Iran issues pro-nuclear fatwa?

How does this square with the fatwa against nuclear weapons reportedly issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year (which predictably failed to accrue any media attention in the West)? From the neo-conservative Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Feb. 17:

Reformist Iranian Internet Daily: A New Fatwa States That Religious Law Does Not Forbid Use of Nuclear Weapons

On February 16, 2006, the reformist Internet daily Rooz reported for the first time that extremist clerics from Qom had issued what the daily called “a new fatwa,” which states that “shari’a does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.”

The following are excerpts from the Rooz report by Shahram Rafizadeh:

“When the Entire World is Armed With Nuclear Weapons, it is Permissible to Use These Weapons as a Counter-[Measure]”

“The spiritual leaders of the ultra-conservatives [in Iran] have accepted the use of nuclear weapons as lawful in the eyes of shari’a. Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of [Ayatollah] Mesbah Yazdi [who is Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s spiritual mentor], has spoken for the first time of using nuclear weapons as a counter-measure. He stated that ‘in terms of shari’a, it all depends on the goal.’

“The religious leadership of the Islamic Republic [of Iran], which has until now regarded the use of nuclear weapons as opposed to shari’a, and has repeated this point again and again, has so far kept silent about this. In spite of the fact that, in the last few weeks, some of the senior [leaders] of the Islamic Republic have tried to reduce the pressure [exerted by] the radical [conservatives], the radicals nevertheless seem to have complete control over the [political] arena.

“[Iranian National Security Council Secretary] Ali Larijani, who is in charge of the nuclear dossier, has spoken to reporters only once since the [IAEA] Board of Governors approved its resolution – and his silence is significant. But yesterday, the IraNews news agency published recent remarks by Mohsen Gharavian regarding the nuclear issue. Gharavian is a lecturer at the religious schools of Qom, and is a disciple of [Ayatollah] Mesbah Yazdi. In his recent remarks, he said for the first time that the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem according to shari’a. He further said that ‘when the entire world is armed with nuclear weapons, it is permissible to use these weapons as a counter-[measure]. According to shari’a, too, only the goal is important…’

“[Gharavian] said that he sees no problem with the military use of nuclear weapons [sic]: ‘One must say that when the entire world is armed with nuclear weapons, it is only natural that, as a counter-measure, it is necessary to be able to use these weapons. However, what is important is what goal they may be used for.”

“The Ultra-[Conservatives] in Iran Have Launched a New Effort to Prepare the Religious Grounds for Use of These Weapons”

“This cleric, who is close to the government, also referred to the nuclear talks and to the future phases of the negotiations. He called the ‘reporting’ – rather than ‘referring’ – of the Iranian nuclear dossier [to the Security Council] playing with semantics, and said: ‘The main goal of the West has been to put pressure on the Islamic Republic regime of Iran in order to generate fear. However, we will wait [to see] the future behavior of Europe and America, and then make the best decision.’

“Gharavian’s statement is the first public statement by the Mesbah Yazdi group on the nuclear issue. Until now, none of the top-ranking religious [leaders] have authorized, on religious grounds, the use of nuclear weapons. But now it seems that the ultra-[conservatives] in Iran have launched a new effort to prepare the religious grounds for use of these weapons…”

“Mr. Ahmadinejad Has Managed to Take the Place of Bin Laden”

“Within the six months [of Ahmadinejad’s presidency], all the achievements of former president Khatami in the international arena have been lost. Through strange proposals and radical approaches, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad managed, in a very short time, to get the world to forget all about bin Laden. Now all eyes are on the Islamic Republic, and everyone is talking about the danger it [poses]. Two weeks ago, the strategy of assaulting [foreign] embassies was formed as well. America regards Iran and Syria as being behind the recent violent incidents, including the setting fire to embassies in Islamic countries. Mr. Ahmadinejad has managed to take the place of bin Laden…”

A foootnote informs us, of course, that Rooz is published outside Iran.

It should also be noted that the United States also has a policy that, as the ayatollahs put it, “When the Entire World is Armed With Nuclear Weapons, it is Permissible to Use These Weapons as a Counter-[Measure].” The USA is the only nuclear-armed nation to have never adopted a “no first-use” policy (Russia abandoned its “no first-use” doctrine in 1993). (Arms Control Association, Jan./Feb. 2005) Last year, the US further loosened its guidelines for first use of nuclear weapons, calling for nuclear retaliation in the event of an attack, or even significant threat of an attack, by any non-conventional weapons. (Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2005)

See our last post on Iran, and on MEMRI.