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memri
April 6, 2015 No.
1151

Iranian Regime Continues Its Lies And Fabrications About Supreme Leader Khamenei's Nonexistent Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons

In President Obama's announcement of the joint statement following the conclusion of the negotiations in Lausanne, he again mentioned the nonexistent fatwa, stating as fact that Iran's Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.[1] This assertion by the president is not true. Such a fatwa has never been issued, and to this day no one has been able to show it, as MEMRI has detailed in five reports so far.[2]

The following is the sixth MEMRI report, constituting an update about this nonexistent fatwa.

Introduction

The Iranian regime has persisted in its attempts to deceive the West in the matter of a fatwa that it claims was issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banning nuclear weapons. The deception focuses on both the fatwa's alleged date of issue and on its alleged content. This fatwa has never been presented by Iran and in fact does not exist.

An Iranian international law expert published, on the BBC Persian website, an article stating that no such fatwa was ever issued.

One (Nonexistent) Fatwa - Many Dates

Following the continuing pressure on the Iranian regime to come up with Khamenei's (nonexistent) fatwa that allegedly bans nuclear weapons, the regime recently published, on one of the two websites where Khamenei's fatwas are published, a letter sent by Khamenei in April 2010 to the Tehran International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. The letter, in Farsi, Arabic, English, and Spanish, was posted under the heading "New Fatwas." (see Appendix I). On February 26, 2015, Khamenei tweeted, "We consider the use of WMDs as Haraam [forbidden]" and linked to the letter on the website.[3]

The presentation of this letter as a (new) fatwa proves that no such fatwa was ever issued before; likewise, the letter to the conference does not constitute a religiously binding fatwa, but is a political statement with no religious significance.

Additionally, the nonexistent fatwa has over the years been given different dates of issue by different Iranian regime spokesmen, but none have ever actually presented it.[4]

In May 2012, before being elected president, Hassan Rohani claimed that the fatwa was issued in 2004, when was heading the Iranian delegation to the nuclear talks with the EU3. He also stated that it was he, Rohani, who had thought to present Khamenei's statements in a November 5, 2004 Friday sermon at Tehran University to the EU3 prior to the signing of the November 2004 Paris Agreement, as a fatwa to guarantee that Iran was not striving to develop nuclear weapons.[5]

As noted, the Khamenei sermon that Rohani presented as a fatwa was delivered in 2004, whereas Khamenei's letter to the conference, identified as a "new" fatwa on his website, is dated 2010.

One (Nonexistent) Fatwa - Different Content

Furthermore, Khamenei, in his November 5, 2004 sermon, defined possessing, storing, and using nuclear weapons as "problematic" - not as "prohibited (haram)."[6] However, in his 2010 letter, Khamenei defines nuclear weapons as prohibited (haram; see Appendix I).[7]

Appendix I: Khamenei's Letter To The 2010 Tehran Conference

The following screenshot shows Khamenei's April 2010 letter to the Tehran International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, under the "New Fatwas" section of his fatwas website.


Source: Khamenei.ir, accessed March 23, 2015.

Appendix II: Iranian International Law Expert: "Where Is The Iranian Leader's Original Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons? And What Does It Say? In Reality, So Far No One Has Claimed To Have Actually Seen The Fatwa"

On July 16, 2014, BBC Persian posted an article titled "Where Is The Iranian Leader's Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons?" by Iranian international law expert Bahman Aghai Diba. In it, Aghai Diba explained that the regime's failure to publish the actual text of the fatwa, coupled with its reliance on a letter by Khamenei to a conference in Tehran, constitute a breach of Shi'ite custom, according to which a published fatwa consists of a question posed to a senior ayatollah together with his reply. According to Aghai Diba, the failure to post the fatwa on Khamenei's various websites, where detailed descriptions of many of his other fatwas do appear, casts doubt on its existence, and prevents it from being examined for both date and content.[8]

The following are the main points of his article, as translated from the Persian:[9]

"The Iranian government states that the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not aspire to use nuclear energy for military purposes, and in order to prove this point they refer to a fatwa or religious ruling by the Iranian Supreme Leader, which allegedly forbids [the use of] weapons of mass destruction. 

"Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said that Iran will turn this fatwa into a law in order to reassure several states of the civilian nature [of its nuclear program]. The U.S. Secretary of State also said that this fatwa is important, but should become law. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman [Afkham] also said, in the past, that the Islamic Republic intends to register this fatwa with the UN.

"But where is the Iranian leader's original fatwa banning nuclear weapons? And what does it say? In reality, so far no one has claimed to have actually seen the fatwa.

"Fatwas have a certain status in Islamic jurisprudence. They have formatting and content requirements. The fatwas are usually in the form of a question asked of a marja' taqlid [the highest jurisprudential authority in Shi'a Islam], and the marja'a gives an answer that is based on Islamic religious sources.

"Keeping in mind that the Iranian leader's fatwa banning nuclear weapons has never been published anywhere, it is not clear what its format and content are. Who asked the question ([i.e.] an ordinary person or a jurist[?]) and what formulas and rules from Islamic religious law were used in order to reply to it? For example, does the word haram [forbidden] appear in it, or are conditions for this ban spelled out?

"In accordance with the accepted definition of a fatwa (according to the explanation presented in the existing sources that are known to all), [a fatwa] is: 'A publicly applicable religious law concerning a particular issue that is derived from the four sources [of Islamic law]: the Koran, the Sunnah [i.e. the traditions], ijma [consensus among the clerics], and a logical interpretation of the issue by the marja'.

"It is said that Khamenei's fatwa banning nuclear weapons was issued somewhere around 2005. On October 31, 2013, Iranian Majlis speaker Ali Larijani said that Iran's Supreme Leader has banned the use of nuclear weapons, and the Iranian government wants to register this [fatwa] as a document in the U.N. This is evidence that at least as of that date this fatwa had not been presented in the form of a document to the U.N. At the same time, there is no precedent in history of the registration of such a fatwa in the U.N.

"When a fatwa is issued by the marja' taqlid, this religious edict reaches the knowledge of the public by various channels. In this day and age, when clerics have extensive means [to publish] both privately and publicly, their fatwas are published on multiple websites, including the official websites of these maraji'. Leader Khamenei's rulings and fatwas are presented on his personal and official websites, on almost every subject, in detail and in a very organized manner, and hundreds of other elements [in Iran] also reiterate these fatwas.

"These edicts are [also] organized according to words, languages, and topics. However, such an important fatwa - a fatwa that bans nuclear weapons - on which many high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic rely appears nowhere in the abovementioned sources. Its text is not found on any website, nor in any of the numerous collections of the Supreme Leader's publications that are published by the Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of the Leader, nor in any language.

"However, the inaccessibility of this fatwa prevents it from being examined in order to determine what the ban on weapons of mass destruction is based on. What extent of mass destruction does it include? When the Iranians and the Iraqis were killed extensively during the Iran-Iraq War (especially owing to Iran's 'human wave' strategy [in which Iran sent masses across minefields]), no marja', including Ayatollah [Ruhollah] Khomeini, issued a fatwa or order to prevent all this slaughter or to define this destruction and slaughter as un-Islamic.

"Ayatollah Khomeini never declared the Iraqi nuclear project 'un-Islamic,' even though it was clearly intended for military use (this [Iraqi] project was stopped by Israel's bombing of the Iraqi nuclear facilities).

"Some sources have tried to say that Khamenei's fatwa is his April 4, 2010 letter to the Disarmament Conference in Tehran, in which he condemned the use of weapons of mass destruction, calling them 'a violation of human rights and a clear example of war crimes.' But this claim is unacceptable, because this letter is not considered a fatwa.

"The fatwa banning nuclear weapons by Iran's Supreme Leader remains shrouded in fog."

 
Endnotes:

[1] Whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/02/statement-president-framework-prevent-iran-obtaining-nuclear-weapon, April 2, 2015.

[3] Twitter.com/Khamenei_ir, February 26, 2015; Farsi.khamenei.ir/treatise-content?id=228&pid=228&tid=-1. Both accessed March 23, 2015.

[8] As noted in this paper, Aghai Diba's article was published in July 2014, and the alleged fatwa was posted in the "New Fatwas" section on Khamenei's fatwa website only after that.  

[9] BBC Persian, July 16, 2014.