October 1, 2007


Everybody’s Got Something to Hide, Except for Me and the Mahdi: Ahmadinezhad Escapes from New York (Timothy R. Furnish, 10/01/07, History News Network)

Many Westerners are tempted to dismiss such Ahmadi-nezhadisms as either lunatic ravings or, alternatively, political posturing. True, the Islamic Republic does not hesitate to trumpet its President’s pronouncements for domestic and foreign political gain, those are not the primary purposes of his public utterances. Iran’s President, like many (but not all) of the ayatollahs at whose pleasure he serves, is a true believer in the eventual—perhaps imminent—return of the Hidden Imam as the Mahdi. While the elites of Columbia University, CBS News and the National Press Club seem unaware—or unwilling to discuss—this paramount issue, some other analysts fall off the horse on the other side and wrongly turn Ahmadi-nezhad’s Mahdism into a Shi`i death wish. This incorrect take is a variation of the idea of “hot-wiring the apocalypse,” first devised by Professor Reuven Paz. It posits that there is a strain of Islamic eschatological thought which hopes to force Allah’s hand in sending the Mahdi, as it were, via sparking a major conflagration (nuclear, or otherwise) with the West (either the U.S. or Israel). This may be true of some of the Sunni jihadits with an apocalyptic bent, but there is very little evidence that such an idea is operative in the upper echelons of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The ayatollahs may be cut-throat, anti-Israeli and anti-American—but they are not stupid. They know full well that any nuclear attack on Israel of the U.S. would be met with a crushing retaliation. (Besides, what good would it do for the Mahdi to come and establish his global caliphate over smoking radioactive ruins?) Rather, the Iranian regime, through its spokesman Ahmadi-nezhad, is stoking the very real Mahdist yearnings in both the Shi`i AND Sunni world as a means for Tehran to grab the mantle of ecumenical Islamic leadership. And so far, it seems to be working.

Mr. Furnish seems to ignore the most obvious possibility here, that Ahmedinejad does indeed believe in the imminent return but this is one of the things that disconnects him from the upper echelons--one of the reasons Ayatollah Khamenei has Rafsanjani riding herd on the President.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 1, 2007 7:22 AM

Glowing radioactive ruins for the caliphate? Don't worry Allah would not leave that for the Mahdi - that will be fixed.

Don't worry - an apocalyptic can reason his way out of any bind.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2007 9:47 AM

Yes, Allah will raise up and establish a new paradise for the Mahdi and his chosen people. The rest of us will be vaporized or left to rott away in the radioactive ruins beyond the caliphate's realm.

Posted by: Dave W at October 1, 2007 12:38 PM

Or Christ will...or the Jew's Messiah. Or He'll be the same guy for all three. The similarity matters more than the difference and makes them quite like us.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2007 12:52 PM

The writer is kinda like those liberals who can't wrap their heads around the fact that there were actual communinsts who did bad things in the name of communism...

It's like they think people only do bad things for "conservative" reasons like greed or the love of power...

Posted by: Benny at October 1, 2007 1:15 PM

Benny, the name of Communism was a bad reason. Communism had been radically evil in its very ideals. It was totally vicious, grounded as it was on every vice: greed, envy, wrath, revenge, impiety--they're all in there.

Passing on from the jailhouse of nations to the spiritual jailhouse, my own judgement is that this latter jailhouse is not quite so mad as to imagine that this Mahdi will make the atom bombs bounce off, as the last Mahdi taught about Western bullets.

The danger, and is a very real danger, is that the jailhouse might be enabled by peace-creeps and isolationists to dare our deterrent will.

Israel is the key to what would happen then.

To respond to oj's equivalency hypothesis, I must say that, for once, I don't buy it. In all those years as both a believer and a participant in WW III, I never once thought about nuclear warfighting in eschatological terms, nor did I ever encounter anyone in or out of the military who did so.

Countervalue deterrence is a chilling business. One ponders suffering and death at truly horrible levels, for this is what it takes to make deterrence credible. Only a charletan or a hypocrite denied this.

Never, though, did I consider or hear others consider, some "religious" easy way out. It was praise the Lord and pass the dosimeter. We did pray for the Savior of the world to save Russia, and to the extent that our prayers were answered, that was the way out.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 1, 2007 3:16 PM

Are you aware that Iran is shiite, and therefore abhors sunni fundamentalists and the caliphate? Iran has no and can have no interest in establishing a global caliphate.

Posted by: N. Pannbacker at October 17, 2007 6:40 PM