90% for military purposes:
That Iran has been bent on a nuclear weapon from the start of this crisis was already patently evident way back in 2003. On November 23rd of that same year, an unusual article was published by the conservative daily Jamhouri Eslami (associated with the supreme leader). The article included an explicit call for developing nuclear weapons, and determines that while the Iranian regime’s policy rejects the acquisition of nuclear weapons the Iranian people demand otherwise. The article emphasized that it is not referring to the use of nuclear weapons, but rather to caution the US not to use them “and not to dictate its policies to others” – especially Iran, which it is threatening (in Jamhouri‘s opinion).
Hassan Rohani erased further doubt on this point when he said in an address in late 2004, while still head of the Iranian National Security Council and its nuclear negotiating team, that “if one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice, that we do possess the technology, then the situation will be different. The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them.”
For all of the aforementioned reasons AL-, Khamenei’s “oral fatwa” should be taken with a pinch of salt. In its reporting, the media should be particularly careful not to promote the Iranian spin sans critical filters.