Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Sees End of World Order
Kenneth R. Timmerman, NewsMax.com
Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006
In a country of religious zealots,
the extremism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has even his
own countrymen sounding alarms
Dissidents within Iran say their country's president is such a crazed fanatic that he will try to usher in the end of the world as we know it.
On Dec. 16, gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he toured the southeastern province of Sistan, along Iran's border with Pakistan.
According to news reports, Ahmadinejad's personal bodyguard and driver were killed in the ambush, although the president was unhurt. The government-controlled media in Tehran attributed the attack to "bandits," a term used to denote a wide range of armed groups, from drug dealers to opposition guerrillas.
But in this case, the attack may have been part of a plot to remove the Iranian president by a faction within the ruling clergy. At least, so believes a Western source who has just returned from talks with top officials in Tehran.
The faction seeking to remove Ahmadinejad does not object to the substance of the Iranian president's repeated vows to "wipe Israel from the map" and destroy America. Nor do they believe Iran should abandon its secret nuclear weapons program, the source said top Iranian government officials told him in Tehran.
Rather, they object to the fact that he has made such comments openly and without ambiguity. They believe that his frankness dangerously exposes them to attack from the United States, Israel or both.
"This guy is not a politician," the source quoted one top Iranian official as saying. "He is certifiably insane. And he is obsessed with the Imam Zaman," the legendary 12th imam, or Imam Mahdi, whom many Shiite Muslims believe will return in the "end times" after a period of horrific battles, famine and pestilence.
Americans may find it curious that government officials in Tehran, who have actively supported the Islamic republic for years, object to Ahmadinejad's religious zealotry. After all, this comes in a regime whose constitution declares that the supreme leader is God's representative on earth whose edicts can not be challenged by elected representatives.
But for more than two decades, Iranian leaders such as former President Hashemi Rafsanjani have walked a fine line between openly defying the United States and conducting covert aggression through terrorists and sophisticated intelligence operations. Under Ahmadinejad, these officials believe, that red line has been crossed.
Ahmadinejad's messianic beliefs and his obsession with the 12th imam have become an open subject of debate in Tehran. Meeting with his cabinet shortly after taking office last August, the new president reportedly had Cabinet members sign a loyalty oath to the 12th imam, which they dropped into a well near where the Shiite messiah is believed to be hiding.
In September, when Ahmadinejad took the podium to address the United Nations in New York City, he felt surrounded by light. It wasn't the stage lighting, he said. It was a light from heaven.
He related his otherworldly experience in a videotaped meeting with a prominent ayatollah in Tehran. A transcript of his comments and sections of the videotape wound up on a hard-line, pro-regime Web site, baztab.com
Ahmadinejad's "vision" at the United Nations could be dismissed as pure political posturing if it weren't for a string of similar statements and actions that clearly suggest he believes he is destined to bring about the return of the Shiite messiah.
The mystical 12th imam, who is venerated by many in Iran, disappeared as a child in the year 941. Shiite Muslims believe he will return and rule for seven years in perfect justice.
In a Nov. 16 speech in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said that the main mission of his government was to "pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi (May God Hasten His Reappearance)."
Reports in government media outlets in Tehran have quoted Ahmadinejad as having told regime officials that the 12th imam will reappear in two years. That was too much for Iranian legislator Akbar Alami, who publicly questioned Ahmadinejad's judgment, saying that even Islam's holiest figures have never made such claims.
At the same time he has made such statements, the new president has repeatedly vowed to pursue Iran's nuclear programs, in open defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency and European Union negotiators.
While many Shiite Muslims worship the 12th imam, a previously secret society of powerful clerics, now openly advising the new president, are transforming these messianic beliefs into government policies.
Led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who frequently appears with Ahmadinejad, the Hojatieh society is considered by many Shiite Muslims as their own bona fide lunatic fringe. During the early years of the Islamic Revolution, even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini found their beliefs too extreme for public commerce and sent them scurrying underground.
Since taking the reins of government in August, Ahmadinejad has placed Hojatieh devotees in his Cabinet and through the bureaucracy, where they are leading a crackdown on students, women, Western music and religious minorities.
On Nov. 22, a Christian pastor was murdered after the president told a gathering of some 30 provincial governors, "I will stop Christianity in this country." Other Christians have been arrested and Bibles confiscated in recent weeks.
The president's opponents within the regime believe that the widespread replacement of competent bureaucrats with Hojatieh supporters having little government experience could prove fatal to him. "The new guys don't know what they are doing, and the fired people are angry," said the source who just returned from Tehran. "So there is a window of opportunity."
But hints of "regime change from within," carried by emissaries to Washington, may not be enough to deter the United States and Israel from using military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"The business community in Iran is afraid of two things," the source who just returned from Tehran told NewsMax. "They are afraid of international sanctions, and they are afraid of a military strike by the U.S. or Israel. And they believe Ahmadinejad is bringing both."
American Enterprise Institute scholar and former CIA operations officer Reuel Marc Gerecht agrees that the new president could be a blessing in disguise for those who would support regime change in Iran.
"The only way Iran is going to get better is for it to get a lot worse -- and Ahmadinejad may just possibly be the man to galvanize a broad-based opposition to the regime," he wrote recently.
Copyright 2006, Kenneth R. Timmerman