Iran: Disregard that whole “fatwa-against-nukes” thing, mm-kay?

posted at 5:21 pm on June 11, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Old and busted, Iranian style: Islam forbids us to have nuclear weapons, you paranoid leaders of the West!  New hotness: Iran has to have nuclear weapons to thwart the plots against Islam from the, er, paranoid leaders of Israel and the US:

Official Iranian media outlets published a commentary Sunday titled “The necessity for the Islamic world to have the atomic bomb,” laying the groundwork for Iran’s refusal to accept limits on its illicit nuclear program.

The essay’s author, Alireza Forghani, is the former governor of southern Iran’s Kish Province and an analyst and a strategy specialist in the camp of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The fatwa from Imam Khomeini [the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution] said ‘all Islamic countries have Islamic blood,’” Forghani wrote. “Therefore the Islamic world should rise up and shout that a nuclear bomb is our right, and disrupt the dreams of America and Israel.”

“Having a nuclear bomb is our right,” he argued. “Israel would have been destroyed completely 30 years ago” but has survived because it has nuclear weapons.

Well, no one took the Iranian state media seriously when they reported the anti-nuke fatwa in April anyway, or at least almost no one.  The New York Times’ James Risen offered this semi-credulous look at the statement two months ago, bolstered by former State Department officials on and off the record:

Like much of the information about Iran’s secretive and enigmatic government, Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks are sometimes contradictory, and always subject to widely different interpretations. But as negotiations over the country’s nuclear program begin on Saturday in Istanbul, efforts to divine where Ayatollah Khamenei really stands on the nuclear issue have taken on critical importance.

Underscoring Ayatollah Khamenei’s direct involvement in the issue, Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Turkey with a new title: “personal representative of the supreme leader.”

“Dismissing what he says out of hand is not useful for us,” said Greg Thielmann, a former State Department analyst. “I think the U.S. can exploit what he says.” …

Inside the government, each new reported remark by Ayatollah Khamenei is scrutinized for nuanced changes in tone and emphasis. If anything, one senior former intelligence official said, analysts should be studying the remarks even more carefully, to remain open to possible alternative assessments of Iran’s behavior. “I think, looking back, maybe we should have taken his statements more into account, particularly the religious statements,” the former official said.

Dennis B. Ross, who stepped down last fall after coordinating Iran policy for the White House, said that ultimately Ayatollah Khamenei’s comments revealed a leader who was stubborn and nationalistic, yet who still may be hedging his bets about whether to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Yeah, that worked out well, didn’t it?  Strictly from a theological point of view, this public flip-flop certainly suggests that fatwas by ayatollahs are unreliable at best, and self-serving and deceptive more than occasionally.  Otherwise, in a strict theocratic dictatorship like Iran, a public official wouldn’t dream of contradicting the Supreme Leader publicly in this fashion on a matter of religious doctrine.  Such a move would be a combination of heresy and treason … but only if the ayatollah was serious about it in the first place.  That’s obviously not the case.

The Daily Caller’s Reza Khalili has more analysis of the new statement, including Iranian thoughts on mutually-assured destruction — and its limitations.  Khameini himself appeared to hint at war in the near future against you-know-who, telling Iranians that “We are on a hillside,” and that “When the Iranian nation reaches the peak, all enmities [and] evils will end.”  That sounds like mutually-assured destruction as a goal rather than as a survival strategy, which is the reason why the West has been so concerned about the Iranian nuclear-weapons program.


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