“Iran’s Flexible Fatwa” WINEP

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"The Supreme Leader first issued an oral nuclear fatwa in 2003, and he has repeated it in numerous speeches since then. These pronouncements, which use a religious idiom to describe nuclear weapons as “forbidden” (haram), have the same legal standing as written fatwas.

The precise formulations used in these pronouncements have varied. Khamenei has at times categorically forbidden the development, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons. On other occasions, he appeared to tacitly permit their development and stockpiling, but not use. When addressing a group of top scientists on October 9, 2019, he stated, “Although we could have taken this path [of producing a nuclear weapon], we decided not to…based on Islam’s verdict; it is wrong to make it and it is wrong to stockpile it because it is forbidden to use it.”

Notably, both the initial fatwa and early Iranian efforts to highlight it followed not long after the discovery and public disclosure of the regime’s clandestine nuclear enrichment program in 2002. These efforts should therefore be seen, at least in part, as damage control. The fatwa has been used for other purposes as well:

  • To legitimize the nuclear program as a strictly peaceful activity via religious justification
  • To deflect potential domestic criticism for the program’s slow progress, its numerous setbacks, and the regime’s decision to eschew a rapid breakout
  • To help the regime promote revolutionary Islam as a coequal system of international legitimacy alongside international law, as expressed through proposals in 2013 to get the fatwa enshrined in a UN resolution."

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I would agree with the authors that Iran can be negotiated with and that the ideological shine has gone off the apple with regard to Iran's revolutionary fervor.  National interests, real or imagined, are probably paramount priorities now.

What I would not agree with or support is the notion that Iran must be made into a land locked country devoted to the cultivation of pistachios and the weaving of fine carpets.  This is the Israeli policy position which WINEP, an arm of AIPAC, supports.

This is one area in which I can be persuaded to think that Blinken/Harris/Biden would be right in returning to JCPOA.

I wonder if anyone has had a go at explaining all this to Harris.  pl

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/irans-flexible-fatwa-how-expediency-shapes-nuclear-decisionmaking

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16 Responses to “Iran’s Flexible Fatwa” WINEP

  1. Avatar TV says:

    Does returning to JCPOA mean sending Iran another $1.7 billion cash on pallets after getting down on all fours and crawling across the floor?

  2. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TV
    You seem to have missed the fact that it was their money, impounded here since the revolution.

  3. Avatar TV says:

    Col:
    The DID seize a US Embassy and US hostages.
    Is that a freebie?

  4. Avatar Barbara Ann says:

    “Diplomacy can succeed only when Tehran concludes—following an unsentimental, cold-eyed assessment—that a new agreement or series of agreements will advance its interests. At the same time, this likely means that Tehran will adhere to a new agreement only for as long as doing so aligns with its interests”

    The authors’ conclusion is facile. Of course Iran will only sign off on an agreement which suits its interests. It seems to have been derived from the usual exceptionalist POV that ignores the fact that all counties behave like this almost all of the time – the US included. The fact that ideology plays a part in decision-making on the other side (Ziocon ideology in particularly) is conveniently ignored. Iran is painted as a slippery and untrustworthy counterparty – the implication being that the “international community” is above all that. Very amusing.
    I wish Blinken & his team luck with their JCPOA 2.0. Whatever is finally negotiated will never please the Israelis and the AIPAC crowd.
    The nuclear issue is just the boogieman used to frighten the children. Israel (and the Gulf states) want Iran tamed and its influence in the region curtailed. Failing that Iran must be destroyed. They will of course want Iran’s conventional missiles to be included in the new deal, as well as those of its regional allies – primarily Hizballah. Anything short of a capitulation by Iran will be unacceptable and as this ain’t gonna happen I’d expect Israel to sabotage the negotiations such that maximum pressure is sustained.
    As TTG’s recent post indicated, Iran’s precision-guided conventional missile arsenal has become very capable. If together with the 1,000’s of missiles Hizballah have in Lebanon, Iran can potentially level Tel Aviv (for example) have we already reached the point at which MAD rules apply? If so there are two relevant implications: 1) the incentive to develop nuclear weapons is actually reduced and 2) the conventional missile weaponry Iran has at its disposal has become an essential part of its strategic self defense – a non negotiable asset.

  5. Avatar confusedponderer says:

    Mr. Lang,
    re “What I would not agree with or support is the notion that Iran must be made into a land locked country devoted to the cultivation of pistachios and the weaving of fine carpets. This is the Israeli policy position which WINEP, an arm of AIPAC, supports.”
    That is a point I rather agree with.
    I want to add that this AIPAC-ish policy position is nut just held by Israelis but also by their US friends like Kushner and evangelists like Pompeo (and Esper and Pence?).
    And then there are folks like the successful casino master and generous donor Sheldon Adelson. While he died on January 11th, he once uttered one his ingenious ideas – that Obama should nuke some desert in Iran to show the Iranians that not yet MAGA land was serious.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/sheldon-adelson-has-idea-lob-nuclear-bomb-iranian-desert/309657/
    With friends like that, who needs enemies? And clearly, on the surface, graveyards are peaceful places. Sort of. I recall that as a altar server I served on a funeral where the family was exceedingly generous with gratuity.
    Normally that was so good at baptisms and weddings. Maybe here that funeral eventually brought peace? Anyway, I was happy about a cinema visit having been financed and too polite to ask.
    Also, such enemy submission views are shared by Kushners’s Du-Freunde Netanyahu & MBS and likely the UAE’s smarter MBZ, who accidentally recently normalized relations with Israel, signing some paper about that at the white house (naturally while being overoranged).
    It is in that sense very unsurprising that Kushner’s wonder peace for Israel and Palestine requires 9999% Palestinian submission resulting in that this so called peace and Palestinian enthusiasm for it being so hard to see, and why recently Alan Dershowitz, already 82 years old, proposed Kushner for the peace nobel prize.
    Why? I could propose that that was a bad PR stunt and a failure – and be wrong.
    In the alternative realities of MAGA land it would be something else – an exceedingly cunning stealth peace which is, just like stealth aircraft, invisible. I wonder how close that USAF general next to him was close to a stroke when Trump said that, likely in a mask free & cuddling press corona campaign event in front of a surprisingly visible B-2.

  6. Avatar JohninMK says:

    Barbara Ann, I think you hit the nail on the head with your final paragraph. Once the Iranians get sufficient, plus a few in case of launch site loss, ballistic missiles to destroy significant parts of say Tel Aviv, Haifa and some military sites they will probably relax a bit.
    At that point there will be political capital to be made by going public on never developing nuclear weapons and opening their sites to inspection again. No doubt they would challenge Israel to do the same for added bonus points, knowing they would have to refuse to maintain MAD.

  7. Avatar wtofd says:

    Could someone comment on the efficacy of Iron Dome and any of the IDF’s other missile defense systems?

  8. Avatar JohninMK says:

    wtold, their performance must be really good (better than US products) as the US is buying it and some are being moved to Saudi. He said cautiously.

  9. Avatar james says:

    pat – kudos on your replies to TV… unfortunately the usa admin and msm is constantly pushing TV’s viewpoint which is why it is endemic to most americans viewpoint on iran… and i doubt very much blinken will go along with returning to the jcpoa… he is too busy serving israel like most of this new admin… i will be happily surprised if i proven wrong..

  10. Avatar John Credulous says:

    My understanding, please correct if mistaken:
    1953 Coup in Iran relied on the “Mosque”
    1978 Insurgency in Afghanistan relied on the “Mosque”
    1979 Uprising in Iran relied on the “Mosque” – the west supported this “recycling” / “renovation” of leadership.
    From the 50’s through the 70’s the Shah of Iran
    * was our gendarme in the middle east
    * supported the petrol dollar system
    * bought a lot of US weapons
    Israel, during this time was expansionist and under siege, and impudent: Suez, Lavon, USS Liberty. Basically a pariah state on the par with South Africa and Rhodesia.
    After the Iranian uprising threw out western influence, Israel became more attractive as a western enforcer.
    Conclusion: all the Israeli hype about the Iranian “threat” is to prevent the natural restoration of Iran as the local hegemon. Israel does not like competition.

  11. Avatar Yeah, Right says:

    JohninMK, not necessarily.
    If the Saudis wanted Iron Dome to protect their installations from Yemeni drones and missiles then they might find it a little, ahem, unpalatable to admit that in public.
    So Uncle Sam might well agree to “buy” these systems not because those systems are super-whizz-bang but because, well, anything to help out a buddy.
    I suspect that these systems will be manned by “US” personnel who all – to a man – speak with that very odd Wonder Woman accent.

  12. Avatar Leith says:

    wtofd –
    Iron Dome is short range, mostly for rockets and artillery from southern lebanon or Gaza. Even the upgraded version coming soon won’t stop Iranian Shahab or Emad ballistic missiles. The Arrow-3 ABM should stop them though. That is a joint development program by Boeing and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI).

  13. Avatar Leith says:

    Good news in Yemen. Yesterday the Biden Administration has revoked the Trump designation of Houthis as terrorists.
    This came just a day after Biden declared a halt to U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen.

  14. Avatar wtofd says:

    Thanks, Leith. They have more than enough Arrow-3 ABMs to handle the Shahabs and Emads? A quick skim of the internet showed claims of 99% efficacy, and exo-atmospheric capability.

  15. Avatar Artemesia says:

    TV — “The DID seize a US Embassy and US hostages.
    Is that a freebie?”

    Not only “sunk cost” but a matter settled by Treaty — Algiers Accord,
    Useful chronology of events of that period:
    http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00697/pdfa/00697-00157-2.pdf
    Of particular note:

    September 12, 1980, Khomeini announces new conditions
    for hostages’ release. Iranian demand for a U.S. apology
    is dropped.
    Four conditions for hostages’ release are:
    o Return of the Shah’s fortune.
    o Unfreezing of Iranian assets .
    o Cancellation of U.S. claims against Iran.
    o U.S. pledge of non-interference in Iranian affairs. . . .
    After Khomeini’s conditions announced, a small working group was set up under Warren Christopher. Two bargaining strategies were discussed: a short, simple response by U.S. stating that U.S., was in agreement with principle of demands or detailed negotiations on all financial and trade issues.

    Sec. of State Warren Christopher oversaw extensive negotiation requiring compromises on both sides and consideration of claims of sundry bankers, whereupon US and Iran agreed to Algiers Accords Jan 19, 1981.

    The basic agreement was a simple quid pro quo: Iran returned the hostages in exchange for U.S. restoration of its financial status pre-November , 1979.

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