There Is No Fatwa Condemning Nuclear Weapons by Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei
The Obama administration may not have much use for federal law or for Congress’s constitutional role in providing advice on, determining whether to consent to, and enacting any legislation necessary to implement international agreements. But it exhibits cloying reverence for a fatwa -- a sharia law edict -- issued by a jurist who runs a regime that is the world’s leading state sponsor of jihadist terror.
Even when the fatwa is a patent hoax.
Secretary of State Kerry, like his predecessor Hillary Clinton and his boss President Obama, took time out from his tirades against Senate Republicans’ exposition of the Constitution to praise the fatwa the administration claims that Iran’s top mullah, Ayatollah Khamenei, issued against nuclear weapons. As the Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier reports, Kerry, in the course of addressing the administration’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, told the press during a visit to Egypt:
As you all know, Iran says it doesn’t want a nuclear weapon, and that is a very welcome statement that the Supreme Leader has, in fact, incorporated into a fatwa. And we have great respect -- great respect -- for the religious importance of a fatwa.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sounded a hopeful note about this supposed fatwa in 2012, claiming to have discussed it with “a number of experts and religious scholars,” as well as with Turkey’s Islamist then-prime minister (now president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2013, President Obama himself proclaimed:
[T]he Supreme Leader [Khamenei] has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.
But the “fatwa” in question does not exist.
The invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has done extensive research into compilations of Khamenei’s published fatwas. (See here and here, and citations therein.) No such fatwa has ever been published.
In a sharia state, particularly the one in Iran that is actually run by the country’s top sharia jurists, fatwas are important statements of governing law, like statutes are in the U.S. Yet despite repeated requests, Iran has never produced the purported anti-nuclear weapons fatwa from Khamenei.
Indeed, as MEMRI elaborates, Khamenei was directly asked about the purported fatwa in a 2012 Facebook exchange:
[I]s it also forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?
He refused to answer the question:
Your question has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent [sic] position, then it will be possible to answer it.
The notion that Khamenei actually believes nuclear weapons violate Islamic law and would issue a credible fatwa to that effect should be seen as absurd on its face. Put aside that Pakistan, which incorporates sharia in its law, has long had nuclear weapons. For over two decades, al-Qaeda has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons and has enjoyed essential support from the regime in Tehran.
Oil-rich Iran has no need to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It has explicitly threatened to wipe Israel off the map. It has been busily been developing weapons systems capable of delivering nuclear bombs in conjunction with its uranium enrichment. It could not be more obvious that Khamenei’s regime, far from rejecting nuclear weapons as anti-Islamic, seeks to acquire them in order to promote the imposition of its Islamic-supremacist ideology.
Moreover, as MEMRI further documents, there is a published fatwa on the subject of nuclear weapons from credible Shiite sharia scholars. In 2006, it was reported that jurists in Qom had issued a fatwa explicitly stating that “sharia does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.”
Although the date seems to shift, Iranian officials began claiming in about 2005 that Khamenei had promulgated an anti-nuke fatwa. The disingenuous suggestion was made in connection with Iran’s shrewd conclusion that the best route to developing nuclear weapons internally was to pretend that its nuclear program was peaceful.
Obama administration officials, who are desperate to strike a deal with Iran and to convince themselves that Iran might become an American ally in the Middle East, understand that the mullahs will never allow the kind of rigorous inspection system that would make an agreement trustworthy. They are thus emphasizing the phantom fatwa as a rationale for making an unacceptable deal: You are supposed to say to yourself, “We needn’t worry about the inability to verify that the Iranians are not constructing nukes because the Islamic ruler has solemnly forbidden it.”
But even if you were inclined to such self-delusion, the fact is: Khamenei has not forbidden nuclear weapons.
As Breitbart’s Joel Pollak has observed, Kenneth Pollack, a serious national security expert who is particularly influential among Democrats, discussed the purported Khamenei fatwa in his book Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. Pollack notes not only that the fatwa has never been formally issued but also that Iran disregards fatwas when they prove inconvenient to perceived national interests. Thus did the founder of the Iranian jihadist state, Ayatollah Khomeini, ignore his own fatwa against weapons of mass destruction during the long war with Iraq in the 1980s.
It would be lunacy, in a matter crucial to American national security, to rely on a fatwa from the head of a jihadist-terror state even if such a fatwa actually existed. But it doesn’t.