Ordered Liberty

So Will Kerry Produce the Khamenei 'Fatwa' Against Nuclear Weapons?

In a nearly unnoticed part of his Senate testimony defending President Obama’s appalling Iran deal, Secretary of State John Kerry once again claimed that the mullah di tutti mulli, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had issued a fatwa – a sharia law edict – against Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Tzvi Kahn noticed, and observes at National Review that Kerry, without a hint of irony, suggested that Americans should trust the purported fatwa while he was testifying that the Iran deal is based on verification, not trust – a laughable assertion in its own right given that there are no snap inspections, Americans are banned from inspection teams, Iran is keeping facilities of its choosing off limits from IAEA inspectors, and (as the Center for Security Policy’s Fred Fleitz reports) IAEA inspectors will be relying on Iran itself to provide site samples for testing.

Kerry told the Senate that Khamenei believes he, not the United States and its negotiating partners, is responsible for stopping any Iranian production of nuclear weapons “because he issued a fatwa, and he has declared the policy of their country is not to do it.”

As I pointed out here at Ordered Liberty back in March, however, there is no Khamenei fatwa against nukes. Despite the fact that Kerry continues to tout it – as has Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – the fatwa is a hoax.

To repeat from my post of four months ago (with some new additional material in italics):

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. [ACM: See, e.g., original Justice Department indictment against Osama bin Laden, explaining that al Qaeda forged an alliance with Iran in the early 1990s and that al Qaeda began trying “to obtain nuclear weapons components in 1993.”]

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. [ACM: See Congressional Research Service Report, “Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation” (May 11, 2015): “The U.S. intelligence community assesses that Iran has the largest number of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It also notes that Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction and that Iran’s progress on speace launch vehicles improves Tehran’s ability to develop longer-range missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile.”]

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.

Obviously, as I concluded in March, “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.” Indeed, if we’re going to start relying on decrees from the top mullah, shouldn’t we then take note that he has pronounced, again and again, that Israel must be destroyed — as he put it in a tweet one year ago: “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” Nevertheless, if Kerry and the administration are going to keep spouting this nonsense, why does Congress not demand that the State Department and the White House produce the purported Khamenei fatwa? Or is the plan to have the IAEA trust Iran to produce a sample of the fatwa?