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Khamenei’s Ever-Changing Nuclear Fatwa

Much ink has been spilled over the alleged nuclear fatwa which Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has issued forbidding the use of nuclear weapons. If the Deputy of the Messiah on Earth says trust me, many American and European officials appear to believe, it must be so. After all, what could be more a sign of one’s own multiculturalism and sophistication than giving credence to such a declaration? Over at Al-Monitor, a publication whose editor Andrew Parasiliti was once a staffer for current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, an Iranian author gives great credence to the fatwa:

The fatwa against nuclear weapons is not a contingent upon time and circumstances. It is based on the principle that killing innocent people is religiously forbidden…. The fatwa is an Iranian initiative and it is much easier for the United States and EU to respect the fatwa and ask Iran to accept more commitments and transparency as far as its nuclear program is concerned.

The piece is valuable for presenting an official Iranian line, even if Parasiliti’s team for whatever reason identifies the Institute for Political and International Studies simply as a think-tank when it is actually the Foreign Ministry’s academic wing.

Here at COMMENTARY, Emanuele Ottolenghi, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, addressed the faultiness of the fatwa last year. The key take-away is that while Ali Khamenei—like many Shi’ite religious figures—maintains a website that lists all of his fatwas, the nuclear fatwa is not among them. How convenient.

Over at “Arms Control and Regional Security for the Middle East,” Ariane Tabatabai has gone further and has shown how when Iranian officials cite the alleged fatwa, they constantly change its meaning and contents:

According to the Iranian 2005 Communication to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the wording of the fatwa was as follows: ‘the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam.’ Yet, in Ayatollah Ali Khamenei message, which was read at the opening of the International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation in 2010, the Supreme Leader’s explicit prohibition has merely encompassed the ‘use’ of these weapons. Recent statements, by the Ayatollah himself, merely highlight a ban of the use, with philosophical and ethical discussion about the production and stockpiling of these weapons, rather than a concrete prohibition. The possession is not mentioned in his statements, leaving a grey area in what is the key issue in Iran’s nuclear debate.

Word from Almaty, where the United States is once again engaged in a “process” with Iran, is that the negotiations are not going well. That is no surprise. The Iranians have made clear that they chose Kazakhstan as the locale to honor Almaty for refusing to abide by many sanctions. Let us hope that the Obama administration will cease the nonsense of paying any heed to the fatwa and demand real signs of Iranian sincerity. These should be measured only in terms of Iranian adherence to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Safeguards Agreement, and subsequent IAEA and UN Security Council Resolutions. Anything else is merely a distraction.


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