Administration Relying on Purported Iranian Nuclear ‘Fatwa’ to Get Deal Done

By Patrick Goodenough | November 14, 2014 | 4:50 AM EST

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters alongside Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, in Amman, Jordan, on November 13, 2014. (Photo: State Department)

(CNSNews.com) – As the clock winds down on negotiations for a final nuclear deal with Iran, Obama administration officials again are citing a purported fatwa by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prohibiting nuclear weapons. “We respect it enormously,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.

Speaking in Amman, Jordan, Kerry spoke of the administration’s hopes to achieve a strong agreement over Iran’s nuclear programs, and its hope that “Iran will work in the same way that we are.”

“Obviously, the fatwa of the leader is a very important instrument, and we respect it enormously as a matter of religious edict,” he said. “But that has to be translated into a lay person’s regular document, a legal one, if you will, with all of the things that are necessary for an agreement regarding potential nuclear programs.”

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also invoked the alleged religious ruling on Thursday, telling reporters traveling with President Obama in Asia that if the fatwa’s prohibition on developing nuclear weapons was “their stated policy, there should be an opening” to secure an agreement.

“I think with respect to our engagement with Iran, the supreme leader has said that there’s a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons inside of Iran, that their program is peaceful,” he said in Naypyidaw, Burma.

“The purpose of the nuclear negotiation is to arrive at a resolution which Iran can demonstrate to the confidence of the international community that that is the case. If that is their stated policy, there should be an opening to get this done,” Rhodes said. “That’s been our message in negotiations with the Iranians; that will continue to be our message going forward.”

Some skeptics, Muslims among them, have questioned whether the nuclear fatwa – as opposed to Iranian reports about it or other written references to it – actually exists, and if it does, whether it holds any weight.

Iranian officials have pointed to different documents, carrying different dates and using differing wording. A fatwa outlawing nuclear weapons cannot be found among those catalogued on Khamenei’s official website.

When Iran’s mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international organizations in Vienna was asked to provide a copy of the fatwa, it sent CNSNews a transcript of an April 2010 speech by Khamenei to a nuclear disarmament conference in Iran, in which he said that the “use” of nuclear weapons was forbidden.

Other versions of the supposed fatwa, dated Nov. 2004 and Aug. 2005, refer to the “production, storage, and use” of nuclear weapons being prohibited, while another dated Feb. 2012 only mentions their “possession.”


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow