Will the 12th Imam cause war with Iran?
Daily Telegraph Link
Daily Telegraph Link
Not since the prime minister of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada presented an address claiming that UFOs posed a mortal threat to the future of mankind has the United Nations been treated to such a bizarre spectacle.
Many people believe the greatest threat to world peace concerns Iran's nuclear programme, so there was understandably great interest at this week's general assembly in New York when the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took the platform.
But instead of seeking to reassure delegates that Iran's nuclear intentions were purely benign, Mr Ahmadinejad took advantage of his official visit to a country deemed in the lexicon of the Iranian Revolution "the Great Satan" to embark on a discourse about the wonders of the 12th Imam.
For those unacquainted with the more obscure tenets of Islamic theology, the 12th Imam is held by devout Shi'ite Muslims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed who went into "occlusion" in the ninth century at the age of five and hasn't been seen since.
The Hidden Imam, as he is also known by his followers, will only return after a period of cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed what Christians call the Apocalypse and then lead the world into an era of universal peace.
Rumours abound of Mr Ahmadinejad's devotion to the 12th Imam, and last year it was reported that he had persuaded his cabinet to sign a "contract" pledging themselves to work for his return.
Another example of his messianic tendencies surfaced after 108 people were killed in an aircraft crash in Teheran. Mr Ahmadinejad praised the victims, saying: "What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow."
For many of the hundreds of delegates who attended Mr Ahmadinejad's speech to the UN this week, his discourse on the merits of the 12th Imam finally brought home the reality of the danger his regime poses to world peace.
Rather than allaying concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Mr Ahmadinejad spoke at length about how a Muslim saviour would relieve the world's suffering.
The era of Western predominance was drawing to a close, he said, and would soon be replaced by a "bright future" ushered in by the 12th Imam's return. "Without any doubt, the Promised One, who is the ultimate Saviour, will come. The pleasing aroma of justice will permeate the whole world."
The really alarming aspect is that if the world's leading intelligence agencies are to be believed he is seriously attempting to acquire a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Only yesterday, the opposition group that first revealed the existence of Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz claimed that Iran was building a new bomb-proof underground site for developing nuclear weapons.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said the regime was near to completing a vast underground chamber that was linked by two tunnels to the existing complex at Natanz, and was protected against aerial attack.
As with so many of the allegations relating to Iran's nuclear activities, the NCRI's claims are impossible to verify, not least because Iran continues to impede UN nuclear inspectors.
And even if, as Mr Ahmadinejad claimed in New York, Iran has no interest in developing nuclear weapons, there is every indication that Teheran is preparing itself for war, not least because the clash with Western civilisation that the Iranian president so obviously desires will hasten, or so he believes, the arrival of the 12th Imam.
Before flying to the US, Mr Ahmadinejad addressed a military parade in Teheran at which he said Iran would retaliate with missile strikes against Western targets in the event of the West launching air strikes to neutralise Iran's nuclear aspirations.
Recent changes to the regime's hierarchy also suggest that the country is now being put on a war footing in anticipation of Western military action. The most significant appointment is that of Mohammed Ali Jaafari as the new head of the Revolutionary Guards.
Mr Ahmadinejad a former Revolutionary Guards commander regards the 200,000-strong organisation as the storm troops of the Islamic Revolution and, by appointing Mr Jaafari its new commander this month, he is giving the guards primary responsibility for protecting the country against attack.
Major-General Rahim Safavi, the previous commander, was hardly a soft touch, having masterminded the capture and subsequent release of 15 British service personnel this year.
Mr Safavi, who commanded the guards for 10 years, is understood to have fallen out with Mr Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's spiritual leader, after he argued that the guards were too weak to repel an attack from abroad.
Mr Safavi was also criticised within the regime for failing to establish effective supply lines between Teheran and Hizbollah, the Iranian-funded militia in southern Lebanon. A train carrying vital military supplies for Hizbollah from Iran to Syria blew up in mysterious circumstances last May in northern Turkey, severely disrupting Iran's attempts to re-arm Hizbollah following last year's war with Israel.
Mr Jaafari, by contrast, has a proven track record as an effective Revolutionary Guards commander. Regarded in Iranian circles as an ultra-conservative, Mr Jaafari was, until recently, in charge of Iran's anti-American activities in Iraq, and narrowly escaped capture by US forces in January when the Americans seized five guards belonging to the secretive Quds force.
And, unlike his predecessor, Mr Jaafari is bullish about the Revolutionary Guards' capacity to defend Iran from attack. He attracted international attention this year when he boasted that more than 50,000 volunteers were being trained in Iran to carry out "martyrdom-seeking operations" against the West.
Just the kind of carnage Mr Ahmadinejad believes will hasten the arrival of the 12th Imam.