Iranian defectors: Khamenei said anti-nuke ‘fatwa’ won’t matter

Reza Kahlili Contributor
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A group of defectors from Iran has cautioned that Iranian authorities believe the West has been lulled into a false sense of security by a fatwa — a pronouncement of Muslim law — by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has said that a “nuclear bomb is a sin in Islam.” It is based on a lie, they warned, despite the Obama administration’s apparent reliance on this declaration to guide its foreign policy.

According to the Green Embassy Campaign, a collection of former Iranian diplomats who have sought political asylum abroad, Khamenei recently told an important meeting of his regime’s security and intelligence officials that his fatwa will not restrict Shiite Muslims in Iran from pursuing and building a nuclear weapon. The campaign is tied to the Green Movement in Iran, which opposes Khamenei’s reign and favors free elections.

“While God is with us and has forced Russia and China on our side, America cannot do anything,” they reported that Khamenei told the officials. “The fatwa which I gave years ago that a nuclear bomb is haram, a sin, has now become a statement of fact for the West, and because of their own needs and fears of Israel, they are emphasizing that statement.”

“However,” Khamenei continued, “the Imam’s hidden soldiers, based on their religious obligation under Shiite Islam, will continue in total secrecy and in other locations to attain the most advanced arms to defend the regime.”

The Iranian regime often refers to those who work in total secrecy as “The hidden Imam soldiers,” including intelligence agents, scientists and others busy advancing the goals of the regime and protecting it militarily. The “Imam” refers to the promised final Islamic Messiah, the Shiites’ 12th Imam Mahdi, who Shiites believe will return to Earth when Armageddon begins.

The Green Embassy report indicated that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his associates were not present at the meeting because Khamenei suspected they might leak information to the outside.

The Obama administration signaled last month that Khamenei’s fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons under Islam could — and should — be used as a lever when talks with Iran continue in Baghdad. Days later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again raised the fatwa during a NATO conference in Norfolk, Va., as a launching point for guiding U.S. policy.

Clinton remarked on “the repetition by the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, that he had issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, against weapons of mass destruction.”

“[Turkish] Prime Minister Erdogan and I discussed this at some length,” she said, “and I’ve discussed it with a number of experts and religious scholars. And if it is indeed a statement of principle, of values, then it is a starting point for being operationalized, which means that it serves as the entryway into a negotiation as to how you demonstrate that it is indeed a sincere, authentic statement of conviction.”

The anti-nuclear-weapon fatwa itself was called into question by an April 19 report from the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute that concluded it does not exist. “No such fatwa ever existed or was ever published,” the organization wrote, “and … media reports about it are nothing more than a propaganda ruse on the part of the Iranian regime apparatuses.”

Even if the fatwa does exist, some commentators have derided the U.S. government for relying on it.

“Our allies, even in the Muslim world, wonder why the Obama Administration would bother taking seriously a fatwa from a state sponsor of terror,” Weekly Standard senior editor Lee Smith wrote on April 25. “After all, the regime has issued numerous outrageous fatwas, including one that opined on the permissibility of sex with chickens, and another that called for the head of novelist Salman Rushdie.”

Meanwhile, new arguments have surfaced to support the contention that Iran is pursuing its nuclear-arms ambitions while cajoling the West that it has no such aims.

According to a report from the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Iranian opposition group, obtained Friday by newspapers in Europe and Israel, Iran is accelerating its nuclear bomb program.

The expansive report reveals that Iranian scientists at a facility near Tehran called the Center for Explosives, Blast Research and Technologies are engaged in building high explosives for nuclear detonators. It also details Iran’s extensive activities aimed at building nuclear warheads.

And late on Sunday the Associated Press published a lengthy analysis of a computer-generated drawing, provided by an official of an unnamed nation, that shows an explosives containment chamber allegedly inside Iran — the type of chamber required for nuclear arms-related testing.

U.N. inspectors suspect Iran has conducted that specific kind of testing, although the Islamic republic has denied it.

The drawing, the AP reported, was based on information related by an informant who saw the weapons-testing chamber at the Parchin military site near Tehran.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book “A Time to Betray.” He is a senior Fellow with EMPact America, a member of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).