Is Iran Bound by an Apocalypse Vow?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated international affairs the past year. A close second? Whether Communist China will follow suit with Taiwan. Middle East matters got shoved to the back burner. Why? Several reasons. The Trump Administration terminated the last effective ISIS “caliph.” And the Biden Administration cut and ran from Afghanistan. After belatedly taking out decrepit al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Thus, our long Islamic nightmare seemed to be over. Especially if you believe Biden’s teleprompter. It insists Joe keep bleating the lie that “white supremacists” are more dangerous than jihadists.
As it turns out, history hasn’t ended in the Muslim world just yet, however. The Islamic “Republic” of Iran is working hard to go back to its Mahdist future. A nuclear one, at that.
Where is Iran’s Nuclear Program?
Just last week the Biden Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl, announced that “Iran could make the nuclear material for a device in about 12 days.” Of course, following Pete Buttigieg’s lead, Kahl blamed Trump for pulling out of the Obama-era “Iran deal” (the JCPOA, “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”) in 2018. This had supposedly kept the ayatollahs on a short nuclear leash. According to Kahl, Iran needed 12 months to produce bomb-worthy “fissile material” under it. But now, that timeline is less than two weeks?
The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) backs up this dubious allegation. According to its bureaucrats, the JCPOA held Iran to a 3.67% “enrichment threshold,” but it’s now at 83.7%. So in five years Tehran’s nuke program made a quantum leap ahead. I’m not buying it. What’s much more likely is that Iran’s scientists — with a little help from, over the years, their Chinese, Russian and Pakistani friends — were enriching uranium all along.
Why Didn’t Biden Renew the ‘Iran Deal’?
Besides, the Biden folks had plenty of chances to restart the deal. But they didn’t. Why not? In large measure because the administration decided to retain some “bad Orange Man” policies toward Iran. Such as keeping the Iranian Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) — Tehran’s joint domestic Praetorian guard and overseas shock troops — on our terrorist organization list.
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Then Biden vacillated between upping sanctions on Tehran and easing them. It’s enough to make an ayatollah’s turban spin.
Certainly, the Shi`i theocracy’s leaders always planned on developing nuclear weapons. And they lie about it with impunity, under the doctrine of taqiyya. Allah-sanctioned lying. Originally developed to shield Twelver Shi`is from Sunni persecution, it allowed the former to pretend to be the latter. Over the centuries taqiyya migrated from the personal piety realm, into statecraft. But for some reason, Democrat administrations ignore this reality. And pretend that Tehran is operating by Westphalian diplomatic rules.
Theocratic Iran’s Apocalyptic Vow
I used to think that the IRI wanted nuclear weapons simply for regime insurance. That they had no plans to “hotwire the apocalypse.” Which means sparking a major conflict, perhaps even atomic, and trigger the coming of their messianic warlord. The 12th Imam al-Mahdi.
But last year I realized that view was not entirely correct. Yes, many, if not most, Iranian clerical politicians approve offensive jihad utilizing nuclear weapons only when the Mahdi returns. But some influential ones disagree. Such as Ahmad Hossein Falahi. He is not one to wait for the Mahdi to come to humble enemies, notably Israel. Rather, “one of the main goals of the Islamic revolution has always been the annihilation and elimination of the Zionist regime. In fact, no one can talk about Mahdism and the arrival of the Mahdi without thinking about the issue, because the annihilation of the Zionist regime is one of the preconditions for the arrival of the Mahdi.” Unfortunately, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi is probably of this persuasion. And he is the frontrunner to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the next Supreme Leader.
Israel is in Iran’s Crosshairs — and They Know It
Israel is well aware of this enormous problem. And Prime Minister (yet again) Benjamin Netanyahu, this time, is not alone in being ready to strike Iran preemptively. Many others in his new unity government know that nuclear Iran is not just an existential threat to the Jewish state. It’s an avowed mortal enemy. UN officials can natter on all they want about “any attack on a nuclear facility” being “outlawed.” As IAEA head Rafael Grossi did a few days ago. And Netanyahu can rightly respond “against which law”? Israel’s PM continued: “We are on the eve of Purim: 2,500 years ago an enemy arose in Persia who sought to destroy the Jews. They did not succeed then, neither will they succeed today.”
What Will Biden Do?
What would the U.S. do? Israel is of course one of our closest allies, not just in the Middle East, but in the world. But in recent years support for the Jewish state has been slipping among Democrats here, while it remains sky-high among Republicans. This mainly manifests in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with increasing numbers of Democrats favoring the latter.
Still, Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be in Israel later this week, after visiting Jordan and Egypt. Possible military action against Iran will no doubt be the main topic of discussion. Would Washington actively assist, or simply support from the sidelines? A number of Gulf Arab countries would likely support Israel taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities — for which former President Trump deserves a great deal of credit. The question is: would Israel do so with conventional, or some of its nuclear weapons?
The Roots of Iranian Leadership’s Israel-Hatred
The Tehran theocrats hate Israel. Why? They take seriously the hadiths (alleged sayings of Muhammad) condemning Jews. The Islamic Revolution’s, and modern Iran’s, founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, despised the last Shah’s alliance with Israel. And both Supreme Leaders so far, Khomeini and Khamenei, use the Palestinian issue as a club with which to beat Arab countries. Particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main rival.
Current Supreme Leader Khamenei is probably inclined to hold off on developing nuclear weapons, much less using them. But he is 83. His likely successor, Raisi, is less cautious. He may decide to keep an apocalypse vow. So it might make sense for Israel to hit Iran sooner, rather than later. If that happens, the U.S. will have to contemplate involvement in three, not just two, theaters of conflict. And that might be biting off more than we can chew.
Timothy Furnish holds a Ph.D. in Islamic, World and African history from Ohio State University and a M.A. in Theology from Concordia Seminary. He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and, later, civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth, a history professor and sometime media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s War Stories: Fighting ISIS). He currently writes for and consults The Stream on International Security matters.