Iranian PresidentSees End of World Order
Kenneth R. Timmerman,
Tuesday, Jan. 24,2006

In a country of religious zealots,the extremism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has even hisown countrymen sounding alarms

 Dissidents within Iran say their country's president is such acrazed fanatic that he will try to usher in the end of the world aswe know it.

On Dec. 16, gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad as he toured the southeastern province of Sistan,along Iran's border with Pakistan.

According to news reports, Ahmadinejad's personal bodyguard anddriver 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, fromdrug dealers to opposition guerrillas.

 But in this case, the attack may have been part of a plot toremove the Iranian president by a faction within the ruling clergy.At least, so believes a Western source who has just returned fromtalks with top officials in Tehran.

 The faction seeking to remove Ahmadinejad does not object tothe substance of the Iranian president's repeated vows to "wipeIsrael from the map" and destroy America. Nor do they believe Iranshould abandon its secret nuclear weapons program, the source saidtop Iranian government officials told him in Tehran.

 Rather, they object to the fact that he has made such commentsopenly and without ambiguity. They believe that his franknessdangerously exposes them to attack from the United States, Israel orboth.

 "This guy is not a politician," the source quoted one topIranian official as saying. "He is certifiably insane. And he isobsessed with the Imam Zaman," the legendary 12th imam, or ImamMahdi, whom many Shiite Muslims believe will return in the "endtimes" after a period of horrific battles, famine and pestilence.

 Americans may find it curious that government officials inTehran, who have actively supported the Islamic republic for years,object to Ahmadinejad's religious zealotry. After all, this comes ina regime whose constitution declares that the supreme leader is God'srepresentative on earth whose edicts can not be challenged by electedrepresentatives.

But for more than two decades, Iranian leaders such as formerPresident Hashemi Rafsanjani have walked a fine line between openlydefying the United States and conducting covert aggression throughterrorists and sophisticated intelligence operations. UnderAhmadinejad, these officials believe, that red line has beencrossed.

Ahmadinejad's messianic beliefs and his obsession with the 12th imamhave become an open subject of debate in Tehran. Meeting with hiscabinet shortly after taking office last August, the new presidentreportedly had Cabinet members sign a loyalty oath to the 12th imam,which they dropped into a well near where the Shiite messiah isbelieved to be hiding.

 In September, when Ahmadinejad took the podium to address theUnited Nations in New York City, he felt surrounded by light. Itwasn't the stage lighting, he said. It was a light from heaven.

He related his otherworldly experience in a videotaped meeting with aprominent ayatollah in Tehran. A transcript of his comments andsections of the videotape wound up on a hard-line, pro-regime Website,

Ahmadinejad's "vision" at the United Nations could be dismissed aspure political posturing if it weren't for a string of similarstatements and actions that clearly suggest he believes he isdestined to bring about the return of the Shiite messiah.

The mystical 12th imam, who is venerated by many in Iran, disappearedas a child in the year 941. Shiite Muslims believe he will return andrule for seven years in perfect justice.

 In a Nov. 16 speech in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said that the mainmission of his government was to "pave the path for the gloriousreappearance of Imam Mahdi (May God Hasten His Reappearance)."

Reports in government media outlets in Tehran have quoted Ahmadinejadas having told regime officials that the 12th imam will reappear intwo years. That was too much for Iranian legislator Akbar Alami, whopublicly questioned Ahmadinejad's judgment, saying that even Islam'sholiest figures have never made such claims.

At the same time he has made such statements, the new president hasrepeatedly vowed to pursue Iran's nuclear programs, in open defianceof the International Atomic Energy Agency and European Unionnegotiators.

While many Shiite Muslims worship the 12th imam, a previously secretsociety of powerful clerics, now openly advising the new president,are transforming these messianic beliefs into governmentpolicies.

Led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who frequently appears withAhmadinejad, the Hojatieh society is considered by many ShiiteMuslims as their own bona fide lunatic fringe. During the early yearsof the Islamic Revolution, even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini foundtheir beliefs too extreme for public commerce and sent them scurryingunderground.

Since taking the reins of government in August, Ahmadinejad hasplaced Hojatieh devotees in his Cabinet and through the bureaucracy,where they are leading a crackdown on students, women, Western musicand religious minorities.

 On Nov. 22, a Christian pastor was murdered after the presidenttold a gathering of some 30 provincial governors, "I will stopChristianity in this country." Other Christians have been arrestedand Bibles confiscated in recent weeks.

The president's opponents within the regime believe that thewidespread replacement of competent bureaucrats with Hojatiehsupporters having little government experience could prove fatal tohim. "The new guys don't know what they are doing, and the firedpeople are angry," said the source who just returned from Tehran. "Sothere is a window of opportunity."

 But hints of "regime change from within," carried by emissariesto Washington, may not be enough to deter the United States andIsrael from using military force to prevent Iran from acquiringnuclear weapons.

 "The business community in Iran is afraid of two things," thesource who just returned from Tehran told NewsMax. "They are afraidof international sanctions, and they are afraid of a military strikeby the U.S. or Israel. And they believe Ahmadinejad is bringingboth."

American Enterprise Institute scholar and former CIA operationsofficer Reuel Marc Gerecht agrees that the new president could be ablessing in disguise for those who would support regime change inIran.

"The only way Iran is going to get better is for it to get a lotworse -- and Ahmadinejad may just possibly be the man to galvanize abroad-based opposition to the regime," he wrote recently.


Copyright2006, Kenneth R. Timmerman