The New Year may not be so happy if Iranian leaders have their way.
The Islamic Messiah known as the "Twelfth Imam" or the "Mahdi" may come to earth in 2007 and could be revealed to the world as early as the Spring Equinox, reports an official Iranian government news website. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) website says the world is now in its "last days." It claims that the Mahdi will first appear in Mecca, and then Medina. He will conquer all of Arabia, Syria, Iraq, destroy Israel, and then set up a "global government" based in Iraq, interestingly enough, not Iran. Such Islamic eschatology (end times theology) is driving the Iranian regime and helps explains why Iran has no interest in helping the U.S. and E.U. create peace in Iraq or the region, much less in ending its bid for nuclear weapons, the Iraq Study Group Report notwithstanding.
Anticipation of the imminent arrival or "illumination" of the Islamic Messiah has been steadily intensifying inside Iran since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerged as president of the country in June of 2005. A television series on IRIB called "The World Towards Illumination" has been running since last November to help answer the many questions Iranians have about the end of the world as we know it. The series explains the signs of the last days and what to expect when the Islamic Messiah arrives. The program also says that Jesus is coming back to earth soon as a Shiite Muslim leader and it denounces "born again Christians" for supporting "the illegal Zionist state of Israel." An Israeli news site was the first to pick up the story and its significance to Israeli national security, noting that the Mahdi will soon "form an army to defeat Islam's enemies in a series of apocalyptic battles" and "will overcome his arch villain in Jerusalem."
Some intelligence analysts are growing concerned by Ahmadinejad's announced plans "to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearisation in the current year." Iran's calendar year ends on March 20, which is the usual date of the Spring Equinox. Is Ahmadinejad signaling that Iran will have nuclear weapons by then? Is he suggesting that an apocalyptic war to annihilate Jews and Christians in Israel and the U.S. and could come in 2007, perhaps as early as this spring or summer? It is not yet clear, though Ahmadinejad today vowed to "humiliate" the U.S. and continues to vow that Israel to "vanish" soon.
The Iranian TV series is important in that it offers some intriguing clues as to how Iranian Shiites believe their prophecies will play out. "After [the Twelfth Imam's] uprising from Mecca all of Arabia will be submit to him and then other parts of the world as he marches upon Iraq and established his seat of global government in the city of Kufa. Then the Imam will send 10 thousand of his forces to the east and west to uproot the oppressors. At this time God will facilitate things for him and lands will come under his control one after the other....He will appear as a handsome young man, clad in neat clothes and exuding the fragrance of paradise. His face will glow with love and kindness for the human beings....He has a radiant forehead, black piercing eyes and a broad chest. He very much resembles his ancestor Prophet Mohammad. Heavenly light and justice accompany him. He will overcome enemies and oppressors with the help of God, and as per the promise of the Almighty the Mahdi will eradicate all corruption and injustice from the face of the earth and establish the global government of peace, justice and equity."
The TV series notes that "in our discussion of the world in the last days of the earth we had said in our previous editions of this programme that no source has pointed to the exact date when the Savior will appear and only God knows about the exact timing of the reappearance of Imam Mahdi....There are various versions of the exact day of his reappearance. Some say it would be Friday and the date will be Ashura or the 10th of Moharram, the heart-rending martyrdom anniversary of his illustrious ancestor, Imam Husain. Others say the date will be the 25th of the month of Zil-Qa'dah and may coincide with the Spring Equinox or Nowrooz as the Iranians call. A saying attributed to the Prophet's 6th infallible heir, Imam Ja'far Sadeq (PBUH) says the Mahdi will appear on the Spring Equinox and God will make him defeat Dajjal the Impostor or the anti-Christ as the Christians say, who will be hanged near the dump of Kufa."
Before the Islamic Messiah appears to the world, IRIB reports, "a pious person...a venerable God-fearing individual from Iran" meets with the Mahdi. This individual will pledge allegiance to the Mahdi as he "fights oppression and corruption and enters Iraq to lift the siege of Kufa and holy Najaf and to defeat the forces of [Islam's enemies] in Iraq." It is not clear whether the program is referring to President Ahmadinejad or someone to come.
Shiite Islamic scholars also say Jesus is coming back to Earth soon. He will not, however, come as the Son of God or even as a leader but will serve as a deputy to the Mahdi to destroy the infidels, such scholars say. "We read in the book Tazkarat ol-Olia, 'the Mahdi will come with Jesus son of Mary accompanying him,'" the series explains. "This indicates that these two great men are complement each other. Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world."
"The apocalypse is a deep belief among humans regarding the end of the world," notes the Iranian documentary. "[O]ne of the characteristics of the West in the current era is obsession with the end of time. Experts say discussions about the savior and the 'end of time', have not been so prevalent before as they are now in the west....They believe the Messiah [is Jesus and that He] will reappear and will establish his global rule with its center in [Jerusalem], with the help of born again Christians. This sect's religious leaders in the 1990's strongly propagated their beliefs in the US and European societies. In the past two years dozens of books have been published in this field....These extremist Christians believe that certain events must be carried out by the Protestants in the world so as to prepare the grounds for the Messiah's reappearance. The followers of this school believe they have a religious duty to accelerate these events, for example planting the illegal Zionist state of Israel for the Jews of the world, in Palestine."
Too many Western analysts are missing the central importance of Shiite eschatology in Iranian foreign policy. They mistakenly believe that Iran's current leadership can be somehow cajoled into making peace with the West. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cadre of loyal mullahs are not being driven by the same goals and aspirations as are the diplomats in Washington, Brussels or at the United Nations. The President of Iran and his team fervently believe the Islamic Messiah is coming back soon, possibly as soon as this Spring. They are convinced that their divine mission is to create the conditions for the Mahdi's return. As a result, they are committed to instigating more anti--American violence in Iraq, not less. They are determined to obtain nuclear weapons at all costs, not negotiate away their atomic research and development program. What's more, they are deeply committed to building political and military alliances with anti-Western powers, not finding accommodation with the West.
Bottom line: the leaders of Iran are preparing for an apocalyptic war with the U.S. and Israel. It's not a question of "if" but "when." The sooner the White House and our new Congressional leaders realize this and take decisive action to stop this nuclear nightmare, the better.