OpinionMiddle East

Iran’s mullahs are desperate for nuclear weapons

Believe nothing else.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers an address on Oct. 19, 2022. Source: Channel 1 (Iran) via MEMRI.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers an address on Oct. 19, 2022. Source: Channel 1 (Iran) via MEMRI.
Majid Rafizadeh
Majid Rafizadeh

In spite recent claims by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi that Iran harbors no intentions of pursuing nuclear weapons, along with a repeated fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supposedly banning nuclear weapons, it would be insane for Western powers naively to accept these assertions at face value.

While some leaders in the West may be inclined to regard such declarations lightly, the international community cannot afford to underestimate the potential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, especially given the deceptive nature of the claims by the regime.

Regrettably, the claims of Iran’s leaders have often found acceptance among some influential Western figures, including Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

The endorsement of Iran’s claims by influential Western figures not only undermines efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions but emboldens the regime to continue unchecked its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Western leaders need to approach Iran’s assertions with skepticism and prioritize the protection of global security interests.

Khamenei’s initial issuance of a fatwa against nuclear weapons coincided with damning revelations in 2002: Iran was exposed clandestinely engaging in nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment, at covert facilities in Natanz and Arak.

These activities flamboyantly violated the principles outlined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran was a signatory.

The timing of Khamenei’s fatwa should only raise questions about its authenticity and underlying motive: probably an attempt to mitigate international backlash and deflect scrutiny away from Iran’s covert nuclear endeavors. This historical context underscores the need for caution when assessing Iran’s nuclear pronouncements, particularly in light of its history of total disregard for international norms and obligations concerning nuclear proliferation.

It is also imperative to delve into the concept of taqiyya (dissimulation) in the context of the Shi’ite Islamism in Iran. Taqiyya, a principle emphasized in the mullahs’ Shi’ite jurisprudence, also warrants attention when evaluating fatwas issued by Khamenei—especially regarding nuclear weapons. Taqiyyarooted in the belief that deception is permissible to protect oneself, the Islamic government, or the community of Muslims allows for the strategic use of falsehoods when perceived threats loom over the interests of the Islamic community, and sheds light on the motivations behind the ayatollah’s proclamations. Namely, that political expediency and safeguarding interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran may well influence such declarations.

Moreover, for those still inclined to accept the notion of a nuclear fatwa at face value, it is crucial to recognize the transient nature of fatwas within Islamic jurisprudence. Fatwas are not immutable edicts; they are opinions, subject to revision and reinterpretation at the discretion of Muslim leaders. Thus, any purported fatwa, especially one ostensibly prohibiting nuclear weapons, need to be scrutinized within the broader framework of political and religious dynamics, not accepted unquestioningly.

Considering the regime’s extensive record of sponsoring terrorism on a global scale, including supporting groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Houthis—as well as involvement alongside Russia attacking Ukraine, or Hamas attacking Israel, it is totally rational to assume that the Iranian regime is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons to further bolster its influence and consolidate its power. The regime’s demonstrated willingness to use violence and support proxy groups in pursuit of its hegemonic objectives suggests that possessing nuclear weapons could indeed be viewed as a means of pursuing those ends as well.

Finally, Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply entrenched in the aspiration to “export the revolution” beyond its borders, a goal enshrined within the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Iran’s constitution explicitly mandates that both the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are not only tasked with safeguarding the nation’s frontiers, but also with advancing the ideological mission of jihad in the name of Allah. This mission entails the propagation and imposition of Allah’s law worldwide and reflects the regime’s fervent commitment to spreading its Islamic revolutionary principles beyond its own confines.

Such a constitutionally mandated objective underscores the regime’s revolutionary zeal and the potential significance of acquiring nuclear weapons as a means of furthering its ideological agenda on a global scale.

Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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