Factcheck: Did you catch the thoroughly debunked statement Obama made in his Persian New Year address to Iran?
President Obama recently delivered an address to the Iranian people in celebration of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, imploring its citizens to get behind a nuclear deal. While you may have heard about the address, if you did not watch closely, you may have missed the president repeating a critical statement about Iran’s nuclear program that has been thoroughly debunked.
Obama stated: “Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.”
A fatwa is a ruling by an Islamic religious authority.
The problem is that no such ruling exists.
Several days ago, former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy penned a post on just this topic in response to similar comments from Secretary of State Kerry, and before him Secretary of State Clinton. McCarthy wrote:
[T]he “fatwa” in question does not exist.
The invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has done extensive research into compilations of Khamenei’s published fatwas. (See here and here, and citations therein.) No such fatwa has ever been published. [Emphasis McCarthy’s]
In a sharia state, particularly the one in Iran that is actually run by the country’s top sharia jurists, fatwas are important statements of governing law, like statutes are in the U.S. Yet despite repeated requests, Iran has never produced the purported anti-nuclear weapons fatwa from Khamenei.
Indeed, as MEMRI elaborates, Khamenei was directly asked about the purported fatwa in a 2012 Facebook exchange:
[I]s it also forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?
He refused to answer the question:
Your question has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent [sic]position, then it will be possible to answer it.
… Moreover, as MEMRI further documents, there is a published fatwa on the subject of nuclear weapons from credible Shiite sharia scholars. In 2006, it was reported that jurists in Qom had issued a fatwa explicitly stating that “sharia does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.” More