Two LISD Commentaries Address Iran and Its Nuclear Program

In two new LISD commentaries, "USA-Iran: Did Khamenei Say 'No' to Direct Talks?" and "To Be or Not to Be: Fact and Fiction in the Nuclear Fatwa Debate," Walter Posch and Ali Ansari address recent debates about Iran's nuclear program. 

In "USA-Iran," Posch discusses what appeared to many to be a rejection by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, of US Vice President Joe Biden's suggestion of the possibility of direct US-Iran talks in the future. While "Western media took his answer as a clear 'no' to negotiations and as an unnecessarily rude rebuke of Joe Biden’s gesture ... a closer look at his speech reveals other aspects and allows for a more nuanced reading." Khamenei, Posch asserts, "did not say 'yes' but he did not say 'no' either."

Ansari, in "To Be or Not to Be," analyzes the fatwa reportedly issued by Khamenei outlawing the use of nuclear weapons. "This fatwa is regarded by its proponents as a sound basis upon which the current impasse on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme can be satisfactorily resolved," Ansari writes. But, upon careful analysis of the nature and status of a fatwa, of Ayatollah Khamenei's theological status, and further complications presented by precedence set by the Islamic Republic itself, Ansari concludes, there "can be little doubt that at present such a fatwa does not appear to exist."

About the Authors:

Walter Posch is an Iran expert at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)/German Institute for International and Security Affairs. In previous assignments he worked as a Middle East Expert at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris and for the National Defence Academy (LVAK) in Vienna, Austria. He publishes regularly on Iranian domestic and foreign policies.

Ali Ansari is Professor of Iranian History and Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Associate Fellow of the Middle East Programme at the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), and Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Ansari is the author of numerous books on Iran, most recently The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran (Cambridge, 2012). He is editor of the Cambridge History of Iran, volume 8 (The Islamic Republic). Ansari is a non-resident associate of LISD.

About LISD Commentaries:

The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination supports a publication program that disseminates research conducted as part of Institute projects in a variety of formats. The published output from LISD includes policy briefs, issue reports, edited volumes, and book-length policy reports that are part of the Liechtenstein Colloquium Report series. The program also supports the e-publication of "LISD commentaries," op-ed style articles that provide analysis and insights to a broad range of current events and pressing policy issues. Past LISD commentaries have addressed issues ranging from counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring in Egypt, and Turkish elections to human trafficking, self-determination and modern diplomacy, and observations from fact-finding trips to Tehran and Kabul. LISD commentaries are written by LISD researchers, faculty associates, non-resident associates, and participants in LISD-sponsored lectures, panels, workshops, and colloquia.

A complete archive of LISD commentaries is available online.