Why would Iran authorize a major terrorist operation on American soil? Skeptics say the much-discussed “foiled” Iranian plot makes no sense. We will know soon enough if the Feds have sufficient evidence related to this specific plot. But Iranian leaders may, in fact, have a motive to accelerate direct attacks on the U.S.: Shia Islamic eschatology, or "End Times" theology.
Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are convinced that the End of Days has come. They believe the Shia messiah known as the “Twelfth Imam” or the “Mahdi” will appear soon to establish a global Islamic kingdom known as the caliphate.
What’s more, they believe the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel (which they call the “Little Satan”), and the United States (which they call the “Great Satan”). We should not, therefore, be surprised that Iran is probing for weaknesses in American intelligence and homeland security.
Khamenei told Iranians in July 2010 that he personally met with the Twelfth Imam. He also claimed to be the personal representative of the Mahdi on earth, and said all Muslims must “obey him.” Meanwhile, Western intelligence agencies say he continues to work with Ahmadinejad and the Iranian military to develop nuclear warheads and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.
Much of the media has focused on Iran’s threats to wipe Israel “off the map.” But journalists have generally ignored the fact that the Iranian regime is equally determined to destroy the United States.
On October 26, 2005, for example, Ahmadinejad said, “God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.”
On June 2, 2008, Ahmadinejad said, “Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.”
Iran’s leaders actually believe that the destruction of the U.S. is foreordained, just as the Soviet Union’s implosion was predetermined. They see U.S. economic weakness as a sign that the end of America is near.
Other signs include President Obama’s political weakness in the polls and his unwillingness to use force against Iran even after the Iranian murder of Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon over the years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the gravity of the situation. “The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” he told The Atlantic magazine in March 2009. “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership. “When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”'
Unfortunately, Netanyahu hasn’t seen the Obama administration strengthen the American economy or take decisive measures to stop Iran from getting the Bomb, and he is getting anxious. “The international community must stop Iran before it’s too late,” Netanyahu warned in his United Nations speech last month. “If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter….The world around Israel is definitely becoming more dangerous.”
To truly understand how just how dangerous Iran’s regime really is, American leaders need to better understand Shia eschatology.
The Twelfth Imam was a real, flesh-and-blood person who, like the eleven Shia leaders who went before him, was an Arab male, a direct descendent of the founder of Islam, and was thought to have been divinely chosen to be the spiritual guide and ultimate human authority of the Muslim people. His actual name was Muhammad Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali, and it is generally believed by Shias that he was born in Samarra, Iraq, in AD 868.
At a very young age, however, Ali vanished from society. Some say he was four years old, while others say five and some say six. Some believe he fell into a well in Samarra but his body was never recovered. Others believe the Mahdi’s mother placed him in the well to prevent evil rulers from capturing him and killing him, and that little Ali subsequently became supernaturally invisible. This is where the term “Hidden Imam” is derived, as Shias believe that Ali is not dead but has simply been hidden from the sight of mankind – Shias refer to this as “occultation” – until the End of Days, when Allah will reveal him once again.
Shias believe the Mahdi will return in the last days to establish righteousness, justice, and peace. When he comes, they say, the Mahdi will bring Jesus with him. Jesus will be a Muslim and will serve as his deputy, not as King of kings and Lord of lords as the Bible teaches, and he will force non-Muslims to choose between following the Mahdi or death.
By most accounts, Shia scholars believe the Mahdi will first appear in Mecca and conquer the Middle East, then establish the headquarters of his global Islamic government—or caliphate—in Iraq. But there is not universal agreement. Some believe he will emerge from the well at the Jamkaran Mosque in Iran and then travel to Mecca and Iraq. Some say that he will conquer Jerusalem before establishing his caliphate in Iraq. Others believe Jerusalem must be conquered as a prerequisite to his return.
None of this is actually written in the Kuran, and Sunnis reject this eschatology.
But one thing that is fairly well agreed upon among devout “Twelvers” is that the Mahdi will end apostasy and purify corruption within Islam. He is expected to conquer the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Syria, “Palestine,” Egypt and North Africa, and eventually the entire world. During this time, he and Jesus will kill between 60 and 80 percent of the world’s population, specifically those who refuse to convert to Islam.
Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini, a professor at the Religious Learning Centre in Qom, wrote a noteworthy book entitled, Al-Imam al-Mahdi, the Just Leader of Humanity, describing the connection between Shia eschatology and Iranian foreign policy. “Those who persist in their disbelief and wickedness shall be killed by the soldiers of the Mahdi,” wrote Amini. “The only victorious government in the entire world will be that of Islam, and people will devotedly endeavor to protect it. Islam will be the religion of everyone, and will enter all the nations of the world. . . .The Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and the Christians; if they accept it they will be spared, otherwise they will be killed. . . . It seems unlikely that this catastrophe can be avoided. . . . Warfare and bloodshed [are] inevitable. . . The Imam of the Age and his supporters will overcome the forces of disbelief and godless materialism by undertaking jihad.”
In light of such End Times theology, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Iranian regime is taking a more aggressive posture towards the U.S. and Israel. Instead, we should be taking decisive measures to prevent Iran from blind-siding us in the not-too-distant future with a nuclear terrorist attack or even an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
Unfortunately, most of Washington and the world’s leadership is asleep to the prospect of this gathering storm. It is time to wake up, before it’s too late.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the author of eight New York Times best-selling books about the Middle East. His most recent political thriller is "The Tehran Initiative." Visit his website at www.joelrosenberg.com.