To the rescue of Islam; to the ruin of the world
Iranians are a warm, pleasant and inquisitive people. Generous and hospitable too. Their land is
filled with beauty and ancient archeological treasures waiting for tourists to explore. It has ten
percent of the world's oil reserves and plentiful natural gas. Their sophisticated history extends
5,000 years, replete with accomplishments in art, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy and
literature. Its populace is youthful and connected, the vast majority intensely interested in
western ways, yearning for the freedom to choose their course in life.
I would dearly love to visit Persia. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll live long enough to risk it.
The land of Esther sits in the midst of an epic global battle, largely of its own choosing. The
oppressive and apocalyptic leadership has corrupted the electoral process, infuriated the masses,
expelled students, sent out shadowy motorbiked militia goons (Basij) to beat protestors, and
tortured and executed citizenry for leaving the faith. In addition, despite high oil prices, it has
also mismanaged important sectors of their economy leading to high inflation, unemployment, and a
significant brain drain.
More to the point--alone among Muslim nations--Iran is rapidly developing extensive nuclear
facilities without permitting IAEA oversight and inspection, lying about critical details of
research, hiding nuclear operations from the world's attention, claiming to have no nuclear weapon
intentions while behaving precisely as if the opposite were true, and finally, boldly, loudly, and
continuously threatening Israel and the United States.
What would motivate a country to act this way? No other Muslim country is pushing the nuclear issue.
Why not simply let the IAEA inspect everything, especially given that Iran is a member nation? Why,
when there is such an abundance of oil combined with high market prices, would they not simply
relax, enjoy it, and leverage this blessing for the prosperity of the entire populace? Why scream so
threateningly towards Israel when its closer neighbors--Egypt, Turkey, Jordan--lowered their decibel
levels decades ago? Why incite Israel further by sponsoring and supplying Hezbollah in Lebanon and
Hamas in Gaza? Why hit the hive with a stick when you're slower than the bees? Why poke Goliath in
the eye when your name is not David?
This fight is the last thing Israel wants, or for that matter, the US. Still, Iran has pushed the
world to a dangerous brink and simultaneously turned itself into a world pariah. But why?
The stated narrative is the plight of the Palestinians--as if Iranian bombast and meddling might
somehow solve this refractory issue. Then there's the "we have the right to peaceful nuclear energy"
argument, dubious given such an abundance of oil and gas...well, OK, but at least allow inspections
so the world's blood pressure can drop a few notches. Maybe it's the righteous sounding "someone has
to stand up to bully Israel," as if Iranian counter-bullying will somehow win the Nobel peace prize
for moral rectitude and the physics prize for ballistic effectiveness.
A Collection of Complex Motivations
- The Iranian/Persian fanatical leadership displays an egomaniacal political and theological
swagger far greater than their size or strength. The Islamic Republic of Iran pictures itself as the
center of the Islamic world, and thus, inevitably, the center of the entire world. It will bring
peace and justice and alone will guard the way to truth.
- Islam means submission or surrender to Allah. In itself, I find this a compelling theological
theme--to have a "glad surrender" to God is also found within Christianity and Judaism. Taken on a
larger scale, however, why has the world not surrendered to Allah? Answer: the US (Great Satan) and
Israel (Little Satan). Since the Islamic faith regards itself the universal embodiment of true
belief, it is inevitable that all must surrender. In order for that process to be expedited, the US
and Israel must be brought low.
- Some believe this a strategic distraction, a ploy to take attention away from the contentious
mishmash (Middle Eastern term) within the Muslim world.
- 80-85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni.
- 15-20% of the world's Muslims are Shia.
- Virtually no Arabs practice the Shia version of Islamic faith.
- Virtually all Persians practice the Shia version of Islamic faith.
- The Sunnis and Shia usually hate each other, not infrequently with colorful rhetoric and
in violent style.
- The Arabs and Persians usually hate each other, to the extent Arab leaders such as Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE wouldn't mind Israel giving the Persians 40 lashes plus one.
- This means the Sunni Arabs and the Shia Persians really hate each other.
Given this context, it is hard for a minority sect of the faith--and a highly contentious one--to
pretend to speak for all of Islam. Yet if they are strong in bluster, if they stand up to the
heretic West, if they obtain nuclear weapons and confound the world, if they remove the boot of the
Jews off the neck of the pitiable Palestinians--the current darling of aggrieved peoplekind--then,
it goes without saying, they will win the Muslim street.
- Their final (and I do mean final) trump card is the Mahdi. The Shia faith is apocalyptic to its
core; the Iranian leadership believe the time is now; the faithful understand their coming messiah
will help them; and "they also know, to a moral certainty, that they will win." (CIA official) Not
only will the Mahdi help them, but, to their eternal bliss, they will also help the Mahdi.
Turn back the clock a millennium: two roads diverged in a yellow desert and sorry they could not
travel both, the Sunni went left and the Shia went right. The split pertained to the succession
after Muhammad. Shias believe the rightful path descended through the Prophet's daughter, Fatimah,
and his son-in-law, Ali. In all, there were twelve infallible Imams, free of sin and error, who
interpreted rules and dispensed justice.
It was a deadly calling, and each of the first eleven were killed (1 assassinated, 2 poisoned by
wife, 3 beheaded, 4-6 poisoned, 7 imprisoned and poisoned, 8 poisoned, 9 poisoned by wife, 10-11
poisoned). In 869, the Twelfth Imam was born, then hidden (Occultation) in 872 by Allah. He will
appear again as Allah ordains, accompanied by Jesus, in a time of global crisis.
His name is Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Mahdi, and he is also known as Muhammad al-Mahdi, or the hidden
Mahdi. Acceptance of his existence, at 85%, is widespread in Shia theology, and these adherents are
Few Twelvers, however, are as fanatical as the Iranian theocratic leadership. They believe the world
is pregnant with change, that Shia Islam will win, and that nuclear weapons will help their cause.
They do not mind chaos, global disruption, and economic depression as long as it is for a greater
good. And even though the Persian Shia do not participate in suicide bombings, and they have never
had a war with Israel, nevertheless, high human causalities will be acceptable in this setting. The
goal, after all, will be perfect justice and peace, defeat of the US, Israel, and Europe, and
worldwide submission to the Mahdi and Allah.
There are very few counterincentives to force such thinkers to the negotiating table. Islamic
scholar and Princeton professor emeritus, Bernard Lewis, has said, "There is a radical difference
between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other governments with nuclear weapons. This difference is
expressed in what can only be described as the apocalyptic worldview of Iran's present rulers."
Former Israel Defense Minister, Dr. Ephraim Sneh, said, "If the Ayatollahs believe that the price
for their aggression is five million Iranians dead, they will think that it is worth doing. You have
to understand, this leadership in Iran is living according to a very extremist, fanatic, messianic
Shiite mythology of bringing back the 12th Imam...And for them, the destruction of the Jewish state
is a target that is worth a big sacrifice."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Iran had no fear of an Israeli counter-strike and that
"nothing" would stop the Tehran regime from attacking Israel except a pre-emptive strike. "Iran will
be the first nuclear state in history against which deterrence won't work, even if the deterrent is
Perhaps most revealing is a recent article (2-5-12) by Charles S. Faddis titled "The Mahdi Does not
Negotiate. Neither Should We." Faddis is a former CIA operations officer who served twenty years in
the Near East and South Asia. He retired in 2008 as head of the CIA's WMD terrorism unit. I have
entered segments of his article below but would advise reading it in its entirety at this page
The Iranian source elaborated: We [the US] were under the illusion we were dealing with rational
actors. We were not. We were under the illusion we were playing a game which would stretch out over
many years. Our adversaries in Iran shared no such belief. They expected this conflict to reach its
climax in the very near future. They also knew, to a moral certainty, that they would win.
The Mahdi has been hidden for 1,200 years now, but he will return just before the Day of Judgment.
According to the Hadith, his return will be preceded by three years of chaos, violence and
Some Twelvers, including the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Iranian
Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameinei, believe that they are to prepare the way for the return of
the Mahdi. In order to do so, they are to bring on the state of chaos and destruction, which will
precede the Madhi's return. The worse things get, the faster they win.
Negotiation is all about leverage... Sanctions don't provide a lot of leverage over
individuals who know as an article of faith that their secret weapon is about to emerge from his
hiding place and slay their enemies.
Negotiation is also about rationality. At the height of the Cold War, no matter how bad
relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were, we could always count on the Russians
to be cold, calculating and rational. None of that applies to our confrontation with Iran. We should
be under no illusion that there is any real chance of such dialogue leading to a meaningful, lasting
modification of Iranian behavior.
Negotiations will not work. Sanctions may physically weaken the Islamic regime and limit its
ability to do harm, but they will not make it change course. We would prefer not to have to go to
war. So, we should, therefore, take all measures short of open war to actively frustrate the
objectives of the regime.
The Middle East is staring down the barrel of a cataclysm cannon. Netanyahu recently quoted
Churchill: "Democracies tend to slumber and then they are shaken awake by the jarring gong of
- Pay attention to talks in Istanbul beginning Saturday, April 14th, between Iran, Turkey, Russia,
China, Germany, France, the UK and the US (not Israel). It has taken a year to get Iran back to the
table. Most likely they will accomplish little more than "deceive and delay," but we can hope and
pray for substance and breakthrough.
Pray for sanctions to cripple the Iranian economy leading to a successful popular internal
overthrow, a Persian spring. While it is painful to see any country suffering economic destitution,
it's far better than the alternative.
Pray for calmness and wisdom--especially for the US and Israel--regarding accurate discernment of
Iranian intentions and timetable.
Russia is bringing troops into the Caucasus region along Georgia's northern border. Many will
remember their 2008 invasion of two Russian-leaning northern Georgian provinces. Their intentions
were clear even then--to retain these as a beachhead for a future southern advance. Such a time is
perhaps close. If Israel attacks Iran, Russia--an ally of Iran--will likely motor through Georgia in
a couple of days. I would not expect much damage to Georgia or Tblisi as Russia has larger fish to
fry. However, if there is resistance, or if they simply want to use this as a pretense to take over
the country, things could rapidly spin out of control. In addition, they would love to control the
oil and gas fields and pipelines in the region, especially in Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea region.
Many readers of this newsletter have friends in Georgia and in Tbilisi, a beautiful city of 1.5
million that has already been destroyed 29 times. Pray for protection.
Remember, we do not pick our era--only our response. In Lord of the Rings,
Frodo says plaintively, "I wish it need not have happened in my time." Gandalf replies, "So do all
who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do
with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the
will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And
that is an encouraging thought."