Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dueling Fatwas On Nuclear Weapons In Iran. Who's In Charge?

There are dueling fatwas (religious law rulings) in Iran about nuclear weapons. In the presidency before that of Ahmadinejad back in 2003, Vilayat-el-faqih ("Supreme Jurisprudent") Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i issued one that declared the "development, production, and use of nuclear weapons" to be against Shari'a (Islamic law), ("Nuclear weapons unholy, Iran says Islam forbids use, clerics proclaim", Robert Collier, SFGate, 31 October 2003). He has never repudiated this fatwa.

However, there is a subsequent fatwa issued in 2006 by the mentor of President Ahmadinejad, the Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who has also been the main pusher among the Iranian clerics of Holocaust denial, as reported by a "disciple" of his, Mohsen Gharavian. In that he supported production and use of nuclear weapons for self defense, ("Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons", Colin Freeman and Philip Sherwell, Telegraph.co.uk, 19 Feb 2006). Given that Khamene'i is now supporting Ahmadinejad, where does he stand on this?

BTW, while many Iranians are not keen on nuclear weapons, most reports have it that there is overwhelming support among the population for its ongoing civilian nuclear weapons program, which is not in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signee, including presumably many of those now demonstrating in the streets of the larger Iranian cities.

23 comments:

hapa said...

we need/would be well advised to start counting the ways people in dry hot places can power machines. iranians have great natural gas wealth ahead of them but only if they sell it; they can't use it to become a manufacturing or services hegemon the way UK used coal and US used coal/oil, for instance.

in dry places, other large scale sources of energy -- oil, thermoelectric, hydro, solar PV, wind, wave, efficiency -- have to be assessed by their water:watt relationship along with carbon and future supply -- which is why i put coal, fission, and solar thermal in a single water-cooled category -- they present a problem in a growing desert with dying glaciers and depleted groundwater.

in addition, low altitude wind speed in dry places is generally insufficient for power generation and ocean shoreline area and trust are both scarce, putting wave power in doubt.

(among thermoelectrics, nukes have the advantage of being very compact in the sense that they need relatively little space or supporting infrastructure to function.)

one obvious political fact in a (hydro)carbon-constrained world is the need for international electricty transmission. but for countries that have serious security concerns, domestic generation is very important.

all of this is to say that if people don't want iran to build nukes, or india to burn coal or indonesia to burn biomass, we need to be developing and deploying the low-water, low-pollution technologies, including high-altitude wind, to get the costs down for places that have relatively less cash to throw around and limited renewable options.

the war economy works less well with real, long wars and no big prizes.

TheTrucker said...

I want to ask for comments on thorium based nuclear power. It seems to me that this is an answer to the proliferation and the environmental problems of the current nuclear power generation systems. Am I being sucked in by a bunch of hype?

I got sort of sucked in on the Algae based liquid biofuels deal thinking it could resolve the liquid fuel problem very quickly. It turned out that the gallons per acre per year claims were way out of line. But then it turned out to be quite doable at $10 a gallon.
(original stuff was claiming a $2.50 per gallon feasibility). So I think it will work as a bridge technology.

Now I am all hung up on thorium reactors because the reactions don't create bomb making materials and the half life in the waste is only 10 years as opposed to 100 or a thousand or whatever. But if that's true then why aren't the peaceniks and the environmentalists marching in the streets demanding a "Manhattan Project" for thorium?

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!!!

hapa said...

thorium tech is not seriously deployable now. there's no bankable info about future cost effectiveness, either. that's why freaked-out greens and scientists are only agitating for it to be better researched.

the industry's disinterest, like with CCS, should be a bigger indicator that the tech's a long way off and has no big role to play in the next 20 years of transition.

we already have the cards we can play in this hand. the next deal is almost a generation away.

gordon said...

I wonder if Prof. Rosser could explain what Iran's "...ongoing civilian nuclear weapons program..." (my emphasis) is. Is it a program to give every Iranian his/her own nuke? Or maybe just his own nuke - they're pretty gender-biassed over there. What is a civilian nuke anyhow?

It would be sad to think that we are so fixated on bombs that even the possibility of a real civilian nuclear program is discounted out of hand - as revealed in a slip of the keyboard such as this.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

gordon,
I'm guessing that the "civilian nukes weapons" is more likely a full word typo, as the use of the word civilian in regards to nukes generally implies not for weapons use.

Otherwise. What is the surprise over a conflict between statements of ideology, especially in the context of a religious rationale for behavior. I'm reasonably certain that every major religion notes that God forbids the taking of a life. When did that stop any orthodox religious organization or individual from encouraging such behavior? So why be surprised that there is a conflict regarding when, where and why it's OK to kill with nukes?

Maybe we should just recognize, or admit, that religion is the primary cause of murder and mayhem throughout the history of man. Granted that politics and economics are often the co-conspirator of religion when it comes to killing, but there's nothing like religious fervor to
energize the organized killing machines of history

Brenda Rosser said...

"...there is a subsequent fatwa issued in 2006 by the mentor of President Ahmadinejad, the Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who has also been the main pusher among the Iranian clerics of Holocaust denial, as reported by a "disciple" of his, Mohsen Gharavian. In that he supported production and use of nuclear weapons for self defense, ("Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons", Colin Freeman and Philip Sherwell, Telegraph.co.uk, 19 Feb 2006). ..

I can't help but think that such a fatwa is a logical response to the actions of the US.

America is the only nation on earth that has bombed whole cities using a nuclear weapon. George W Bush and members of his administration also didn't do world peace a favour when they tried to fabricate evidence of a nation having WMDs that it didn't actually possess. And then follow up with a premptive strike and invasion of the country. There's a much longer story: the shunning of the international criminal court, ignoring decisions at the UN whenever it suits ....

A national leader would surely have to be declared insane if he/she wasn't moving toward some form of defence against unwarranted attack from the US and its allies.

It's a sad and incredibly dangerous situation. But the onus is now on the US to satisfy the rest of the world that nations can be safe from its interference and/or attack.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

hapa,

High altitude wind can have serious environmental problems. There is much opposition to it by the most dedicated greens around here in Virginia where I live because of its impact on endangered bats and salamanders.

Trucker,

India has built a prototype thorium reactor. In the longer run, I think they are a serious way to go, much safer, with a lot more of it around, and a lot more cost effective than a lot of the other non-fossil fuel alternatives being advocated by many.

gordon and Jack,

Yes, that was a mistake on my part. Did NOT mean to say "civilian nuclear weapons" program. Rather, "civilian nuclear power" program. A rather important point here, generally ignored or forgotten by most American commentators, is that this program was started with US support under the Shah.

Brenda,

If one is threatened by nuclear attack, certainly it is militarily not unreasonable to seek nuke weapons in self defense. However, whether this should be the position of religious authorities is quite another matter.

I happen to know a Mennonite minister (a pacifist) who visited Mesbah-Yazdi in Qom. He bragged about how he could get away with talking to a Christian minister because he was more conservative than any other religious leader.

hapa said...

barkley rosser: by "high altitude" i'm talking "jet stream altitude." very techie helicopter-kite stuff.

i'd love to see thorium work. i'm sorry to see smart people advocating it instead of a near-term non-fossil grid, but we all have those moments where our irrelevance shines brightest.

juan said...

Barkley,

Is the U.S.-UAE reactor deal still on or is this now to be a France-UAE project?

Brenda Rosser said...

Barkley,
Do you believe that Iran is threatened with nuclear attack?

Willian Endahl does.

"America's grand strategy [was] first revealed in the 1998 US Space Command document - Vision for 2020. Later released in 2000 as DOD Joint Vision 2020, it called for "full spectrum dominance" over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively."

Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order:" Part I
Politics / New World Order Jun 22, 2009 - 10:31 AM
By: Stephen_Lendman
http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article11498.html

Barkley Rosser said...

hapa,

And the near term non-fossil and non-nuclear grid is to driven by what? Solar and wind are not going to do it, certainly not near term and not at anything but a very high cost both economically and environmentally.

juan,

I do not know.

Brenda,

No, I do not think so. The most likely bombing threat to Iran is from Israel, which would not use nukes. The quote you cited was general, not directed at Iran, and it has long been understood that it is only against nuclear powers that a preemptive nuclear strike would be considered. Iran is better off in terms of avoiding a nuclear attack by staying non-nuclear on the weapons side.

Shag from Brookline said...

Brenda's:

"A national leader would surely have to be declared insane if he/she wasn't moving toward some form of defence against unwarranted attack from the US and its allies."

brings to mind "The Mouse that Roared" and its variations since Peter Sellers' role.

Anonymous said...

We suggest you go watch, Wag the Dog.

Or,a t least consider this scenario:

The Messiah is sincere about his desire to open dialogue with Iran. He ran on this position, he went to Cairo and apologized for at least one previous insufferable interference in Iran internal politics.

Who doesn't want this opening to happen? Who wants this opening to be rejected both in Iran and in the United States? And, how might they create an incident designed specifically to head off any dialogue?

You're being played, folks...
http://pogoprinciple.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/not-another-color-coded-revolution/

Brenda Rosser said...

Barkley wrote: "t is only against nuclear powers that a preemptive nuclear strike would be considered. "

This is crazy stuff!

I can't see much of a future if America holds this line. Preemptive nuclear strike?! Surely the best way to make other (nuclear-armed) nations move toward their own premptive attack against America is to hold a line like this!

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Anonymous,

Well, at least you grant that Obama is trying. There are a variety of candidates for the parties you are suggesting are operating here, and I would certainly agree (if this is part of what you mean) that at least some of those who are so loudly calling for Obama to step up his rhetoric (and maybe even actions) more are really not interested in having either an honest election outcome in Iran or any meaningful political reform there, but would prefer to have a repressive and ugly situation in place that can be used to justify aggressive actions from outside.

Brenda,

Was Moammar Gaddafi "insane" to give up his nuclear weapons program? He was viewed as a major enemy of the US for a long time. How about the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Sweden, South Africa, and Taiwan, all of which are reported to have at one time or another had nuclear weapons programs going on?

Brenda Rosser said...

Barkley,
To disarm when their is a dominant and heavily armed state in the world - and one with a long history of outright aggression against many nations - is 'insane'.

I'm mulling over an article to write on this topic.

We need America to disarm too. We need some sort of global enforcer for disarmament that is not controlled by/dominated by the 'major powers. And with some military power to intervene in any state that acts aggressively toward another.

I can't help but wonder how much better off we'd all be if nations had moved away from their dependence on fossil fuels in the 1970s. If planned obsolescence had been banned. If the public had a say in how things are produced and what is produced.

Ultimately our many crises are focused on the undue sovereignty that has been given to key global players.

Barkley Rosser said...

Brenda,

Rather than getting into accusing the Swedes and the Taiwanese and Gaddafi of Libya of being insane, I think it is more useful to keep in mind what I have emphasized in many posts here: Iran is not clearly pursuing a nuclear weapons program. It says it is not, and Khamene'i is the Commander-in-Chief, which means his anti-nuclear weapons fatwa is what is at least officially in place, even if there is some group following Mesbah-Yazdi (whose Holocaust denial stuff does not exactly tag him as "Mr. Sane"), that is secretly trying to get them against the orders or wishes of the Commander-in-Chief and Supreme Leader.

Iran is a signatory of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is not in violation of it. It is allowed to have a civilian nuclear power program, and it has been pursuing such a program off and on ever since the time of the Shah. These are the facts.

What we have had has been a long campaign by the US and the Israelis to convince the world that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, against considerable evidence that they are not, even if what they have been doing has moved them closer to being able to do so if they wanted to.

A real bottom line is the nature of their uranium enrichment. They are simply not doing it at a level that would be usable in nuclear weapons. As long as they are not, all the claims they are pursuing nuclear weapons are off, even if this means that they are "insane" in your eyes.

Obama has publicly gone along with the line that they are pursuing nuclear weapons as this is so widely believed by the US public, which has been heavily propagandized on this issue. I do not know what he thinks or really knows, but I would like to think that he is hoping to have a negotiating partner who will be able to more credibly and publicly convince the world that all Iran is doing is pursuing a civilian program. That is one tragedy of this election, that Ahmadinejad is clearly not that party, and we may yet see the Israelis bombing Iran.

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juan said...

In line with Barkley's 11:48, apparently the head of the Mossad favored a win by Ahmadinejad. No lack of propaganda content in just this short clip:

From Haaretz, 17.6/09:

The world and we already know [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. If the reformist candidate [Mir Hossein] Mousavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat, since Mousavi is perceived internationally arena as a moderate element ... It is important to remember that he is the one who began Iran's nuclear program when he was prime minister."
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1093410.html

Brenda Rosser said...

Barkley wrote: "...Obama has publicly gone along with the line that they are pursuing nuclear weapons as this is so widely believed by the US public, which has been heavily propagandized on this issue. I do not know what he thinks or really knows...."

This is precisely why I think it would be insane for nations not to gear up to defend themselves against the US. Precisely because the US makes it clear to the world that a nation does not get recognition or peace for pursuing non-proliferation. It's a lose-lose situation for the world.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Brenda,

I do think we should sort of take at least somewhat seriously Obama's recently proclaimed desire that we should completely eliminate nuclear weapons. Clearly this is not going to happen, but I see no reason to believe that Obama's ambiguity over what Iran is up to on nuclear weapons because he knows what is believed by much of the public justifies anybody, including Iran, to go rushing to get them.

In this discussion, do you think that Kim Jong Il of North Korea is rational, this man who is starving large portions of his population? He is more rational than the Swedes or the Brazilians or the Taiwanese or the Libyans?

Brenda Rosser said...

Barkley
I don't think any of them are 'rational'.

The US cannot implement non-proliferation. It doesn't have the credentials.