During his annual statement marking the Persian new year, President Obama referred to the Iran Supreme Leader’s fatwa about producing a nuclear bomb:
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.
It’s a nice thought and not the first time Obama has referenced the fatwa. Too bad the Supreme Leader never issued such a pronouncement.
The tall tale about Khamenei’s anti-nuke fatwa has been used by the Iranian regime and its spokesmen for several years. In fact each time the fatwa was mentioned, it was given a different year of issue (some of the years given include 2005, 2007, and 2012) but in reality no such directive was ever ordered.
Of course, Obama is the first U.S. president to fall for the fable. So did, it is worth noting as an aside, an individual with her sights on a presidential run: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
Clinton clarified that she had discussed the fatwa with “experts and religious scholars” and also with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At the NATO conference in Norfolk, VA, in early April, she stated: “The other interesting development which you may have followed was the repetition by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that they would – that he had issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, against weapons of mass destruction. Prime Minister Erdogan and I discussed this at some length, and I’ve discussed with a number of experts and religious scholars. And if it is indeed a statement of principle, of values, then it is a starting point for being operationalized, which means that it serves as the entryway into a negotiation as to how you demonstrate that it is indeed a sincere, authentic statement of conviction. So we will test that as well.
Some people point to a 2006 speech by Supreme Leader Khamenei as evidence of the so-called fatwa, but in the speech Khamenei merely denied that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, saying “any benefit would not be worth the cost,” according to a translation from Farsi. The reason he cites, however, is not religious or God’s law, but international pressure.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has research with regard to this “fatwa” and has published reports demonstrating that it is a falsehood. In August 2013, for example, the group published a report titled “Fatwas by Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei.” The information came from an article published July 30, 2013 by the Iranian Tasnimnews website, which included a compilation of 493 of the “newest” fatwas issued by Khamenei. Conspicuously absent was a fatwa militating against the development, possession, or use of a nuclear bomb.
Further confirmation of the mythological nature of the fatwa can be found in a piece penned in March 2014 by Iranian journalist Amir Taheri:
When lobbying to prevent further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, US President Barack Obama often refers to a fatwa, an Islamic religious opinion. According to Obama, the fatwa supposedly issued by “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, confirms Tehran’s claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Obama does not quote the text of the mysterious fatwa, nor does he tell us where and when he saw it.
The trouble is that no one has actually seen the fatwa, although many people comment on it. In a bizarre twist, some mullahs even quote Obama as the source that confirms the existence of the fatwa. “Our Supreme Guide has issued a fatwa against the use of nuclear weapons, as confirmed by the President of the United States,” Ayatollah Mahmoud Yussefwand told the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) last week.
In other words a fatwa is worth the paper it is printed on and it hasn’t been printed anywhere. But that hasn’t stopped Barack Obama from claiming that there is one. After all, his objective is signing a deal with Iran, no matter how lousy it may be.
Cross-posted at The Lid