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Discussion: (41 comments)

  1. Good analysis, good article.

    Typical Middle Eastern business deal, I’ve been there, done that. You make a deal, you give them their deliverable, the deal ends. The only way to deal is to double the price and get half up front. At this point the deal is over.

    Obama is counting on full-throated unwavering support from the media, and he will get it. The NY Times and the WashPo would be praising Obama and the deal even as mushroom clouds rise over their offices and the shock waves knock the keyboards out of their hands. This is how civilizations fall. Where are Gibbon or Orwell now that we need them.

  2. Peter Scarr

    This Epic Failure to halt the Iranian’s Nuclear Weapons program will go down in history as the Definition of Pure Stupidity. God help Civilization…..

  3. Reminds me of Secy. Kissinger’s deals for the Israeli’s and Palestinians to trade land for Peace. Israel gave up the conquered lands and the Palestinians promptly re-attacked them, and still are shelling them 20 years later. How long will it be before Iran attempts to fulfill their promise to “wipe Israel off the map”?

  4. Would you like some cheese with that whine?

  5. john reilly

    this deal brought to you by the same negotiator that brought you the N Korean ” deal”

    She was directed by the team that brought you:

    The failed stimulus
    The failed 5 million green jobs
    The failed cash for clunkers
    the failed mideast policy
    the failed egypt policy
    the failed Libyan policy
    the failed China policy
    The faoled russian reset
    the 5 years of failed budget talks
    the failed maintenance of a credit rating
    the benghazi failure

    and the rolling obamacare failure.

    What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

    1. Jonathan Holtz

      Critics of the CARS program argued that it would have little ultimate effect because most of the purchases under the program would have happened soon anyway – they were merely ‘pulled forward’ from the following few months. In contrast, the CEA’s September 10 economic analysis of the program argued that a substantial proportion of the CARS sales were pulled forward from a far more distant future, and thus represented an important increment to aggregate demand at just the time when such demand was sorely needed.

      Chart showing Actual versus Project Light Vehicle Sales. You can download the data in this chart as a CSV file.
      Download the data in this chart as a CSV file.

      With seven months of post-Clunkers sales data in hand (September 2009 through March 2010; see dark blue line in figure), now seems a good time for a reckoning.

      The ‘short-term pull-forward’ view was perhaps most vigorously articulated by automotive industry website In late October, made a widely-reported forecast for the pace of sales in the last quarter of the year: According to Edmunds, light motor vehicle sales in November and December would be only about 10.5 million at an annual rate (the dashed blue line in the figure). Edmunds furthermore argued that, had the CARS program not existed, the pace of sales would have been higher, about 10.8 million, during those two months (the dashed red line in the figure).

      But according to the final data now in hand, the actual pace of sales in November and December was about 11.0 million units (the solid blue line in the figure substantially exceeds Edmunds’ October 28 forecast). Last Thursday’s announcement of a strong pace of sales in March also belies Edmunds’ pessimistic trajectory. Indeed, over the seven months following the end of the CARS program in late August, the sales pace has averaged 10.7 million units at an annual rate, much higher than the 9.6 million pace in the three months that preceded the program, and considerably stronger than the forecasts made by private forecasters just before enactment of the CARS program.

      A final source of evidence on size and timing of the ‘pull forward’ effect comes directly from the people who purchased a vehicle under the program. According to a survey conducted by the Department of Transportation as part of the program, the average timeframe over which new car purchasers said they would have otherwise sold, traded in, or disposed of their old vehicle was 2.87 years – far longer than the timeframe of a few months that the program’s critics hypothesized. A plausible interpretation of the available data, in fact, is that many of the CARS sales were to the kinds of thrifty people who can afford to buy a new car but normally wait until the old one is thoroughly worn out. Stimulating spending by such people is very nearly the best possible countercylical fiscal policy in an economy suffering from temporarily low aggregate demand.

      Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
      Christopher Carroll is a Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who focuses on Macroeconomics

      Your list of failures is laughable in the denial of factual evidence. The stimulus prevented a substantial depression. The green jobs plan was stymied by budgetary cutbacks of Republicans. He had one or two notable failures in an otherwise fairly successful program that cut off at the knees by budget hawks. See below for cash for clunkers assertion. Go look at the chart shown by linkage. ME policy was complicated significantly by previous failures which severely limited our capacity for influence. I mean in what alternate Universe was Iraq a success?! And blaming him for failed budget talks is insane. Talk to Priority number one Mitch McConnell any other NO Tax increase Republican about compromise and see what you get. Next you will blaming him for a white people not having enough melanin to withstand the sun. (I actually think that is his real problem with the right wing- being PWB- a more unique variation of the commonly known problem of DWB, being President While Black)

      1. BS. Yeah, Romer should be an objective source. How about this report from the Brookings institute:

        The primary motivation for the CARS program was to provide temporary stimulus to counter
        the economic contraction that was occurring at that time, while also reducing fuel consumption
        and thus emissions. The evidence suggests that the program did indeed incentivize the sale of
        more fuel efficient vehicles by pulling sales forward from the near term future. This resulted in a
        small and short-lived increase in production, GDP, and job creation. However, the implied cost
        per job created was much higher than alternative fiscal stimulus policies. Further, these small
        stimulus effects do not account for the depletion of the capital stock that resulted from the
        destruction of used vehicles.”

        1. Jonathan Holtz

          that does not describe a failure, but it does describe a mixed bag.

          Much like saying defense expenditure is an economic stimulus. It is but not nearly as good as roads or building schools.

          It is not as good as we wished, but it did its mission of bridging forward purchases in a time we desperately needed them.

          a success.

          it cost too much.

          less of a success.

  6. Jonathan Holtz

    The naysayers of this deal would argue that we cannot trust Iran; that this at best pause in development is only that.. a pause; that there will be no round 2 deal; and, that in the end Iran will get nuclear weapons because of this deal (it won’t stop them).

    The alternative is…… ?

    Bombing Iranian facilities would be a big deal. Sophisticated Air defense systems, deep hard facilities, many civilian casualties not to mention the act itself a war crime. The consequences would be significant with a major Shia uprising across the middle east and in Europe and even here potentially.

    Diplomacy that builds international support is a good thing. Recall that when Obama came to office , the sanctions were more unilateral than international, Russia was an obstacle not a co-operater in the effort. This deal at a minimum strengthens the international group.

    This deal binds Iran publicly to an end point. No enrichment beyond that allowed under the NPT and IAEA auspices. No enrichment beyond 5%. No capacity to enrich beyond that point. Not even to medical levels of 20%. It calls for intrusive inspector access. These are good things.

    Failure to comply will mean the international group will have more integrity and resolve to respond. Even Russia.

    A military response at this time simply was not and is not an option. This deal is a good thing. But, in this matter Reagan’s famous word are more true than ever: Trust but verify.

    1. The alternative is”” The only people who argue like that are PC liberals. They can’t deal with anyone disagreeing with them so the only way they can dialog is to either call those who disagree names or set up a straw man alternative (do you want to go back to back alley abortions, do you want to bomb Iran, do you want to do …).
      A person capable of rapid eye movement, to say nothing of critical thought, would realize that there are hundreds of alternatives to this agreement, most of them better. The starting place is defining what our goals are and an acceptable range of solutions. The present solution has no recognizable strategic outcomes, it is a short term fix that may, or more likely may not, produce an Iran that won’t possess nuclear weapons. An agreement with that goal would have provisions about closing Arak, non enrichment of nuclear fuel above 5%, disabling half or more centrifuges. If Iran doesn’t agree then we keep talking until they do, with or without additional sanctions. Iran says they should be treated like everyone else, but everyone else hasn’t run around the globe threatening to nuke and destroy other countries, sponsored terrorism and slandered other religions.

      Instead we get a political agreement designed to help Obama short term. The media no longer perform an oversight role, so we have to depend on what can be gleaned from foreign sources and outcomes. At this point the agreement sounds like another case of “If you like your present non-proliferation you can keep it. Until you can’t.” Obama knows no one will hold him or Iran accountable and once sanctions are turned off they will never be turned back on because too many people are making too much money from Iran.

      It is truly faint expectations, but the liberals are wearing this one totally, and eventually all the Kings journalists and all the Kings academics won’t be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

      1. Jonathan Holtz

        Lets see,

        yes I am a liberal. I like to get into dialogue w the right wing because i think that preaching to the choir as often happens on left wing threads is as destructive to the idea of political compromise as when it occurs on the right.

        we need to find ways to find common ground.

        for instance: both of us are opposed to Iranian enrichment beyond the 5% for fuel allowed by IAEA and NPT.

        the question is how to ensure that.

        do you favor immediate bombing as many (but not all) on the right favor?

        It seems that the current deal got several items of what you wanted: no use of higher enrichment centrifuges (about 50% of current stock), no enrichment beyond fuel level, and opening facilities to inspection in more intrusive manner.

        Now the things this deal failed to get, inspection of the Arack military facility, conclusive end to nuclear ambitions are both goals that the 3 + 3 make clear as goals of round 2 and the deal gives the IAEA directions to get into ARACK as part of the inspection process.

        This round was never intended to be the all conclusive round. It was a trust building round for both sides.

        If your fundamental premise is that the Iranians cannot be trusted and any agreement is just a ploy on their parts to gain time to finish their nuclear ambitions, then where can you go vis a vie negotiations?

        If you allow that, with appropriate verifications, an agreement can be made that takes the world closer to a diplomatic settlement and ensures that their nuclear ambitions are modest and directed towards energy production only, then such a deal as Kerry got is a forward step.

        Your thoughts?

        1. No I do not “do you favor immediate bombing”, and not too many people on the right do either, despite what the media monoculture claims.

          I used to do business in the Arab world. Their idea of contracts and business dealings is different than ours. In their culture once they get their part of the deal it is over, there is no point doing anything else. Thus, in order to get paid we, and most others, had to double the price and get half up front.

          What that means is that a deal where Obama lifts sanctions (a little bit pregnant) will be one where they won’t be reimposed. The conservative position, which includes most business people and many who have actual experience doing business in the area, is that we need to define what our objectives in the negotiations are, define our negotiating limits, and define when we need to walk away from the table, in other words a strategic vision with tactics to match.

          There is no indication that Obama did that. He wanted an agreement with Iran and he got an agreement with Iran. I can’t support it because, like the ACA, there is no information about it, I just need to accept what he says on faith and on the partial revelations he chooses to release, Evidently that is more than enough for our liberal brothers and sisters. For me, after Libya, Syria, Eastern Europe, Egypt and other assorted foreign policy mess ups , along with some dicey domestic policies, I am very much in the “In God we trust’ mode and want to wait and see what the outcomes are. The fact that our allies complained of a double cross a couple of weeks ago where Obama said one thing to them and then tried to sneak though some other terms doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings.

          In fact, I think the terms liberal and conservative aren’t too effective in this discussion. Perhaps idealistic vs pragmatic would be better.

          1. Jonathan Holtz


            if you did that much business in the Arab world, why include Persian Iran?

            I would be interested in some details about when Obama pulled a fast on on our allies. Haven’t heard much about that.

            Allies in general seem to have a mind of their own (France avoids Iraq debacle) so how do you explain their acceptance of the deal if it is a sign of Obama’s weakness and poor negotiating strategy?

          2. While Iran claims to be a different culture, the Shiites living in Arab countries have similar business values to the Sunni’s. Iran is also part of that cultural milieu. Their culture was subsumed into Muslim culture around 1200 years ago. It is like different US States or different European cultures, much difference but much the same, especially in the way they do business and negotiate.

            Obama has alienated Eastern Europe by encouraging them to ally with the US and the West and promising support and defensive missiles. Those promises were betrayed and their leaders hung out to dry by Obama and Hillary. That was covered in certain places, like Stratfor, but not in the mainstream media. Here is the point: just because the US media monoculture ignores or suppresses the story doesn’t mean it never happened and that many people weren’t impacted.

            Among other questionable dealings were in Libya, where, after we supported the Libyan rebels they, as expected, thought the deal was finished and attacked the Benghazi consulate because of other promises made or other priorities. That was a disaster, but there is no point going on about it here.

            Egypt was another disaster because Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood even after (or perhaps because) they adopted anti US policies. They were elected before a constitution was in place and their removal was for cause by a very angry populace. The subsequent pro Western regime has gotten the back of Obama’s hand. Obama has alienated US Arab allies by his policies regarding Egypt, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and terrorism. Drones aside, he has been very considerate of Islamists and treats Republicans as his real enemies. With his policies we risk having no friends and lots of enemies. He who doesn’t value his friends doesn’t keep them.

            The allies were under a full court press of pressure to accept this deal. It isn’t as bad as the first one. Speaking of which, France, Israel and Saudi complained that Kerry told them of one deal on Wednesday and then presented a very different deal as a fait accompli on Friday. They felt betrayed. It seems the Administration feels it can say one thing and do another and get away with it because all the media cover for it and use Orwellian euphemisms to say day is night etc.

            I haven’t heard France say this was a good deal. They are accepting it as they can’t afford to break with Obama and the US. As I wrote earlier, a good deal would be very understandable and simple. Einstein said that if you can’t explain something simply then you don’t understand it.

            This deal has no clear objectives and no clear milestones. Iran has some vague goals, is giving anything up and can restart it’s path any time while making indirect progress to a bomb for the next six months. The US will give them billions of dollars in aid, relax sanctions (which can never be reimposed as I explained earlier) and will get in return what is in essence a piece of paper with a smiley face. Tangible concessions in exchange for intangible promises from people who break their promises regularly.

          3. Jonathan Holtz

            Time will press me and if this is my last response, please understand I am a working stiff (I own my own business) so once work week starts I am a slave to the business.

            I think you have anti Obama-itis. Bu it is time for me to respond a bit.

            1) Arab vs. Persian. I will take your word for it, but I strongly urge you to avoid such confusion in the future. It is an insult to Persian/ Iranians and Arabs alike as each have their ethnic pride. And a common mistake of American to clump all muslims into one category (them).

            2) Obama and fourth phase of missile defense. a) that policy was a hold over from Bush and not popular with the left or even much of Foreign Policy center. Big business was not interested in pushing Russia and they have their champion in Obama. As a result of that decision, trade w Russia increased. “Between 2009 to 2011, the U.S. had an unprecedented advance in economic cooperation between the two countries with exports to Russia rising 57 percent and total U.S.-Russia trade increasing to over 80 percent. U.S. companies reported numerous major business deals in Russia in 2012, including the ExxonMobil-Rosneft deal in May for exploration in the Arctic shelf, Boeing’s $15 billion in aircraft sales in Russia over the past five years, and Ex-Im Bank’s June MOU signing with Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, to support up to $1 billion in exports to Russia.” see

            3) Libya: attack was about CIA holding militia prisoners. I am not sure how it is relevant other than it is a place where the right gets to jump on Obama for perceived inadequacies. Like Cleveland, there is no there there. Am I missing something? how is it relevant?

            4) Egypt: Do we support democratically elected governments or don’t we. Only those that we like? (read attempted coup in Gaza against Hamas) It is the challenge of the Arab Spring. Sunni monarchies squashing populous Shia uprisings calling for democratic reform. We held off for ever in calling the coup against Morzi what it was to enable continued relationship w the renewed military dictatorship. How should it have been handled? As major supporters of Mubarak, we had already lost credibility. As the financial backer fo Israel we already have no credibility w Islamists. (How are doing w Malaki by the way?). No Egypt is not something that you can put at Obama’s feet.

            4) I would like links to how “…, France, Israel and Saudi complained that Kerry told them of one deal on Wednesday and then presented a very different deal as a fait accompli on Friday.” I searched and could not find it.

            now my window is closing and my time for play is over… thanks I am interested in learning more always.

            so if you could send me some links I’d appreciate it.


          4. I sympathize as a fellow working stiff. I’m sure there will be other occasions to debate these subjects. BTW, the Morsi government was elected under the strange circumstances of not having a constitution and thereby being able to bend the rules to favor their party and themselves, so I think the “legitimately elected government” argument is a bit of eyewash. Also, after his election Morsi betrayed the promise of representative government by oppressing opponents and betraying many of those who supported him. Even his supporters said “he was moving to fast” while approving his goal of eliminating representative government in Egypt and becoming, in his own words, the new Pharaoh. This his legitimacy is in Obama’s and Hillary’s eyes but certainly not in the eyes of most Egyptians. As usual, the US media only present one side of the story.

            Any how, we can pick this up on one of the next stories. I enjoyed the exchange. Happy Thanksgiving!!

    2. Tom Seeman


      To address your last point first; while I agree that military force should not be used at this time, taking it of the table in a public manner is also a mistake. The Iranians must see a threat or they will have no incentive to give much up.

      Regarding enrichment; know that going from .07 (the natural level of U255 to bomb grade (70-90%) is not a linear process in terms of time. If I have it right about 70% of the the effort is in going from .07 to 5%, 20% in going from 5 – 20%, and then about 10% to go above that to bomb grade.

      See the link to the chart I post here:

      This said, it is certainly good that they are required to dilute down their stock of 20% enrichment. And that they have agreed to more intrusive monitoring.

      I think we’ll find out quickly, and by that I mean about six months, as to whether Iran really is backing off their desire for a bomb.

  7. Ran Sivron

    Whereas the analysis is on-target, it is based on pessimism based on OUR dysfunctional congress, and lack of understanding of Iranian professionals: If Republicans get their act together, we could make sure the agreement is automatically nullified in 6 months, that the 4 billion released to Iranians are earmarked and given by us, and that the condition on no new sanctions and renewal being progress on the “bad” points above.

    We may have Iranian scientists, engineers, doctors, that rely on us at the end of that time. The dependence of Iranian professionals on outsiders (those that did not move to southern Cal) is limited. In Russia what happened after the collapse of communism was that their scientists became ours. Same after WWII. Same after the fall of the axis of evil. We just have to give those individuals a chance to bolt, or maybe, maybe, maybe, a chance for the regime to crumble.

  8. And, I suppose the Obama Administration is going to let the worthless United Nations folks do the monitoring. The UN’s ineffectiveness in previous monitoring is obvious by the fact that the UN Inspectors claimed for years, there was nothing to worry about. And, now, the US is just giving Iran more time to continue their nuclear work and over $4 billion of “borrowed money or the Federal Reserve’s “created out of thin air” money.

  9. Israel should attack Iran with whatever it can and destroy its nuclear program. Period.

    1. Jonathan Holtz

      Mike, what would you do, if you were the Iranian power elite and Israel just attacked your nation?

      1. Tom Seeman

        Hi Jonathan

        You ask the obvious question! And indeed Iran would react. Worse, the problem is that we don’t know all that they would do to react. Some things they might do are:

        1) Use proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas to attack Israel (and maybe the United States and in other countries as a warning)
        2) Cause trouble in the gulf through a variety of means
        3) Attack Western computer systems
        4) And more unknown unknowns…

        This said, we should also recall the words of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to “Never take council of your fears.” I.e. do not let your fears paralyze you into inaction.

        It’s a difficult situation no doubt. On the one hand, I think it’s too early for a military strike. But that said nor must we take it off the table. On the other, if we wait too long they may surprise us with a bomb and then no attack would be possible. Further, there are worse things than war; imagine if France and the UK had invaded Germany in, say 1936, and thus forestalled WWII. 100,000 casualties (perhaps) versus millions.

        There aren’t any easy answers, but as you say we must consider all possibilities when taking action.

        1. Jonathan Holtz

          You assume they want a nuclear bomb. They may want breakout technology like Japan has. NO bomb, but the ability to build one if the existential need arises.

          You also paint the Iranian regime as a single entity. They are probably more like the rest of the world with diverse interests and opinions. A military action, or an easing sanctions as a result of a diplomatic process are two poles of possibilities that may lend differential credence and support to two different political camps. I would propose that we pursue diplomacy with Reagan’s wise remarks, “Trust, but verify”. In that way we reinforce that wing of Iranian elite that look for limited reengagement with the west and economic development over religious confrontation and righteous battle.

          1. Carl Goldberg

            No, our consistent approach to Iran has NOT been to deny Iran (that is, The Islamic Republic of Iran) nuclear weapons. We never denied them nuclear weapons. We negotiated, we levied sanctions, we dillied and we dallied, but we never gave them the only thing which would deniy them nuclear weapons, and that is a firm, believable ultimatum.

            The Islamic republic of Iran has consistently engaged in terror and murder directly as well as supporting Hezbollah. In their constitution, they have proclaimed their intention to spread Islam by force to the rest of the world. Any you, fool, want to trust them?

  10. Benjamin Cole

    I concur with the sentiment that in the Mideast,, a deal is never a deal. Good reason to downplay our involvement.
    These nations are imploding—see Syria and Egypt. Israel’s two traditional enemies, now basket cases. Israel is a big boy can take care of itself.
    Iraq and Afghanistan are the exceedingly expensive results of American activism. And our “allies”” are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? Nutcases and financiers of madrassas and terrorism? Throwing money and arms at the Mideast will not work…

  11. j. j. rich

    Incredible. A nation bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States is going to get the Bomb and you guys are arguing about the CARS program and the stimulus as if they were equivalent problems. It’s not about politics people; it’s about the survial of the West!

  12. Some years ago I was talking over dinner with a high-ranking foreign service officer whom I had known decades before in Korea, one of his areas of expertise. Morr bewildered than exasperated, I asked him why the United States was still carrying “negotiations” with the North Koreans, when it was clear that every “agreement” was guaranteed to be broken, to the advantage, of course, of the crazy-or-not-so-crazy Kims…My friend replied gently and without apparent irony, as though speaking to a dimwitted child: “Roan, all we can do is negotiate.” I wanted to say: “You mean, all we can do is kick the can down the road until the next soft-headed liberal is elected…” But I was his guest, and the food was delicious…

  13. Yup, no phased deals ever work. (Disregard the US/Russian arms deals that have been working for decades behind the curtain, nothing to see here. Instead focus on the aberration that is North Korea.) That is all…

  14. Carl Goldberg

    Why are you referring to “Iran”? Everyone is talking about “Iran”. But, “Iran” is NOT the name of the country! The official name of that country is “The Islamic Republic of Iran”, and there is a world of difference between “Iran” as a nation state, and “The Islamic Republic of Iran.” “The Islamic Republic of Iran” is not a nation state in the normal sense of that term. The difference is clear from the Preamble of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, one part of which reads as follows: “An Ideological Army In the formation and equipping of the country’s defense forces, due attention must be paid to faith and ideology as the basic criteria. Accordingly, the army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Koranic verse “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them.” [8.60])”

    To ask the Ayatollahs to give up their ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons is to ask them to violate their Constitution and their Koran which requires them to acquire “whatever force you are able to muster”, — and that includes nuclear weapons! — in order to extend Sharia law throughout the world. They will not violate their constitution and their religion. It won’t happen. Negotiations and this “deal” are worse than fruitless because they give the ayatollahs time to acquire their nuclear weapons. And then it will be too late. Kerry, of course, understands none of this. You can be sure that he has never troubled himself to read the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    1. Jonathan Holtz

      If your goal is Regime change then that is a different goal than the stated goal of the past many US administrations which has been to prevent Iran (however you want to call it) from getting nuclear weapons.

      Pursuing regime change means you want a war with the current Iranian government. If you liked the war the Iraq adventure turned out you will love your dreamed ofo Iranian adventure.

      1. Carl Goldberg

        There is going to be war anyway. Face it. The question is whether we will have war on our terms, or on their terms. The Islamic Republic of Iran is dedicated to spreading Islam throughout the world, using all weapons available — just like their Constitution says, and just like their sacred Koran commands them to do. They say that they take these goals seriously. We should believe them.

        1. Jonathan Holtz

          so if you believe that, why not the Fatwas issues by the Supreme leader on the amoral and un-Islamic nature of Nuclear weapons. Seem alike you want to take them at their rhetorical word in some cases but not others.

          1. Carl Goldberg

            Please give your sources for those supposed fatwas. A lot of people have been looking for them but cannot find them. In any case, their Constitution supersedes a fatwa, even if you can find it.

          2. Jonathan Holtz


            Yes, MEMRI, there is a Fatwa from Khamenei forbidding Nukes

            Posted on 04/22/2012 by Juan Cole
            I’m told that MEMRI, which has its origins in Israeli military intelligence, has put out a statement doubting that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ever issued a fatwa forbidding nuclear weapons. (MEMRI claims to be a 501(c)3 non-profit but is actually an effort to cherry-pick Middle Eastern news to present the most negative face of the Arab world to Americans so as to prejudice them in favor of Israel; in this case it is just doing propaganda).

            A contributor has effectively answered this piece of disinformation. This posting points out that the official IRNA news agency said in 2005,

            “The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the Fatwa that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.”

            That this old posting has gone into the deep web and isn’t at the IRNA site is irrelevant. The fatwa was announced by IRNA and has been repeatedly reaffirmed by Khamenei.

            Here is the US government transcription, published in 2005, of the relevant portions of the IRNA publication of the official Iranian statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Interestingly, the statement points to hydrocarbon-fueled global warming as one reason for which countries such as Iran need to turn to nuclear energy production:

            “Iran Issues Statement at IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
            Corrected version: added additional material after IRNA update
            Wednesday, August 10, 2005 T11:39:36Z
            Journal Code: 2736 Language: ENGLISH Record Type: FULLTEXT
            Document Type: FBIS Transcribed Text
            Word Count: 1,962

            Vienna, Aug 10, IRNA — Iran is a nuclear fuel cycle technology holder, a capability which is exclusively for peaceful purposes, a statement issued by the Islamic Republic at the emergency meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) read here Tuesday evening.

            The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued the fatwa (religious decree) that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons, it added…

            “Madam chair, colleagues…

            “The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office just recently, in his inaugural address reiterated that his government is against weapons of mass destruction and will only pursue nuclear activities in the peaceful domain. The leadership of Iran has pledged at the highest level that Iran will remain a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT and has placed the entire scope of its nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards and Additional Protocol, in addition to undertaking voluntary transparency measures with the agency that have even gone beyond the requirements of the agency’s safeguard system.

            “Nuclear energy is expected to become once again a primary source of energy, with the rising demand for oil and gas and the ensuing increase in the prices, which incidentally can sharply accelerate for any political provocation. We should add to this the concerns about the environment, and the world will have no alternative but to revert back to nuclear energy, at least for decades to come… ”
            (Description of Source: Tehran IRNA (Internet Version-WWW) in English — official state-run news agency) …

            Note also that among the major followers of Khamenei’s fatwas are Shiites of South Lebanon, especially Hizbullah. Hizbullah’s al-Manar news service carried on 13 April 2005 a repost of an item about official Iranian negotiator on nuclear issues, Hassan Rowhani, who met with the the Danish FM and:

            “Rowhani stressed during his meeting with the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller that obeying the fatwa of Khamenei ‘is more important for us than the articles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its additional protocol.’ He explained that the fatwa of the Guide forbids the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, and that the fatwa is, in the Islamic Republic, an obligatory law.”

            أكد روحاني خلال لقائه وزير الخارجية الدنماركي ستيغ مولر أن الأخذ بفتوى خامنئي «اكثر أهمية بالنسبة الينا من بنود معاهدة حظر انتشار الأسلحة النووية والبروتوكول الملحق بها». وأوضح روحاني أن فتوى المرشد تحرم إنتاج وتخزين واستخدام الأسلحة النووية، والفتوى في الجمهورية الإسلامية قانون ملزم.

            As I said, the fatwa not only was issued, widely acknowledged by high officials of the Islamic Republic, and considered by them to be binding law, but it has been reaffirmed numerous times. Here is an item from the conservative Iranian news agency Mehr dated April 11, 2012:

            “The fatwa that the Supreme Leader has issued is the best guarantee that Iran will never seek to produce nuclear weapons, Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said on Wednesday.

            Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are all haram (prohibited in Islam).”

            I think the head of the Iranian judiciary knows a little bit better whether Khamenei issued a fatwa than does a project of Israeli military intelligence.

            But let me just add that it is important to understand what a fatwa is. In Islam the laity ask their clerics about how to follow Islamic law. The cleric replies with a considered opinion on the purport of the law, which is called a fatwa. In the Usuli school of Shiite Islam, deriving the law from the relevant sacred texts is achieved in part through the application to them of legal reasoning. That is, the law in some senses inheres in the mind of the jurisprudent. If he reconsiders a case and comes to a different, more mature conclusion later on, he is bound to reverse himself. His followers are bound to follow his most recent conclusions.

            A high-ranking cleric appointed as a jurisconsult to the state, who gives official fatwas, is called a mufti. But any trained clerical jurisprudent can issue a fatwa. (The system is virtually identical in Judaism, where rabbis answer the questions of the faithful about halakha or Jewish law with responsa.)

            So a fatwa is not like an American law that has to be published in the Congressional Record and in official law books. It is just the conclusion to which a cleric’s reasoning leads him, and which he makes known, even in a letter. In Shiite Islam, laypersons who follow a particular ayatollah are bound by his fatwas. When an ayatollah such as Khamenei delivers oral remarks in public, these have the force of a fatwa and are accepted as such by his followers. That is, Khamenei’s recent statement forbidding nuclear weapons in a speech is in fact a fatwa:

            “the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

            There is another consideration. Since Khamenei is not only an ayatollah but also the Supreme Leader, it may well be that this statement is actually more important than a fatwa. It may be considered a hukm or decree of the Supreme Jurisprudent (Vali-yi Faqih), who is charged with setting the legal framework of the Islamic Republic in accordance with revealed Islamic law. That may be what Rowhani meant when he told the Danes that the fatwa is a qanun or law.

            (By the way, I wanted to say that my blog post refuting the charge by some analysts that Khamenei might be practicing ‘taqiyya’ or pious dissimulation was not intended as a slam against the NYT correspondent James Risen who reported that this argument was being made by some in the US intelligence community. Mr. Risen was just doing his job in giving us a description of the debate. He has done very brave reporting on, e.g. the Bush administration’s misuse of intelligence in the Iraq War, and has been targeted for legal reprisals by the government, and is admired by those of us who care about the integrity of US intelligence. I was just trying to show that those government analysts who took the taqiyya argument seriously were mistaken.)

  15. Carl Goldberg

    Thank you for your informative disquisition on fatwas. The only thing missing is a direct reference to the fatwas which you refer to. Referring to the Iranian News Agency is not adequate. The IRNA is a propaganda arm of the Islamic dictatorial regime, just like TASS was a propaganda arm of the Soviet communist Regime. Surely, there must be a published list of fatwas by Khamenei somewhere which includes the fatwa against nuclear weapons.

    In any case, it would be foolhardy to trust the Ayatollahs given their constant drumbeat calling for Death to America, the Great Satan and Death to Israel, the Little Satan.

    And then, there is the little matter of their constitution which specifically quotes a verse from the Koran which commands Moslems to “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster.” Those, so Moslems believe, are Allah’s words, and Allah did not say “whatever force except for nuclear weapons” or except for anything else. As stated in the Iranian constitution, the purpose of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic is not limited to defending the frontiers of the country, but is for pursuing jihad in the way of Allah in order to spread Islam to the world. We do not consider that to be a defensive use of weapons. We can all be sure that if the Ayatollahs believe that the possession of nuclear weapons will strengthen the cause of jihad in the way of Allah, they will not forgo those weapons.

    1. Jonathan Holtz

      your assertion categorically that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted is in fact a circular logic of distrust and hate.

      I would prefer Reagan’s logic of “Trust, but verify” w respect to the enemy of decades past… the Soviets.

      If you look at how often references to bombing Iran (by the US and or by Israel) show up in the news, and how often bombing Israel comes up (by Iran) the belligerent rhetoric is, our sides come across as the aggressors.

      If I was Iranian, and I read your assessment of my intentions, I too would want to protect myself w nuclear weapons.

      1. Carl Goldberg

        Excuse me, but you are the one without direct evidence of the existence of the so-called fatwa. A statement in the dictatorially run Islamic Republic News Agency is not proof of anything.

        And, of course, the Iranian Islamic regime cannot be trusted any more than Hitler’s Nazi Germany could be trusted. They use negotiations as a tool to carry out their agenda, not as a tool to compromise and get along with the rest of the world. No meaningful relationship is possible between a Moslem government and a non-Moslem government because Islamic law prohibits it. You seem to be forgetting that religious Moslems actually take Islamic doctrines seriously.

        I do not know where you get the notion that American policy across administrations and parties has been to deny Iran nuclear weapons. We have not denied Iran nuclear weapons, nor, it seems, are we about to do so now. If “we” were serious about denying Iran nuclear weapons instead of just looking like we were, we would issue a clear military ultimatum. The Ayatollahs will not take anything short of that seriously.

  16. Carl Goldberg

    For a discussion of the supposed fatwa against nuclear weapons, see this article from the Washington Post:

  17. Jonathan Holtz

    Again, your distrust makes you a non negotiator. You can only bomb or sanction to economic ruin. You cannot build a relationship. You are un-trust-able of them.

    This discussion was hard to follow. They tried to make it seem like the fatwa was less than official and binding but they had no direct evidence only circumstantial evidence of other times when policy changed due to pragmatics. Yes, the grand poobah of Iranian shias changed his mind once or twice. Who doesn’t? The US administration? So far our relatively consistent approach across administrations and across parties has been to deny Iran nuclear weapons. Only you, would change your mind and start us now on a program of regime change.

    1. Carl Goldberg

      Carl Goldberg | December 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      No, our consistent approach to Iran has NOT been to deny Iran (that is, The Islamic Republic of Iran) nuclear weapons. We never denied them nuclear weapons. We negotiated, we levied sanctions, we dillied and we dallied, but we never gave them the only thing which would deny them nuclear weapons, and that is a firm, believable ultimatum.

      The Islamic republic of Iran has consistently engaged in terror and murder directly as well as supporting Hezbollah. In their constitution, they have proclaimed their intention acquire any weapons in order to spread Islam by force to the rest of the world. And you, fool, want to trust them?

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