Sharon Shaked and Yochanan Visser
Jerusalem June 29th 2011
The recent uprisings in the Arab world have received a lot of support from all over the globe.
Iran too has been lauding the revolutions in Arab countries, albeit for different reasons than the West.
Whereas the West clearly hopes that democratic processes could replace the authoritarian regimes, Iran has perceived the wave of uprisings as part of the influence of the Iranian Revolution.
Iran’s de facto ruler Ayatollah Khamenei said in April 2011 that “Thanks to Islam and the Islamic Revolution, a public Islamic awakening has happened in the region today, which will definitely yield its results as it has already yielded its results on certain points”.
In other words the Middle East is currently in the midst of a second Islamic revolution.
Many Iranian leaders see the current developments as evidence for their belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi. This belief also increasingly influences Iranian government policies.
Examples are the show of military force and the reported progress in the nuclear, missile and space programs of the Islamic Republic.
Another sign of Iranian self-confidence is the increasing rhetoric vis-a-vis the West and Israel and the interference in the affairs of Arab countries.
Some background information on the Iranian Islamic revolution:
The first Iranian or Islamic Revolution took place in 1979 and since then the country has been ruled according to Islamic sharia law.
At the beginning of the 16th century Iran became a Shia Islamic state; one of the two major denominations of Islam.
The Shia tradition is originally a-political; clerics should refrain from involvement in politics whilst they await the return of the Mahdi, or savior.
According to Shia Islam the Mahdi, the hidden Twelfth Imam, will be this savior.
Among the Shiites it is believed that the Mahdi will only return to the world after chaos and war have taken over. Until then the believers should wait patiently.
However, the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, changed this approach and introduced a new kind of religious doctrine.
The rule of Khomeini and his successor Khamenei is based on a theory of government called velayat-e-faqih, literally meaning the guardianship of the religious jurist.
The essence of the theory, developed and applied by Khomeini, is that one man with a thorough knowledge of Islamic law is designated as vali-e-faqih; heir to the Prophet Muhammad and the Imams (Leaders).
He also acts as vice regent to the Mahdi, the messianic Twelfth Imam of Shi’ite Islam.
The vali wields absolute authority and sovereignty over the affairs of the entire Muslim nation. No public or private matter concerning a Muslim or anyone living in the Islamic world is beyond the vali’s jurisdiction.
The doctrine was introduced in 1970 and has been in force since the Islamic revolution in Iran.
Another pillar of the valayat-e-faqih was the export of the Islamic revolution and fundamentalism.
Khomeini believed that the Iranian people, the Muslims in general and eventually the whole human race, should submit themselves to the theocratic rule of the Islamic Sharia law and the Shia clerical leadership
Next in importance to velayat-e-faqih during Khomeini’s rule, was the Mahdi doctrine.
According to this Shia theory, the active participation of the pious in the creation of mayhem and war in the world could actually lead to a hastened return of the Mahdi.
The Mahdi doctrine was used by Khomeini during the Iran –Iraq war in order to motivate the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who were part of the Revolutionary Guards’ Basij militia.
Khomeini even hired professional actors to play the role of Mahdi in the frontlines during this war.
Khomeini however, never embraced the Mahdi doctrine in the way that Mahmoud Achmadinejad did.
Achmadinejad was from the late 70s linked to the Hojatieh Society which has been founded in 1954. The mission of the Hojatieh was to fight the Bahai faith and to pave the way for the appearance of the Mahdi. The Hojatieh however, did not accept Khomeini’s velayat-e-faqih and as a result Khomeini cracked down on the movement in 1983. The crack- down came too late however, as the movement had already adherents in significant parts of Iran’s elites.
The Hojatieh Mahdi doctrine has become increasingly the dominant force in Iran since the election of Achmadinejad.
Contemporary influence of Hojatieh:
Following the unrest around the Arab world various Iranian leaders have claimed that the developments in the region prove the victory of the Islamic revolution and will hasten the return of the Mahdi.
For example Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani, the chairman of the Assembly of Experts (which is supposed to control the Supreme Leader of Iran and to monitor his actions), said on the 6th of May 2011 that: ”The developments in the Middle East and Europe and the tsunami of Islamic nations seeking justice will pave the way for the reappearance of His Holiness the Mahdi”
He also added that “Today, people have awakened in the furthest corners of the world… In Islamic countries, these uprisings raise the slogans of Islam and religion, and in non-Islamic countries they chant the slogan of freedom.”
On May 27th 2011 Ahmadinejad stated “Today, the Iranian nation and the nations in the region are defying arrogant powers and the demand for removal of the Zionist regime tops their lists of chants and demands. Everyone should know that the continued existence of the Zionist regime – even upon one inch of Palestinian land – is like keeping a cancerous tumor in the body of the regional countries. Everyone who claims to lead any of the regional nations must prove and explicitly state that he is against US hegemony and against the existence of the Zionist regime. This is a genuine criterion.” (President’s website).
On May 30 Ayatollah Hussein Nouri Hamedani, a clergyman and one of the Shiite sources of emulation discussed the Islamic awakening taking place in Islamic nations and repeated Supreme Leader Khamenei’s recent statements: “Just as the Supreme Leader predicted, the Islamic awakening has already crossed the borders of regional nations and has penetrated Europe. We are now witnessing public protests in Spain, Portugal and Italy.”
On June 5th 2011 Ahmadinejad said that the collapse of the US is imminent. He stressed in a ceremony marking the 22nd anniversary of Khomeini’s death that Washington is nearing its endpoint, as its hegemonic, political and economic plots against the regional and world nations have reached a deadlock and is on the verge of collapse. He underlined that “(Global) hegemony, today, is the last impediment to the monotheism front, and if we can overcome this hurdle, the monotheistic movement to achieve prosperity will be downhill all the way.” He said, “As long as the Zionist regime (Israel) exists, if only on a small piece of land in Palestine, the region will not see tranquility.” (Fars News Agency)
The conservative daily Khayan, which is affiliated with Iran’s Supreme Leader, recently published an article on the crumbling American policies towards Iran and the Middle East. According to Khayan, America was shocked by the sudden collapse of Arab regimes and is currently showing a lack of control over regional issues. Therefore, the newspaper stated: ‘the Iranian regime should exploit this opportunity to run full steam ahead’.
At the end of February an Iranian video titled ‘The coming is upon us’, about the imminent arrival of the Mahdi was posted on the internet. The video is an abbreviated version of a documentary produced by allies of the Iranian Islamic regime in response to recent crisis in the Middle East. Its intention is to show how these violent chaotic events indicate the imminent arrival of the Mahdi and the unification of the world under Islam. http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&mpid=174&load=5147
These examples show that the Iranian leadership is convinced that the chaos in the Middle East is proving their religious ideology right.
They are convinced that the day is nearing when Iran will succeed to defeat the “Large Satan” (America) as well as the “Small Satan” (Israel).
According to their views America, Israel and their allies (i.e the West) are becoming weaker and Islam is on the rise everywhere.
America will lose its status as the leader of the world, thus giving the Islamic Republic the opportunity to take its place.
A sudden rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei:
During the past three months a rift has developed between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Their dispute started in April this year, when Ahmadinejad dismissed Iran’s Intelligence minister Moslehi, who is reportedly a close ally of Khamenei.
After Ahmadinejad refused to obey to the Supreme Leader’s demand to reappoint the fired minister, Khamenei decided to do so himself.
A couple of days later, on April 23rd 2011, Khamenei stated that he would continue to interfere in Ahmadinejad’s government as long as he felt that the unity of the Iranian people and of the Iranian State was in danger.
He stated that “In principle, I do not intend to intervene in the affairs of the government… unless I feel that the [regime’s] interest is being disregarded, as has happened recently… As long as I live, I will not allow even the slightest deviation in the Iranian people’s progress towards [implementing] its ideals.” (Website of the Supreme Leader, April 23, 2011).
This act was rather unusual and showed that the dispute between the two leaders had become very serious in just a short time.
Later Ahmadinejad reportedly stayed home for about a week. His associates were quick to explain that he had a severe case of flu.
However, he did meet with Khamenei during this week and apparently pledged his loyalty to him as the Supreme Leader of Iran.
When Khamenei went public with his criticism of Ahmadinejad, the whole Iranian Government apparatus was quick to follow him.
Religious leaders as well as members of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Iranian Parliament (majlis) and the state media started to put pressure on the Iranian President, calling upon him to obey the Supreme Leader.
They all threatened that if he would fail to do so, he would become a heretic.
In Iran someone who disobeys the jurisprudent (Khamenei) is the same as one who is opposing the imams (of the Shi’a) and even Allah himself and therefore it is considered heresy.
In addition Ahmadinejad was also warned that his behavior could lead to an internal strife (fitna) within the Iranian regime (Raja News Iran, April 27th, 2011).
According to the Iranian media the conflict between the two leaders is about differences in personal interests.
Media reports pointed to Ahmadinejad’s conviction that only he is eligible to appoint politicians to posts in the Iranian Government and to his objections to Khamenei’s interference in the political process.
But this explanation is contradicting the fact that both leaders have always cooperated closely.
A more plausible explanation of the rift seems to be the serious religious and ideological differences between the two leaders.
These differences are obviously related to Ahmadinejad’s involvement in the Hojatieh movement. Since his election as president of Iran, Achmadinejad has tried to appoint members of the Hojatieh society to key positions in the Iranian government.
Furthermore, the religious differences between the two leaders date back to the election of Achmadinejad in 2005.
Khamenei then mocked Achmadinejad’s observation that he would only serve as president for two years until the arrival of the Mahdi.
Since the Arab uprisings Achmadinejad’s belief that the reappearance of the Mahdi is imminent seems clearly to be reinforced.
The nuclear track:
Iran’s increased militancy and self-confidence has also become visible in statements and recent developments concerning its nuclear and missile programs.
As has been claimed for a long time by various international experts, Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.
In May 2011 the International Atomic Energy Agency supported these claims for the first time. A report was published in which the IAEA confirmed that it has evidence that Iran has carried out work on an extremely sophisticated nuclear triggering technology. Experts have confirmed that this technology can only be used for setting off a nuclear weapon.
Statistics in the report also indicated that Iran has begun to recover from the effects of the Stuxnet computer worm, which first struck the country nearly two years ago in an apparent effort to cripple its production of nuclear fuel.
Based on recent visits by inspectors, the agency concluded that Iran’s main production site at Natanz is now producing low-enriched uranium at rates slightly exceeding what it produced before being hit by Stuxnet.
The computer worm appears to have been designed in a secret project in which the United States, Israel and some European allies all played a role, according to a report by The New York Times in January.
Break out capacity:
On June 6th 2011 the Israeli outlet Ynet reported that Iran has already reached break out capacity in its nuclear program.
According to RAND Corporation researcher Gregory S. Jones, the Iranian regime is closer than ever before to creating a nuclear bomb.
“At its current rate of uranium enrichment, Tehran could have enough for its first bomb within eight weeks” Jones said.
He added that despite reports of setbacks in its nuclear program, the Iranian regime is steadily progressing towards a bomb. Unfortunately, there is nothing the US can do to stop Tehran, short of military occupation, said Jones.
The researcher based his report on the recent findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Building the bomb will take around two months, he said.
IRG’s nuclear dream:
On June 9th 2011 Memri published a translation of an article that was posted on Gerdab, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, at the end of April 2011. The article envisioned the day after Iran’s first nuclear test. The article stated that Iran’s first controlled nuclear explosion will not disrupt the daily lives of Iranians, but will only boost their national pride.
However, it said, in the Arab world, in the West and in Israel, it will sow a sense of fear mingled with respect for Iran’s achievement. The article made satirical comments on Iran’s charged relations with the Arabs and with the West.
The following are excerpts from the article:
“The day after Iran’s first nuclear test will be an ordinary day for us Iranians. But many of us will have a new gleam in our eyes.
“It’s a fine day. The hour is 7:00 AM. The sun is not yet fully up, but everything is already clear. Many countries in the northern hemisphere are starting their day. It’s the first dawn after Iran’s nuclear test. It’s an ordinary day.
“Yesterday, an underground nuclear explosion took place, probably [somewhere] in the deserts of central Iran, where the Americans and some of the [other] Western countries once wanted to bury their nuclear waste. The blast was not so powerful as to cause much damage to the region, but not so weak as to cause the Iranian nuclear scientists any problem in their experiment.
“It’s an ordinary day, and just like on any [other] day when there is news from Iran – which is 90% of year – we see reports on the foreign news websites, and they read as follows:
- “Reuters: ‘Iran Detonates Its Nuclear Bomb.’
- “CNN: ‘Iran Detonates Nuclear Bomb.’
- “Al-Jazeera: ‘Iran Has Tested Its Second Nuclear Bomb.’
- “Al-‘Arabia: ‘A Shi’ite Nuclear Bomb Has Gone Off.’
- “Yahoo News: “Nuclear Explosion in Iran.”
- “The Jerusalem Post: ‘The Mullahs Have Obtained Nuclear Weapons.’
- “The Washington Post: ‘Nuclear Explosion in Iran; Shock and Anxiety in Tel Aviv.’
- “The local [Iranian press] will also shower this achievement by the Hidden Imam and the Leader [Khamenei] with words of praise”.
On June 23rd 2011 The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an alarming testimony which was delivered to the US House of Representatives by the executive director of WINEP, Dr. Robert Satloff.
In his testimony Satloff admitted that the tumultuous events in the Middle East have had “the effect of limiting the attention and dulling the collective anxieties about the Iranian threat”.
He advised restoring the credibility of the military option vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
He also said the Iranian threat is more acute today than it was before the ‘Arab Spring’.
Exporting nuclear know-how:
Iran is also trying to export her expertise in nuclear development to countries involved in the Arab uprising.
On June 2nd 2011 Fars News wrote that Ahmadinejad had met with an Egyptian delegation and said that Iran is ready to share nuclear, technological experience with Egypt ‘as part of the common historical and global mission to save humanity from global arrogance and Zionists’. At a meeting with a number of Egyptian academics, university lecturers, scientists and media people visiting Tehran, Iranian President Ahmadinejad underlined that during the 32 years since the revolution, despite the desire of the US, the Zionists and their allies, Iran has succeeded in achieving a great deal in various fields such as nuclear science, biotechnology, industry, sciences and agriculture. “If we stand together,” he said, “we will no longer need them”.
Recently Iran has also shown off new conventional weaponry and missile systems. At the end of June 2011Iran revealed underground rocket silos during large scale military exercises. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKPjXp7u6VI
On June 17th 2011, Iran successfully launched its second domestically-manufactured satellite into orbit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFOzHsaBxeE .
The satellite, named ‘Rasad’ (Observation in English), was launched aboard a Safir rocket and successfully reached orbit.
Rasad carries out ‘topography missions’ and can produce ‘high-resolution maps’. After the news broke about the new satellite launch, Israeli analysts pointed out that the type of rockets used for launching the Rasad satellite also have the potential to be converted into intercontinental ballistic missiles which could be loaded with a nuclear warhead. This claim was later supported by UK foreign Minister William Hague who said that Iran had secretly conducted test with missiles able to deliver a nuclear payload.
Iran was quick to deny this report.
On June 12th 2011 Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that: “Iran designed an advanced missile system to provide Islamic states with defensive umbrella”. In a speech to Muslim students from Indonesia, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani stressed that from the outset of the Islamic Revolution, Khomenei had made it clear that Iran would ensure close relations with all Islamic countries, in order to counter the plots of the enemy. Larijani clarified that Iran’s missile system was designed to defend Iran and other Islamic nations. Larijani went on to say that the Iranian people have continued to struggle and stand firm in opposing the US for 32 years, ever since the Revolution. In his words, although the US believed that an Israeli attack against Hezbollah and Hamas would lead to the ousting of groups of resistance in the Middle East, “Iran has stood by them and supported them.” (Fars news)
It is clear from all the information in this report that the regime of sanctions against Iran, which has been in place for more than a year now, has not deterred Iran at all.
Quite the contrary: Iran seems to be determined to produce a nuclear weapon and is convinced that all the recent developments in the world are part of a greater plan that will enable the speedy return of the Mahdi.
Obviously Iran is still deceiving the world. This deception is part of the so called al-Taqiah (Kitman) tactic which derives from a Quranic verse in Sura 3:28 that allows Muslims to lie for the cause of Islam.
From the outset of the Islamic revolution Iran has used Taqiah in the development of it’s nuclear program and the negotiations with the West.
One does not need much imagination to see that the possession of a nuclear weapon by people who hold an apocalyptic religious belief – whereby bringing chaos and war to the world will hasten the return a Shia messiah – is extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately however, it seems that Robert Satloff was right when he observed that the situation in the Arab countries has succeeded in “dulling the collective anxieties about the Iranian threat”.
This might also explain why former Mossad chief Meir Dagan recently issued a very unusual warning to the Israeli government about a military strike against Iran.
It could be that Dagan knows that Israel has finally realized that the world is not going to stop Iran.