August 30, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10170

Shi'ite Lebanese Journalist: The U.S. Is Ignoring Iran's Responsibility For The Attack On Salman Rushdie

August 30, 2022
Iran, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 10170

In an August 16, 2022 column in the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Shi'ite Lebanese journalist Nadim Koteich, known for his opposition to Hizbullah and Iran,  accuses Iran of being behind the murder attempt against the novelist Salman Rushdie, and states that the U.S. is deliberately ignoring this. He argues that, even if there is no direct evidence of Iran's involvement in the attack, there is enough circumstantial evidence that it is responsible for it. The primary piece of evidence, he says, is Imam Khomeini's 1989 fatwa that proclaimed it permissible to kill Rushdie, which is "a border-spanning permit to commit murder" and an act of "aggression against freedom and against the entire international system." He also notes that the Iranian media celebrated the attack and that Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has incited to murder him in the past. Disregarding Iran's responsibility for the stabbing, he adds, is nothing less than "falling into the trap" of this country, which perpetrates terror throughout the world in ways that obscure its involvement. Saying that Iran enjoys immunity because it presents itself as a state, even though it behaves like an international terror organization, he warns that the attack on Rushdie should serve as a wake-up call for the international community.     

Nadim Koteich (Source:

The following are translated excerpts from his column.[1]

"The attack on British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie once again reveals [America's] dual [perception] of Sunni versus Shi'ite terrorism and the double standard in its liberal political attitude towards them. It is immaterial whether or not Hadi Matar, the Shi'ite who attacked Rushdie, was in touch with Iran's Revolutionary Guards [Corps] [IRGC] before the attack, as leaked by several U.S. security sources to prominent media outlets. We may never know if the decision to carry out the attack was taken by Matar following an explicit or implicit [order], or if the young man [simply] acted out of a religious conviction that he had to implement Khomeini's 1989 fatwa that sanctioned Rushdie's killing following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses. Investigating [this question] must be left to the courts, in order to avoid politicizing the presumption of innocence. A whiff of [such politization] rises from the initial responses of the American political system, which rushed to deny any IRGC involvement in the attack!

"The issue here transcends, and should transcend, the question of whether any apparatus of the Iranian regime was technically involved in the attack. [We] should address the crux of the matter, namely Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie, which embodies the problem that the entire Iranian regime constitutes in the world. This fatwa is tantamount to a border-spanning permit to commit murder. It therefore represents aggression not only against freedom, but against the entire international system – for it is [virtually] a command to commit murder, as part of the idea of exporting the [Iranian] revolution, which is the most prominent hallmark of the Iranian regime.  

"We are thus confronted with the truth regarding the Iranian regime, which is rooted in a 'criminal international doctrine,' [which it employs] as a tool of propaganda against its ideological enemies and as a means to fight them. [This regime] is characterized by the wide range of means it uses to achieve its goals. One of these means is the professional utilizing of a new generation of potential terrorists who live in the West and suffer from a crisis of identity. This is true of Hadi Matar, whose mother says he was furious with her for failing to give him a religious upbringing and to familiarize him with Shi'ite Islam before he set out on his own journey of discovery.    

"Hence, toying with the assumption that there are personal urges behind every crime, including the attempted murder of Rushdie or the assassination of [Lebanese prime minister] Rafiq Al-Hariri before him… and ignoring the fingerprints of the IRGC, the Qods Force or of other [Iranian bodies], means falling again and again into the trap set by Iran. The immunity [of this regime] stems from the fact that it is careful to evade the implications and power of the law whenever and wherever it engages in its ongoing illegal activities…  

"[Even] if Hadi Matar was inspired by Khomeini's fatwa, the law cannot touch [Iran] as long as there is no clear proof of its incitement or involvement in the murder. However, in nearly every incident, there is sufficient circumstantial proof to formulate a definite political opinion regarding Iran's direct responsibility. First, as noted by Afshon Ostovar, a young American historian of Iranian origin,  author of the book Vanguard of the Imam, the IRGC is a very skilled, hierarchical organization that operates under the direct guidance of Iran's Supreme Leader. This means that every operation outside Iran is first authorized by the highest echelons in the Iranian regime, and that the actions of the IRGC are the actions of Iran. Ostovar notes further that assassinations are not actions that IRGC members can be involved in with the aim of achieving personal objectives. They are serious operations, and when the regime wants to murder people abroad it does so in a deliberate manner. As a matter of fact, [Khomeini's] fatwa applies not only to Rushdie, because in 1991, the Japanese [translator and academic] Hitoshi Igarashi  was stabbed to death for translating [The Satanic Verses into Japanese]. The Italian translator of the book also survived an attempt to stab him to death, and in 1993 three shots were fired at the publisher of the Norwegian translation of the book… This reflects how serious the fatwa, and the ongoing [efforts] to implement it, are.

"Secondly, it was not hard to find Iranian expressions of support for [Rushdie's] stabbing even before it occurred. One year before the incident, General Esmail Qaani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, advised then U.S. president Donald Trump and state secretary Mike Pompeo to regard the fate of the British-Indian author [Rushdie] as 'an example of what their own lives would look like from that moment forward.' He added that 'the defeat of those responsible for the assassination of [former Qods Force commander] Qassem Soleimani had already started in practice.'[2] In this simple manner, Qaani drew a connection between the goals of the Iranian state, which wants to take political revenge on Washington, and the intentions of Rushdie's attacker, [although] Iran [now] wants his deed to be regarded as the action of a single individual that provides no proof of actual involvement by any of its state apparatuses. [Yet] the American media described this connection as one of the features of [Iran's] political propaganda, and not as proof of any criminal intent or criminal action by the one who uttered the remarks [i.e., Qaani] or by those he represents. 

"Third, all the Iranian media and non-media apparatuses extensively addressed the incident. The Iranian media celebrated it, and before it happened, there was [also] incitement by figures such as the secretary-general of the Hizbullah militia, Hassan Nasrallah, who encouraged the believers to implement that fatwa of Imam [Khomeini].[3] And indeed, the man who implemented it is a Lebanese supporter of Hizbullah!

"Following the assassination of IRGC official Hassan Sayyad Khodaei in Tehran, in which the [Israeli] Mossad was implicated, then Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said: "For decades, the Iranian regime has practiced terrorism against Israel and the region by means of proxies and emissaries, but the head of the octopus, Iran itself, has enjoyed immunity.” He added: "As we have said before, the era of the Iranian regime’s immunity is over. Those who finance terrorists, those who arm terrorists and those who send terrorists will pay the full price." This may be the most important development to occur in  the political approach to Iran since 1979. But the most significant immunity Iran continues to enjoy stems from the fact that it regards itself as a state, even though it behaves like an international terror organization. The case of Salman Rushdie is a warning bell, [cautioning us] to understand the behavior of the Khomeini regime from this perspective."   


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 16, 2022.

[2] This refers to remarks made by Qaani on January 2021 on the occasion of the first anniversary of Soleimani's death., January 6, 2021.

[3] This refers to comments made by Nasrallah several years ago, in which he expressed sorrow that nobody had yet implemented the fatwa. Following Rushdie's stabbing, a video of these statements was widely circulated on social media., August 13, 2022.

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