Iran, Jihad and ‘End Times’

It is an immobilizing question, a query that was once only whispered: Could certain Iranian leaders, including President Ahmadinejad, be seeking nuclear weapons in order to deliberately bring about an apocalyptic "end of days?" Might these leaders be planning a religiously-mandated and possibly nuclear Final Battle in order to bring back the “Hidden Imam”? After all, regional or global stability is not always desirable in this Shiite theological narrative. On the contrary, just prior to the Mahdi's reappearance on earth, the world must be in chaos.

Generally, the narrative continues, Christian rule will still be dominant, but a special Muslim leader will lead the obligatory fight against “infidel” hegemony. Following especially destructive conflicts in Syria and Iraq, a great general named Mansour (Victorious) will slay Shia Islam's many enemies. Ultimately, in a moment of heroic victory, he will plant his personal flag of liberation on top of the al-Aqsa mosque, in Jerusalem.

What does this belligerent theology mean for Israel, and also for the United States? The army of Mansour, aided by the newly-revealed Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, is predicted to conquer “the Jews,” and then to “kill them.” More precisely, according to a prominent Hadith, “The last hour will not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them….”

All of this may seem highly improbable or even silly to us, in the West. Nonetheless, a great many people in Iran and elsewhere throughout the region do believe very deeply in the compelling lore of a Shiite apocalypse. From the notably critical standpoints of strategy and future war, moreover, we should recall that it is their own system of beliefs, especially when certain Islamic political leaderships are involved, that genuinely matter most....

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