For years, the Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran has been shopping to the West the concept that its nuclear activity is strictly for civilian purposes. To this end, senior Iranian officials have clung to the fatwa by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – which does not exist – that they say bans nuclear weapons outright (see Appendix for MEMRI reports about this nonexistent fatwa).
Recently, however, there have been frequent statements by Iranian regime officials revealing that the regime is confirming that it is acting to acquire nuclear weapons, on the pretext that nuclear weapons are for deterrent purposes only.
Thus, it was recently reported that Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad Javad Alawi Boroujerdi had issued a fatwa stating that there is no ban on acquiring knowledge and practical capability to produce a nuclear bomb. Additionally, former Majlis deputy speaker Ali Motahari acknowledged, in a television interview, that developing a nuclear bomb was Iran's aim from the beginning of its nuclear program, apparently in the early 2000s, but that it had failed to keep its nuclear testing a secret.
This report will present statements by these two Iranian officials, along with MEMRI reports reviewing previous statements by regime officials regarding the need for Iran to undertake nuclear development for deterrent purposes, as well as reports on Khamenei's nonexistent nuclear fatwa.
Fatwa By Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi: "There Is No Problem With Acquiring The... Practical Capability" For Producing A Nuclear Bomb
In response to a question posed by an Ensaf News reporter, "Is obtaining the knowledge and practical capability to produce a nuclear bomb prohibited?" Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi issued a fatwa on February 5, 2022 stating that "there is no problem with acquiring the knowledge and practical capability [for producing a nuclear bomb]."
On April 21, 2022, Ensaf News published an image of this fatwa by Boroujerdi, noting that he had given no jurisprudent answer regarding the fatwa attributed to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei concerning the "production, use, and possession of a nuclear bomb." Khamenei's alleged fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons has never been found, although it is very widely referenced by Irnaian officials (see Appendix).
Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi (Source: Ensaf News, Iran, April 21, 2022)
Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi (b. 1954) is the grandson of Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi who headed the religious seminaries in the city of Qom. Ayatollah Alawi Boroujerdi studied under prominent teachers of jurisprudence such as Ayatollahs Vahid Khorasani, Mirza Javad Tabrizi, Safi Golpaigani, Sayyed Mohammad Reza Sadr, Javad Amoli, and Morteza Motahari.
Below is an image of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Boroujerdi on February 5, 2022 about the permissibility of producing a nuclear bomb.
The fatwa issued by Ayatollah Boroujerdi (Source: Ensaf News, Iran, April 21, 2022)
Former Iranian Majlis Member Ali Motahari: When Iran Started Its Nuclear Program, Our Goal Was To Build A Bomb; We Failed To Keep It A Secret Before Conducting A Nuclear Test; Having A Nuclear Bomb For Deterrence Is Not A Bad Thing
In an April 24, 2022 television interview, former Iranian Majlis member Ali Motahari was asked to clarify statements he had made in the past, i.e. that "we can produce a nuclear bomb in Iran because Islamic jurisprudence bans us from using a nuclear bomb but not from producing it."
The following is a translation of Motahari's statements in the interview.
To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:
Motahari: "When we began our nuclear activity, our goal was indeed to build a bomb. There is no need to beat around the bush."
Interviewer: "You are saying that the goal was to build a bomb?"
Motahari: "Yes. 100%."
Interviewer: "Whose goal was it? Certain individuals or the entire regime?"
Motahari: "The entire regime, or at least, the people who started this activity. The goal was indeed, to build a bomb..."
Interviewer: "In order to use it?"
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Motahari: "No, we wanted to build it as a means of intimidation."
Interviewer: "So just as a means of deterrence..."
Motahari: "The Quranic verse says: 'Strike fear in the hearts of the enemy of Allah.' It was a means of intimidation."
Interviewer: "So you are saying that this would have been a good thing."
Motahari: "With regard to what we started... If we could have kept it [a secret] until we performed a [nuclear] test, then it would have been a done deal. Like in Pakistan."
Interviewer: "Pakistan and North Korea have [nuclear bombs], but are they in a good situation?"
Motahari: "At the end of the day, they are taken into consideration."
Interviewer: "Iran is also being taken into consideration, even without a bomb."
Motahari: "This is for other reasons, but if we had a bomb, they would have taken us into consideration even more."
Interviewer: "So you are saying that all in all, if we had a bomb, it would not have been a bad thing, since we would not have used it."
Motahari: "It would not have been a bad thing. All I am saying is that since we started, we should have proceeded to the threshold."
Interviewer: "We haven't heard anyone officially saying the things you say. Don't these things affect the [JCPOA] talks and such things?"
Motahari: "Nobody notices what I am saying."
Interviewer: "But the foreigners will find it. It's not such a big effort."
Motahari: "I have no official capacity. I'm saying these things on behalf of myself."
Interviewer: "You said somewhere that according to Islamic jurisprudence, it is forbidden to use [nuclear bombs] but not to keep them."
Motahari: "There is justification for this. Some people rely on the Quranic verse 'Strike fear in the hearts of Allah's enemy.' This means that we should intimidate [the enemy] but not use the bomb. In this respect, they say that we can build a bomb. But the position of the Leader [Khamenei] right now..."
Interviewer: "Is that even building [a bomb] is forbidden."
Atomic Energy Organization Of Iran Official Denies Motahari's Statements: The Accusations Of Secrecy In Our Nuclear Activity Have Never Been Proven By The Enemy
Motahari's statements were denied by a senior official in the Atomic Energy Organization Of Iran, in an interview with the Nour News agency, which is affiliated with Iran's National Security Council, which makes nuclear policy decisions. The official explained: "Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes; it was never militarily oriented, and statements by irresponsible people in this context stem from their ignorance or from their specific political bias. Making accusations regarding the secrecy of our nuclear activity is something that the enemy has been doing for years in order to restrict our country's civilian nuclear program, but they have never managed to prove it."
Past Statements By Senior Regime Officials On The Possibility That Iran Will Acquire Nuclear Weapons
For past statements by senior regime officials regarding nuclear weapons and the possibility that Iran will acquire them, see the following MEMRI reports:
MEMRI TV Clip No. 9492, Senior Iranian Nuclear Engineer Dr. Mahmoud-Reza Aghamiri: Israeli Threats, Ukraine Crisis, North Korean Behavior Have Taught Us That Iran Needs Deterrence; We Have The Capability To Rapidly Increase Uranium Enrichment To 99% And Install A Nuclear Warhead, April 9, 2022.
Inquiry and Analysis No. 1609, Former Head Of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Abbasi-Davani, Hints That Iranian Nuclear Chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Was Working On Nuclear Weapons And That Is Why He Was Assassinated; IRGC-Affiliated Commentator Confirms That Abbasi-Davani Was Talking About Nuclear Weapons; Abbasi-Davani Says Enemy Sabotage, Assassinations Should Be Stopped By Iran's 'Cross[ing] Several Scientific Borders As Soon As Possible To Show Our Capability And Defend Our People,' November 30, 2021
Inquiry and Analysis No. 1559, Iran Uses 'Maximum Pressure' On Biden Administration – Part II: Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'If The Islamic Republic [Of Iran] Decided To Obtain Nuclear Weapons, Neither You [The Zionist Clown] Nor Those Greater Than You [The U.S.] Would Be Able To Stop It', February 23, 2021
Special Dispatch No. 9170, Iranian Expediency Council Official In Article In 'Tabnak' Daily: 'Why Iran Is Demanding A Nuclear Bomb,' February 4, 2021
Inquiry and Analysis No. 1518, The Iran-U.S. Conflict: Iran Is Working On Obtaining Strategic Capability – Long-Range Missiles And Nuclear Submarines, June 26, 2020
Appendix: Khamenei's Nonexistent Nuclear Fatwa
The following are MEMRI reports on the issue of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's fatwa banning nuclear weapons – which does not exist:
Inquiry & Analysis No. 825, Renewed Iran-West Nuclear Talks – Part II: Tehran Attempts to Deceive U.S. President Obama, Sec'y of State Clinton With Nonexistent Anti-Nuclear Weapons Fatwa By Supreme Leader Khamenei, April 19, 2012
Special Dispatch No. 5406, Release Of Compilation Of Newest Fatwas By Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei – Without Alleged Fatwa About Nuclear Bomb, August 13, 2013
Special Dispatch No. 5461, President Obama Endorses The Lie About Khamenei's 'Fatwa' Against Nuclear Weapons, September 29, 2013
Inquiry & Analysis No.1022, The Official Iranian Version Regarding Khamenei's Alleged Anti-Nuclear Weapons Fatwa Is A Lie, October 3, 2013.
Special Dispatch No. 5574, Iranian President Hassan Rohani In Article In Saudi Daily: While Avoiding Confrontation And Hostility, We Shall Be Diligent In Pursuing Our Supreme Interests, December 23, 2013
Special Dispatch No. 5681, Prominent Iranian Analyst, Author, And Columnist Amir Taheri: Nobody Has Actually Seen Khamenei's Anti-Nuclear Fatwa, Which Obama Often Quotes, March 17, 2014.
Inquiry & Analysis No. 1080, U.S. Secretary Of State Kerry In New And Unprecedented Statement: 'President Obama And I Are Both Extremely Welcoming And Grateful For The Fact That [Iranian] Supreme Leader [Khamenei] Has Issued A [Nonexistent] Fatwa' Banning Nuclear Weapons, March 31, 2014
Special Dispatch No. 5881, Tehran Again Offers Khamenei's Nonexistent Fatwa In Negotiations As A Guarantee That It Is Not Developing Nuclear Weapon, November 14, 2014.
Inquiry and Analysis No.1151, Iranian Regime Continues Its Lies And Fabrications About Supreme Leader Khamenei's Nonexistent Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons, April 6, 2015.
Inquiry and Analysis No. 1394, Insights Following Exposure Of Iran's Military Nuclear Program – Part I: The Leadership Of Iran's Religious Regime Lies About Essential Islamic Matters, Manipulates Religion To Justify Its Grip On Power, Regional Expansion, May 6, 2018
Inquiry and Analysis No. 1458, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Reiterates Iran's Lie, Promoted By Obama Administration, That Supreme Leader Khamenei Issued Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons; No Such Fatwa Ever Existed, May 31, 2019.
 In Twelver Shi'a, Grand Ayatollah is a title granted to a senior ayatollah who represents a supreme religious authority and can issue jurisprudence. Called a marja taqlid, or "source of emulation," he provides religious interpretations on matters of law and rituals, and believers are obligated to follow his rulings.
 Nournews.ir/Fa/News-Print/93919, April 24, 2022.