The Khamenei Fatwa Hoax Is Absurd on its Face

by Andrew C. McCarthy

In Impromptus today, Jay deals with the curious case of the missing fatwa. That would, of course, be the purported fatwa (or Islamic sharia law edict) issued by Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which is said to prohibit Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The fatwa does not exist. Yet, with a dearth of tire-kicking that is remarkable even by the lowly standards of our Obama-friendly media, it has repeatedly been cited by top administration officials, including the president, Secretary of State Kerry and former Secretary of State Clinton, in an effort to give Americans comfort regarding the administration’s negotiations – whatever comfort you can derive from people who tell you that Khamenei’s “Death to America” pronouncements are not to be taken seriously but the “fatwa” can be taken to the bank; from people who see the Constitution and statutory American law as no obstacle to any of their own designs but would have you believe a fatwa is so sacrosanct the mullahs would be conclusively stymied by it.

As Jay aptly points out, the existence vel non of the fatwa should not be a left-right matter: Either there is one or there isn’t.

There isn’t . . . as the MEMRI research Jay cites convincingly demonstrates. It is important to grasp that in a sharia state, where Islamic scripture is the law, a fatwa by the ruler is the rough equivalent of a conclusive pronouncement by the U.S. Supreme Court on the meaning and required application of a constitutional principle or provision. That is why, to be authoritative, fatwas have to be published and accessible. Not only has the purported fatwa never been published despite copious, easily accessible collections of Khamenei’s fatwas; he also, as recently as 2012, refused to answer when directly questioned about the purported fatwa in a Facebook forum.

It is necessary to go further, though – much further. The issue is not just that the fatwa does not exist; it is that (a) the notion that Islamic law bans nuclear weapons is absurd on its face; (b) empirically, the Iranian regime has taken concrete steps (often at great cost to itself) that make its determination to acquire nuclear weapons inescapable; and (c) even if there were a fatwa, Iran has a history of ignoring or reversing fatwas when they prove inconvenient – which underscores an inconvenience for the Obama administration: fatwas are not enforceable by the United States in any event.

I addressed these points recently in a post at PJMedia. To reiterate:

The notion that Khamenei actually believes nuclear weapons violate Islamic law and would issue a credible fatwa to that effect should be seen as absurd on its face. Put aside that Pakistan, which incorporates sharia in its law, has long had nuclear weapons. For over two decades, al-Qaeda has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons and has enjoyed essential support from the regime in Tehran.

Oil-rich Iran has no need to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It has explicitly threatened to wipe Israel off the map. It has been busily been developing weapons systems capable of delivering nuclear bombs in conjunction with its uranium enrichment. It could not be more obvious that Khamenei’s regime, far from rejecting nuclear weapons as anti-Islamic, seeks to acquire them in order to promote the imposition of its Islamic-supremacist ideology.

Moreover, as MEMRI further documents, there is a published fatwa on the subject of nuclear weapons from credible Shiite sharia scholars. In 2006, it was reported that jurists in Qom had issued a fatwa explicitly stating that “sharia does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.”

Although the date seems to shift, Iranian officials began claiming in about 2005 that Khamenei had promulgated an anti-nuke fatwa. The disingenuous suggestion was made in connection with Iran’s shrewd conclusion that the best route to developing nuclear weapons internally was to pretend that its nuclear program was peaceful.

Obama administration officials, who are desperate to strike a deal with Iran and to convince themselves that Iran might become an American ally in the Middle East, understand that the mullahs will never allow the kind of rigorous inspection system that would make an agreement trustworthy. They are thus emphasizing the phantom fatwa as a rationale for making an unacceptable deal: You are supposed to say to yourself, “We needn’t worry about the inability to verify that the Iranians are not constructing nukes because the Islamic ruler has solemnly forbidden it.”

But even if you were inclined to such self-delusion, the fact is: Khamenei has not forbidden nuclear weapons.

As Breitbart’s Joel Pollak has observed, Kenneth Pollack, a serious national security expert who is particularly influential among Democrats, discussed the purported Khamenei fatwa in his book Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. Pollack notes not only that the fatwa has never been formally issued but also that Iran disregards fatwas when they prove inconvenient to perceived national interests. Thus did the founder of the Iranian jihadist state, Ayatollah Khomeini, ignore his own fatwa against weapons of mass destruction during the long war with Iraq in the 1980s.

It would be lunacy, in a matter crucial to American national security, to rely on a fatwa from the head of a jihadist-terror state even if such a fatwa actually existed. But it doesn’t.

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