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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The absurdity of giving credence to Iran's "fatwa" against nukes

From Emanuele Ottolenghi at Commentary:
Speaking to reporters about Iran’s nuclear program before the weekend talks in Istanbul, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We’re looking for concrete results,” and continued, “They assert that their program is purely peaceful. They point to a fatwa that the supreme leader has issued against the pursuit of nuclear weapons. We want them to demonstrate clearly in the actions they propose that they have truly abandoned any nuclear weapons ambition.”
Secretary Clinton must take this argument seriously, because she has been looking into the fatwa very closely. According to the Daily Telegraph,
Clinton revealed that she has been studying Khamenei’s fatwa, saying that she has discussed it with religious scholars, other experts and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “If it is indeed a statement of principle, of values, then it is a starting point for being operationalized,” Clinton said.
EU diplomats also took notice of Iranian emphasis on the fatwa:
“One of the diplomats, who demanded anonymity because he was sharing information from a closed session, said the Iranians appeared to be moving toward that goal, engaging in discussion about the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He said the Iranian team had mentioned supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa, or prohibition, of nuclear weapons for Iran, in the course of the plenary discussions.”
As Jonathan Tobin discussed yesterday, a delegation of 12 Iranian nuclear scientists attended the North Korea’s failed missile test at the same time that the chief nuclear negotiator in Istanbul was proclaiming Iran’s religious commitment to non-proliferation. So what were they doing there? Verifying how compatible is their leader’s fatwa with a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead?
Secretary Clinton and all other parties involved should judge the Iranians by their actions. They speak for themselves. The fatwa is a ruse – one that clearly just won Tehran another five weeks of quiet.
Juan Cole, who famously managed to convince the wishful thinkers of the world that Iranian leaders never said they wanted to destroy Israel even when official Iranian translations of their speech said they did, has been particularly strident in pretending that Khamanei's fatwa somehow proves Iran's peaceful intentions, and not its willingness to lie.

The problem is, as I have noted before, that Khamanei was on the record as supporting nuclear weapons development before his more recent pretend conversion to the cause of pacifism. He said in 1984 that "A nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God's soldiers."

Moreover, despite his beard, Khamanei is not considered a major Islamic scholar. He is a politician first and foremost. And he slavishly follows the words of his predecessor, Ayatollah Khamanei, who was also on the record as supporting the development of nuclear weapons.

Finally, even Arabic media are deriding the idea that Khamanei's fatwa is anything but a political ruse. As Asharq al-Awsat's Tariq Hamid notes,
The problem with the administration of U.S. President Obama that it wants to pursue policies that may be acceptable to the dreaming cultural elites, but that would not be effective with the systems that are filled with cunning and deception, such as the Iranian regime. That regime does not prioritize openness, human values, nor the well being of its citizens, or even tolerance. Instead, the Iranian regime and its ideology is based on expansion and penetration into other countries, and sectarian motives. International laws, conventions and norms, and self-interests atre what rules the world and it is absurd to talk about an Iranian fatwa when negotiating with Tehran. States, like individuals, have a reputation and history that can not be ignored. The reputation of a rogue state, like the reputation of an individual villain, cannot be judged by words, or fatwas, but with deeds. When Hillary talks about the Iranian fatwa surely they have not heard of a "pious" Iran! Instead Iran has a history of promises and agreements, which it did not comply with, and the simplest example here is the Iranian president's visit to the UAE island of Abu Musa that is occupied by Iran, despite all the agreements between the UAE and Iran for negotiations and dialogue. Tehran did not respect those promises. If the The head of state does not abide by a promise, how trustworthy is his advisory fatwa?

If this opinion is one of the merits of dialogue with Iran, I swear we are going to a real disaster in this region of the world.
One does not have to use the argument of "taqiyya" to prove that Iran's Supreme Leader is a liar. His own actions and words prove that quite well without resorting to Islamic law or history. He is a politician, and he has already proven that he is not above using religion to push his own political agenda. Believing in the righteousness of a proven liar, as Juan Cole and his acolytes clearly do, is in itself far worse than any real or alleged taqiyya being practiced here.