by Bernice Lipkin

Current negotiations with Iran are supposed to place firm restriction on Iran's ability to develop nuclear weaponry. They are due to end fairly soon. Yet we still do not actually know how Iran will be handled. There's been a multitude of details issued, many of them incompatible, others lasting slightly longer than a soap bubble. We don't know if Iran has agreed to these terms — it would appear that, if anything, she is imposing her own ideas on the agreement.

Who will monitor the process? Who will verify that nuclear weapon manufacture hasn't begun again? Who will correct Iran's course, should she stray from the agreed upon terms? When minutes count, will the White House ignore the warning as it had when Ambassador Stevens warned of a security problem just hours before terrorists raided the American compound in Benghazi where he was staying and killed the Ambassador.[1] These details are important. Iran's stated intentions and ambitions are equally important. And they seem incompatible with the stated objectives of the West.

Nevertheless, on March 19, 2015 "in a video statement to the Iranian people about his and First Lady Michelle Obama's observation of the Iranian new year's holiday of 'Nowruz',[2] Prez Obama blandly reassured us that

"Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon."

The video was posted on the White House website with Farsi subtitles.[3]

On April 2, 2015 speaking in the Rose Garden in the White House, Obama again spoke of this important fatwa. He said[4]

Since Iran's Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful.

In some situations, a statement purporting to come from the Iranian leadership would be important confirmation of what was known to be going on and there would be no reason to question it. In the present context, it is startling. It is such an outlier to Iran's usual statements — which are intransigent and indicate determination to acquire advanced nuclear proficiency — that perhaps it should be taken with a heaping tablespoon of salt. Or perhaps, we were being treated to another of Obama's dodgy statements. Certainly it would go a long way to reassuring a skeptical world were a prestigious mullah to issue a fatwa banning the creation of nuclear weaponry. But Obama's remarks were unaccompanied by any information on where and when the reference fatwa was issued. Have the mullahs suddenly have a recent and dramatic change of heart? When and where?

In writing about the fatwa shortly after Obama's March statement, Raymond Ibrahim[5] didn't reject the issuance of the fatwa but presented reasons to doubt that this statement represents the true intent of the Iranian leadership:

Ibrahim's conclusion:

"In short, it's all very standard for Islamic leaders to say they are pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while they are weaker than their infidel foes—as Iran is today—but once they acquire nukes the jihad can resume in earnest."

is an excellent summary of how Iran operates.


IRAN STARTED DABBLING IN NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY IN THE 1950S and the Bushehr plant was begun in 1975. In 1984, the program to enrich uranium was revitalized and Iran made plans to complete the Bushehr nuclear facility. Since then, it has chronically distorted information about the nuclear project. At different times, it has dissembled, misinformed, exaggerated, minimized, denied and boasted about its progress.

An early report declaring that there is such a fatwa goes back to 2005,[7] when an Iranian nuclear negotiator, Sirus Naseri, told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors that

"The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who took office just recently, in his inaugural address reiterated that his government is against weapons of mass destruction and will only pursue nuclear activities in the peaceful domain."

Note that the statement about pursuing only peaceful nuclear activities is attributed to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, not, as Prez Obama had it, to President Rouhani.


Missiles beside a portrait of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

And the credibility of such a fatwa has been doubted for almost as long as it has been said to be in existence. On February 19, 2006, Colin Freeman and Philip Sherwell published an article entitled, "Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons.[8]" For those that didn't want to bother reading the small print, the article included a photo showing the Ayatollah's portrait next to three missiles. The Ayatollah looks pleased.

For equally as long a time, we've heard that politicians and high-level administrators — such as the P5+1[9] negotiators with Iran, the then Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton and the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors — all of whom should know better, appear to believe in the elusive fatwa and consequently have proclaimed that Iranian intentions are peaceful.[10] Admittedly, it's become harder to sustain such optimism about what Iran's planning when she continually links developing nuclear weaponry and destroying Israel, but political folks are skilled at sheltering their political beliefs from being damaged by facts.

We might speculate that the high-ranking Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or maybe it President Ahmadinejad didn't actually say Iran would not be creating nuclear weaponry. It is possible that when plans were made for facilities where nuclear weaponry would be developed, inventive misinformation was part of the planning. Misdirection and calming distortions about the program would reduce hostility and lessen Western pressure.


WHY WOULD PRESIDENT OBAMA, WITH HIS ACCESS to reliable intelligence sources, buy into something so implausible? Why would he use an unverified — probably a non-existent — fatwa to support an assertion that the P+5 countries were making certain that Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon? Why would he mouth a dubious statement, when the consequences of judging Iran's intentions incorrectly can be deadly?

A day after Obama's speech, the Red State website inter alia came out with an article bluntly entitled "Obama Lies About Iranian Fatwa Against Nuclear Weapons"[11] It began by comparing Obama's Framework Speech to some recent unsavory events in American politics.

Yesterday, Barack Obama told one of the most egregious series of lies any American president has ever uttered to the American people. It would be fair to say it was unprecedented. The closest approximation would be a tie between Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman." In neither of those cases, however, was the physical safety of America and her people put into play. Those lies were meant to divert attention from personal political difficulties, not to sell away America's security.

The Red State article concludes that

This "fatwa" hokum has been thoroughly, completely, and unambiguously debunked over the years. No one believed it when it was issued. No one believes it now. Neither Obama nor Kerry believe it. That Obama used it in his address shows the contempt in which he holds the American people. It also demonstrates his justified contempt he has for the bootlick media. He tossed this lie into their faces and he knows that he will not be challenged.

THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN CAUGHT IN SO MANY LIES, WHAT'S SO TERRIBLE ABOUT YET ANOTHER ONE? The differences are profound. When Obama lied that people would be allowed to keep previous health care insurance, many people were hurt in the pocketbook and lack of care likely contributed to the premature death of some of the people that couldn't afford to pay the cost hike. Scandals involving the invasion of personal privacy are bad for a democracy: spying on hostile reporters is intimidation; denying conservative charities accreditation blocks the widespread presentation of points of view that disagree with the administration's opinion, thus limiting the information available to the public; and tapping the e-mails of private citizens opens them up to possible blackmail and corrupts government officials. If corrective action is not taken, the long-term effect of intrusive government is a citizenry fearful of asserting its constitutional rights to free speech. That's not healthy for our way of life, but it's not deadly to life itself.

The consequences of Obama's contributions to the instability of the Arab world were and are more deadly. The killing of Ghaddafi unleashed a power struggle among a large number of terrorist gangs. Libya is no longer a functional country. It has been chopped into competing fiefdoms. Civil wars that cost thousands of lives are being fought grotesquely and barbarously in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. But to some extent, the region has been engaged in religious and family warfare since the days of Mohammad, and probably before.

Exposing the Middle East and possibly some Western country to a nuclear attack by Iran in the foreseeable future is in a totally different category. It combines the devastation caused by tornadoes and tsunamis and spewing volcanoes with the deadly attacks by murderous religious zealots that leave the land desolate and the people dead. Add to this terrible mix the horrible effects of radiation on future generations. Add in the destruction of the infrastructure of countries not directly subjected to the bomb. Understand that it can put global power in the hands of medieval ideologues armed with the high-tech equipment and weaponry to try to make dhimmis of those of us who survive their bombs. Or it will kick off an arms race in an already unstable Middle East. Or it will create an Iran-dominated world until war eventually comes.

know if you cheat

As Professor Efraim Inbar wrote[12]

The search for truth in the conflicting versions and details of the deal coming out of Washington and Tehran is of no consequence. Moreover, the steps suggested by Israel and other critics to improve the efficacy of the deal (by more stringent inspections and so on) will result in little change. The deal is basically dangerous in nature, and needs to be rejected outright.

The deal permits Iran to preserve stockpiles of enriched uranium, to continue to enrich uranium, and to maintain illegally-built facilities at Fordow and Arak. Even in the absence of a signed full agreement, the US and its negotiating partners have already awarded legitimacy to Iran's nuclear threshold status. In all likelihood, the United States, quite desperate to secure an agreement, will make additional concessions in order to have a signed formal deal — which will not be worth the paper on which it is written.

And Israel's Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya'alon argued in an op-ed published Wednesday in The Washington Post[13] that the protocols announced last week did not promote peace. He argued that "the terms of the framework — which will leave an unreformed Iran stronger, richer and with a clear path to a bomb — make war more likely."

We really can not afford leaders so stupid or malicious that they are willing to jeopardize all of civilization for their own short-term political gain. Either we reject the deal outright and turn to other means to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weaponry or the generations to come will suffer the consequences. If war is inevitable, let it be now. Otherwise, when war comes — and it will — it will be more costly in lives and could kick us back into the primitive social and economic conditions in which Islam thrives.


Almost immediately after Obama spoke on April 2, Iran said no to inspection of military sites. The interpretations and analyses of Western media came from fact sheets handed out by the White House when the talks ended in Lausanne. The Iranians were reading from a different script.


[1], September-October issue, 2012.

[2], March 21, 2015.

[3], March 19, 2015.

[4] "Statement by the President on the Framework to Prevent Iran from Obtaining a Nuclear Weapon", issued at the White House, April 2, 2015

[5], March 25, 2015.


[7] "Iran's Statement at IAEA Emergency Meeting" in Mehr News Agency, August 10, 2005,

[8] iranian-fatwa-approves- use-of-nuclear-weapons.html

[9]  P5 stands for the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council: France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and China. The +1 is Germany. The P5+1 has been negotiating with Iran about its nuclear program.

[10], April 19, 2012

[11], April 3, 2015.

[12  ] April 8, 2015.

[13], April 9, 2015.

Bernice Lipkin is managing editor of Think-Israel.

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