The Sunday morning edition of Germany’s Die Welt reports that Western intelligence agencies detected two nuclear weapons tests in North Korea in 2010, and that one or both of them might have been conducted for Iran. Die Welt sets the reported nuclear tests in the context of new documentation showing that the Iranian regime began its drive for nuclear weapons as early as 1984, under the direct orders of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The author is the respected German analyst Hans Rühle, whose evaluation of Israel’s capacity to cripple the Iranian nuclear program created a stir last month.The Die Welt report reads like a line-by-line refutation of the reported U.S. intelligence evaluation that there is no “hard evidence” that Iran is building nuclear weapons. That is a noteworthy reversal: the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs claim that Iran is not an imminent threat, while a former top German official warns of immediate danger to the Jewish state. The fact is that there are some Germans who do not want to be responsible for a second Holocaust.Rühle, who headed the German Defense Ministry’s policy planning staff during the peak of the Cold War in the 1980s, deplores the “credulousness of Western experts” who accept Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is peaceful.Many Western experts still give credence to these representations. Despite numerous indications to the contrary, they give Iran the presumption of innocence, arguing that a nation’s intent to weaponize nuclear power is not proven until it has carried out a nuclear test. But what if Iran had already tested a nuclear weapon, and not on Iranian territory, but in a place where nuclear tests are conducted without regard for world opinion, and where nuclear expertise and technology have long been exported in exchange for hard currency payments–in North Korea?Evidence of the 2010 nuclear tests in North Korea was published Feb. 3 in Nature magazine, citing the work of the Swedish nuclear physicist Lars-Erik de Geer. The Swedish scientist analyzed data showing the presence of radioisotopes that betrayed a uranium bomb explosion. De Geer took the radioisotope data and compared them with the South Korean reports, as well as meteorological records. Nature reports, “After a year of work, he has concluded that North Korea carried out two small nuclear tests in April and May 2010 that caused explosions in the range of 50–200 tonnes of TNT equivalent. The types and ratios of isotopes detected, he says, suggest that North Korea was testing materials and techniques intended to boost the yield of its weapons.”But why should North Korea keep the nuclear tests secret? asks Rühle. North Korea proudly advertised its previous nuclear tests. But the North Korean tests of 2006 and 2009 used bombs with a plutonium core. The 2010 tests, according to Lars-Erik de Geer’s calculation, employed enriched uranium. North Korea might have secretly enriched uranium on a sufficient scale to produce sufficient explosive material for two test bombs. But the more likely explanation is this, Rühle concludes:The second explanation would be that North Korea conducted a nuclear test for a foreign entity, in this case, an Iranian explosive. That would be a sensation, although not quite a surprise, to be sure. Intelligence services have observed a close degree of cooperation between North Korean and Iranian experts over a period of years for the preparation of a nuclear test, although the previous assumptions centered on the prospect of an underground nuclear test in Iranian territory.Rühle observes:It became known a few days ago that the International Atomic Energy Agency has a document showing that it was the religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini himself who decided in 1984 to resume the nuclear weapons program suspended by the overthrow of the Shah. As his successor Ayatollah Khamenei declared, an Iranian nuclear weapon is viewed as the only way to protect the Islamic revolution and to prepare the way for the arrival of the Imam Mahdi. In Khamenei’s words, an Iranian nuclear arsenal is a deterrent in the hands of the holy warriors. With this sensational report from Tehran’s inner leadership circle it becomes clear that Khomeini’s often-cited fatwa that nuclear weapons are not compatible with Islam was a purely deceptive maneuver. Iran has been totally committed to becoming a nuclear power for decades.Elements of Rühle’s story can be challenged by experts, to be sure. But the German analyst is making a point that has been lost in the fog of spin in Washington: It is outrageously wrong to proceed against an opponent like Iran in the presumption that intelligence agencies can accurately assess the precise degree of progress towards a nuclear device so that the U.S. government can fine-tune a response. Yet that is precisely whatPresident Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg on March 2nd: “Our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt.”No intelligence professional could support that sweeping, and entirely indefensible, assertion from the president. American intelligence failures regarding nuclear weapons proliferation have been numerous and notorious. The CIA famously failed to give any advance warning of India’s first nuclear test, and was raked over the coals for this lapse at the time. Jeffrey Goldberg’s failure to challenge Obama’s statement turned the exchange into a public relations exercise rather than a news interview. A cub reporter for a college newspaper would have known enough to ask, “How can you be sure that we will detect an Iranian nuclear bomb before it’s ready? What’s our track record of detecting nuclear bombs elsewhere?”When intelligence agencies use the term “evidence,” what they mean is incontrovertible proof. “Hard evidence” of Iranian nuclear intentions in intel-speak, as Rühle points out, means specifically that a nuclear test already has been conducted. When intelligence officials use this terminology, they are saying in plain English that their political masters are giving Iran the presumption of innocence, as Rühle wrote. The intelligence chiefs did not say that there was no “information” and no “reliable reports” that Iran is trying to get hold of nuclear weapons as fast as it possibly can, only that there is no “hard evidence.” By definition, one obtains this kind of “hard evidence” only when it is too late.
There have been a number of reports out of Iran claiming that Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa banning the development of nuclear weapons. This is being wholeheartedly believed by many pro-Iranian analysts such as Juan Cole.
However, as reported in this piece, the IAEA reported that current Supreme Leader of Iran pushed for nuclear weapons as early as 1984. His exact quote is "A nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God's soldiers." This contradicts the wishful thinking of those who prefer to believe his politically expedient fatwas of today.
It is especially unlikely that Khamenei's reported anti-nuclear fatwa is legitimate because it is highly unlikely that Khamenei would contradict Ayatollah Khomeini's own words urging such development. Khamenei is not considered a brilliant Islamic scholar, and his importance comes from his position - he didn't gain his position because of his credentials in Islamic jurisprudence. The source for Ayatollah Khomeini's support for Iran's development of nuclear weapons is here, where he writes that he unfortunately must agree to a cease fire with Iraq in order for Iran to move forward in coming years to develop weapons such as an atomic bomb to be able to gain military superiority.
Why is it so unbelievable that the leader of a nation would engage in deception under a religious guise?
Also, other Iranian religious leaders have issued fatwas supporting the development of nuclear weapons.
Beyond that, if you read Khamenei's statements against nuclear weapons, you can see some hypocrisy:
Iran is not after a nuclear bomb. Why would Iran want a nuclear bomb? Moreover, when an atomic bomb is detonated, it does not just kill enemies. Rather, it kills innocent people as well, and this goes against Islamic beliefs and the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran. An atomic bomb does not discriminate between good and bad people, and it is not something that the Islamic Republic would use.Given that Iran supported Hezbollah's shooting rockets in Haifa in 2006, killing innocent people, this is more propaganda than truth.
Or, more likely, he believes that there is no such thing as an innocent Israeli citizen.