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Ted Cruz Hasn't Corrected CodePink Debate Flub

Cruz hasn't corrected a flub he made during a debate with Code Pink. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

A day later, Sen. Ted Cruz still hasn't acknowledged he flubbed one on Iran during a debate with CodePink.  

The Texas Republican and presidential candidate insisted that both Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have "explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons," which is not true.  The earlier CQ Roll Call post fact-checking Cruz's statement is here. Cruz Press Secretary Phil Novack sent us more quotes from Rouhani and Khamenei Friday afternoon, but none of them make Cruz's statement true.  

On Khamenei, Novack pointed to reports that in the 1980s he backed a nuclear weapons program internally. But Cruz didn't refer to internal statements reportedly made decades ago. He said both men have "explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons." And Khamenei, again, reiterated just days ago there is a "fatwa, declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden."  

On Rouhani, Novack sent comments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as a link to a speech by Rouhani to the United Nations General Assembly.  

But in the Netanyahu comments, he is making the argument that Rouhani is a cheater, not that he's telling the truth about his nuclear weapons ambitions.  

And in the Rouhani speech, the Iranian president explicitly says this:

"Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions."
That's the opposite of "explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons."  

The odd thing is the opponents of the Iran deal — who are on Cruz's side of the debate — generally say that Iran will cheat, that it's cheated before, that it can't be trusted. But that's not saying their leaders "explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons" when those leaders have actually said, repeatedly, they aren't. (Whether you trust them or not is a completely different question.)  

Here's Novack's new pitches on Khamenei and Rouhani:

Steven,
Would you please update your article with the below?  Here is evidence Iran has said it is developing nuclear weapons. Happy to discuss if needed. Thank you —

A fatwa can be reversed at any time by Iran’s Supreme Leader according to his definition of the national interest. We know this because it’s happened before – in regards to weapons of mass destruction. When Saddam used chemical warfare agents against Iranian soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war, then-Ayatollah Khomenei reversed a previously-issued fatwa banning the development and use of weapons of mass destruction – including nuclear weapons. (Citation: Kenneth Pollack, Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy, 2013, pp. 58-59)

Moreover, Khamenei has called for nuclear weapons himself. In 2012 the Institute for Science and International Security released a report with the following excerpt from an internal 2009 IAEA document:

The Agency [IAEA] was informed that in April 1984 the then President of Iran, H.E. Ayatollah Khamenei declared, during a meeting of top-echelon political and security officials at the Presidential Palace in Tehran, that the spiritual leader Imam Khomeini had decided to reactivate the nuclear programme. According to Ayatollah Khamenei this was the only way to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel, and to prepare it for the emergence of Imam Mehdi. Ayatollah Khamenei further declared during the meeting, that a nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God’s soldiers.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institute cites this as well in his book from 2013 Unthinkable:

In April 1984 Khameni’I (then president of Iran) told senior Iranian political and security officials that a nuclear deterrent was the only way to secure the ‘very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel.’ He reportedly went on to say that a nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a ‘deterrent in the hands of God’s soldiers.’ In February 1987, Khamene’I reportedly told Iran’s nuclear scientists that Iran had to make a ‘tireless effort’ to obtain ‘atomic energy…now,’ so as to ‘let our enemies know that we can defend ourselves.’”

On Rouhani:

Steven, for more evidence and specifically referring to Rouhani, please see the following: Netanyahu then quoted from Rouhani’s 2011 book, in which he wrote, “‘While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.’ Now, for those of you who don’t know,” Netanyahu explained, “the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, ‘By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.’ He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.” In Rouhani’s address to the UN, on September 24, the president said “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” and offered “to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks” over the nuclear program, “to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.” At the same time, he warned, “Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”
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