Behind Iran´s push for nuclear power, a hidden deity lurks (ISRAEL HAYOM) Boaz Bizmuth 08/10/12)
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In his noted booklet “Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of
Iranian Policy,” Iranian-American writer Mehdi Khalaji speaks of a
fanatic cult working to create a link between socialism, Nazism and
fundamentalist Islam. He talks about the hidden imam, the Mahdi, whom
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swears to have met. A look into
the apocalyptic ideology that has taken root in Iran´s leadership.
For years, I´ve made it a point to frequent an old, tiny bookshop in
Paris’ 5th arrondissement owned by an Iranian exile. Every time I
visit the French capital, I make sure to pay a visit to this shop,
which is replete with books, some of them old. The owner of the
bookstore knows that I’m Israeli. He also knows the nature of the
relationship between his homeland and Israel. A nuclear Iran is a
prospect that frightens him also.
During my visit there last month, he recommended I take a booklet
that was published four years ago and which he had just received. It
was a compendium of articles written in January 2008 by Mehdi
Khalaji, an Iranian researcher at The Washington Institute for Near
“It’s important that every Israeli citizen be aware of what is
written in the pamphlet,” he tells me. “Not only is what he says
correct still today, but they have actually gotten worse over the
“In Israel, people need to know that in Iran today there are those
sitting in the highest positions who believe that it is permissible
to make use of advanced technology in order to bring back the hidden
imam,” he said. One look at the title, “Apocalyptic Politics: On the
Rationality of Iranian Policy,” convinced me to purchase a copy.
At their root, Iran’s apocalyptic politics are the result of the
failure of the Islamic Republic’s original vision, Khalaji writes.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 began with a utopian promise to create
a heaven-on-Earth by enacting Islamic law and establishing a
theocratic government. Yet in the last decade, these promises have
ceased appealing to the masses, he writes.
In light of this failure, the Islamist government shifted tack and
adopted an apocalyptic policy, which offers hope to the oppressed.
This vision is supposed to be the tonic which will ward off social
discombobulation, and it comes at a time when the Islamic Republic is
not meeting the expectations of Iran’s populace, both religious and
According to the Iranian researcher, when the government failed to
live up to its promises, many Iranians began searching for
alternatives. They found them through the worship of the hidden Mahdi
(which is translated from Persian as “the guided one”), who is said
by Shiite Islam to be the one who will rule before Judgment Day and
rid the world of tyranny and evil. There are a growing number of
individuals who to this day claim to be the Mahdi or are in contact
with him. The search for spiritual refuge, which in this case comes
in its most primitive form courtesy of religion, has created a new
world rife with meaning, one in which man has abundant power and
supreme significance. This is not limited to religious precepts.
This primitive understanding of religion is not just indicative of
the behavior and social mores of civic society, but it is also a
vital element in the crafting of government policy, Khalaji writes.
In this context, there are two figures that deserve special
attention: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President
The most important person in Iran today is Khamenei, the spiritual
leader who has amassed the most experience in the country’s politics.
Khamenei is a product of the theological institution of his hometown
of Mashhad, which is different from the seminaries of Najaf and Qom.
“In the 20th century, the seminaries of Mashhad have served as the
centers of mysterious scientists and hidden cults, and they were
under the influence of anti-rationalist and anti-philosophical
theologians, people who did not believe in the use of logic to
decipher the meanings of religious texts,” according to Khalaji. “In
such a religious climate, the believer would put more faith in his
Shiite imam than in rationalism in order to solve the problems of the
“The place from which Khamenei sprang taught him that rational
thought has no legitimate place in the decision-making process, and
the ‘superstitious’ aspect of religion is the one that has the most
weight,” he writes. “According to this mode of thinking, the
spiritual leader effectively takes decisions based on his reading of
the future, which is predicated on interpretations of random passages
from the Koran or prayers that are specially tailored for ‘holy
people’ purportedly connected to the hidden imam. Despite his
religious education, Khamenei must concern himself with the stability
of the regime by dint of his job title. This obligates him to refrain
from threatening war against the West, even if he views this as a
legitimate course of action.”
Ahmadinejad comes from an entirely different background than that of
Khamenei. The president’s world is one in which politicians worship
religion. It is a world that came into existence with the revolution
of 1979. Ahmadinejad belongs to a secretive cult which believes in
the imminent return of the hidden imam.
“This group, which includes the president of Iran, does not offer up
much credit to the religious establishment or the religious sages,
since it does not consider them as sufficiently armed with the
knowledge that would enable them to understand theological texts
written in the Arabic language,” Khalaji writes. “In fact, this group
sees itself as the authentic representative of Islamic study whose
prophesied mission is to change the face of Iranian society – all in
preparation for the return of the Mahdi.”
“It is very difficult to know what the members of this very
mysterious group really believe, but it is widely thought that these
individuals yearn to take control of the Iranian nuclear project,”
Khalaji writes. “There are even those who claim that Gholam Reza
Aghazadeh, who until 2009 served as the president of the Atomic
Energy Organization of Iran and was also the country’s vice president
for Atomic Energy, belongs to the same cult as Ahmadinejad. Today,
Aghazadeh is a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, an
advisory council to the regime.”
Khalaji’s conclusions are dramatic. “Some members of Ahmadinejad’s
close circle of advisers have engaged in neo-Nazi activities in
Germany,” he writes. “Mohammed-Ali Ramin, the current deputy culture
minister for press in Iran, also serves as Ahmadinejad’s chief
adviser on the Holocaust. The agency he leads is tasked with
disseminating Holocaust denial in academic circles in order to bring
universities closer in line with the regime’s thinking on the issue.
It seems that the ideology espoused by Ahmadinejad’s group is one
that fuses socialism and Nazism, all within the framework of Islamic
We must come to grips with the fact that a deeply religious
fanaticism – particularly that of Ahmadinejad - is what drives the
current Iranian leadership. Whoever comes into contact with the
president gets a first-hand glimpse of his obsessiveness over the
coming of the Muslim messiah, the hidden imam.
According to Shiite belief, the hidden imam is a mortal who is immune
to error. After the Iranian president returned from a visit to New
York, during which he reveled in his participation in the U.N.
General Assembly, he told his colleagues that during his speech, the
hidden imam filled him with a halo of light. Ahmadinejad bragged that
during his 30-minute speech, the audience was so riveted that nobody
blinked even once.
Ahmadinejad believes that aside from employing advanced technology
like nuclear weapons, there are other ways to expedite the arrival of
the messiah, namely launching a global jihad that would destroy the
Great Satan (the United States) and the Little Satan (Israel). He is
even convinced that he personally met the Mahdi, or at least that is
what he has told his supporters on numerous occasions. Ahmadinejad
says that the Mahdi gives him instructions to prepare Iran for
apocalyptic war which will result in the destruction of Judeo-
“Paradoxically, there is a desire among the religious sages of Qom
and Najaf to downplay the return of the hidden imam, since his return
would essentially spell the end of the religious establishment,”
Khalaji writes. “This is because the establishment views itself as
the representative of the 12th imam during his absence.”
Khalaji also considers the Revolutionary Guards and its paramilitary
volunteer division, the Basij militia, as receptive audiences to
the “end of days” theories. Those closest to the Iranian leadership
have succeeded in inculcating the Revolutionary Guards and Basij high
commands with the same ideology. There is a simple reason for this.
There are two very basic elements that the Iranian leadership must
ensure to prepare for the arrival of the hidden imam: an
ideologically committed army and nuclear power.
Khamenei has the last word on any decisions taken in Iran, but this
does not mean that he has exclusivity on all decisions. Indeed, there
are other forces at play in the country, some of which limit his
influence to some extent. That is why in recent years he successfully
worked to weaken some of the other, relatively liberal and democratic
elements in the country, particularly those that are considered to be
politically moderate. The more Khamenei succeeds in marginalizing
these groups, the more he enhances his totalitarian clout, which
befits the nature of the Iranian regime today.
One must keep in mind the division of powers in contemporary Iran.
The president has limited authority, and he has no say in determining
the agenda on military matters and economic policy. During his rule,
however, Ahmadinejad managed to bolster his position by making
populist economic promises as well as by disseminating religious
Since he was elected in 2005, the president has always tried to boost
his influence with the army as well as in nuclear policy. He has not
always succeeded in this endeavor, and his popularity in Iran is
waning. Even former president Ali Rafsanjani, has become more popular
than Ahmadinejad today. Rafsanjani, who served as president from 1989
until 1997, today heads the Expediency Discernment Council, whose
main task is to elect a supreme leader when the position is vacated.
The Iranian regime exploited the rational image which Rafsanjani
presented to the world and instructed its emissaries to repeat
moderate messages to the West.
Iran made it a point to offer the world a glimpse into the domestic
opposition against its president, Ahmadinejad, and to illustrate his
limited influence on the nuclear project, all in an effort to divert
attention from the apocalyptic ideology that has taken root in Tehran
If one were to compare Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, Khalaji views the
latter as a greater proponent of an ideology that espouses an end to
humankind. As the leader and a member of the religious establishment,
Khamenei, on the other hand, wishes to maintain stability and prevent
the chaos which Ahmadinejad seeks so as to expedite the arrival of
the hidden imam.
Khamenei’s task is to preserve the regime’s stability, which is
against entering into a clash with the West, including the U.S. and
Israel. Still, Khamenei, who is chiefly responsible for Iran’s
nuclear program, is a product of the extremist religious seminaries
During recent negotiations with the West over its nuclear program,
Saeed Jalili, the Iranian government’s point man in the talks,
brandished a fatwa issued by Khamenei which bans the use of nuclear
weapons. Khalaji finds just cause to doubt the authenticity of this
Khalaji cites passages from the Quran which command Muslims to arm
themselves with the most advanced weaponry in order to face all
enemies of Islam. According to Shiite religious authorities in Iran,
the killing of women, children, and the elderly is permitted if it is
an unavoidable result of destroying an enemy.
There is no doubt that nefarious winds are blowing from the higher
echelons of the Iranian government, whose rationalism is as hidden
from view as the 12th imam.
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