Friday, November 22, 2013

Decoding Khamenei’s “Heroic Flexibility”

by Michael Rubin

Much of the Obama administration’s optimism with regard to its belief that Iran is sincere in its desire to reach a nuclear accord is based on the twin pillars that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei supposedly opposes nuclear weapons and backs President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic initiative. Alas, in both cases, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s hope appears to be based upon wishful thinking if not outright falsehood.

Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa appears not to exist. While Iranian officials will cite it from time to time, it is not published among Khamenei’s collections of fatwas, and citations of it are inconsistent as to its date of issue, its text, and its message.

The notion that Khamenei’s call for “heroic flexibility” equates with either endorsement of a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear question also misreads Khamenei. As translated over at American Enterprise Institute’s “Iran Tracker,” Khamenei shows that what he meant by that term and the conclusions drawn by Obama and Kerry are two very separate things:

“Some interpreted ‘heroic flexibility’ as letting go of the system’s principles and ideals. Some enemies on this basis claimed the retreat of the Islamic system from principles while these claims are contrary to reality and are an incorrect understanding… Heroic flexibility means an artful maneuver and utilizing various methods to achieve the various goals and ideals of the Islamic system.”

Kayhan, a newspaper whose editor Khamenei appoints and which serves as his voice piece, already belittled the confidence-building upon which Kerry and lead negotiator Wendy Sherman base their diplomacy.

Kerry may believe that a preliminary agreement with Iran will provide breathing space to reach a far broader and more permanent nuclear deal. A doctor who ignores most of a patient’s symptoms in order to give him a clean bill of health will eventually find himself sued for malpractice. Likewise, a professor who seeks to prove his thesis by ignoring all evidence which might contradict it should eventually find himself or herself pilloried before a tenure board. Yet, it seems, when diplomats do the equivalent, they believe they and the country whose security for which they fight will be immune from the consequences of their actions.

Michael Rubin


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