The recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the Middle East have had both the leaders of Iran and the Iranian people excited, but for completely different reasons.
Ever since the Iranian Revolution, the radicals ruling Iran have been actively promoting uprisings in other countries in the Middle East with the hope of overthrowing U.S.-backed governments and expanding Islamic rule throughout the region.
On Feb. 17, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said in a statement, “The recent victories of the Islamic revolution in the Middle East are the result of the path that our late Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini laid out for an Islamic world.” He promised that in the near future we will witness the “miraculous project” of the guards, which will shock the world.
During the past three decades, the Revolutionary Guards, through the auspices of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, have sent out trained agents, disguised as diplomats, all over the world to prepare the way for its other units to set up front companies and Islamic cultural centers, while others were sent to operate out of mosques and Iranian offices such as banks, airlines and shipping lines. Their goal is to establish ties with other radical groups by coordinating opposition to the rulers of other Islamic countries who have ties to the West. Oftentimes, their undertakings included terrorist activities, suicide bomb attacks and assassinations of diplomats, scholars and others who promote Western values.
However, their desire for Islamic rule in the region was not for greater power and influence, as many analysts in the West have mistakenly concluded. They see their mission, based on centuries-old prophecies, as a call for the glorification of Allah and Islamic rule of the world – a caliphate. These prophecies are clear about the circumstances under which the last messiah will appear and rid the world of infidels – when the flag of Islam will be raised in all corners of the world.
The Iranian rulers point to the prophecies that describe great events that will take place just before the Shiites’ 12th imam – Mahdi – reappears. These prophecies are compiled in “Baharol Anvar” (now in its 13th edition) by Alameh Majlesi, a renowned and powerful Iranian Twelver Shia cleric in the 17th century. One tells of the ruler of Egypt being overthrown, resulting in many conflicts. Another one points to an uprising in Yemen, and one refers to the death of the ruler of Saudi Arabia. (The Iranians are reporting that King Abdullah is either dead or on his deathbed.)
Another hadith, or story, which encourages the radicals in Iran to continue with their nuclear program, is one they say refers to President Obama. This hadith, referring to Imam Ali, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and the most revered figure in Shiite Islam, says: “Before the return of Mahdi, a tall black man will rule the West and the largest army on Earth. He will carry a ‘clear sign’ from my son, Hussein Ibn Ali (the third Shiite imam), do not fear him!”
An official website run by the Iranian government keeps close track of all these events and expresses the Iranian leaders’ excitement about them with the promise that the reappearance of Mahdi is close. They conclude that all the signs are in place and the reappearance is awaiting just one condition: worldwide wars, chaos and famine, in which two-thirds of the world’s population dies. They even have prepared a documentary to be translated into Arabic and distributed throughout the Muslim world announcing this great news: “In this extraordinary time of our history, the world will see the greatest events of all, events that will see the glorification of Islam not only in the Islamic countries, but the world. The reappearance is close.”
The same sentiment was expressed by many in the Iranian leadership. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, called the Egyptian uprising an “Islamic Awakening.” Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the commander of Basij Force, stated on the Revolutionary Guards’ news website that the victory in Cairo will soon be repeated in Jerusalem and that “the path for the glorification of Islam is moving fast ahead and there is nothing that the West can do to stop it.” In another recent statement, Gen. Naghdi promised the Basij commanders that soon both Israel and the United States would be destroyed. He continued: “With the destruction of these two evil countries, the world will become free of oppression.”
However, the Iranian people have a different message.
Excited by the recent events in the region, in which people toppled their dictators, tens of thousands poured into the streets of Tehran and other major cities on Feb. 14, shouting with references to the deposed dictators of Egypt and Tunisia, “Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it’s time for Seyed Ali,” meaning Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei must now go. Some burned the pictures of the founder of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (something unseen before), and of Ayatollah Khamenei, while others cheered. Many challenged the Islamic thugs, sent out by the government to suppress them, while shouts of “Death to Khamenei” filled the air. So far, more than 1,500 have been arrested and two people have been killed. The opposition has called for nationwide protests this week.
Reports from Iran indicate that many in the Iranian military and even the Revolutionary Guards are concerned about Iranian leaders ordering confrontations with the demonstrators, such as those in the summer of 2009. Many commanders are stating that they believe Iranians have the right to express their views and have indicated they will not attack or shoot the protesters.
Also, other reports indicate that many of the clerics are distancing themselves from Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of concern about their radical path toward confrontation with their people and the world.
With Iran pursuing nuclear arms and not budging an inch to the demands of the Free World to cease, and with the failure of both the negotiations and sanctions, it is time to realize that the only way forward is to support the Iranian people in their pursuit of freedom. Iranians once again have courageously shown the world that they want change and need to be heard and supported. The West must take concrete actions and voice a strong message that it will no longer put up with this barbaric regime in Iran.
It is time that we become united. Just as we defeated apartheid and communism for much of the world, we should help put an end to Islamic fanaticism and help free Iranians – not only because the very principles of freedom and democracy are at stake – but because future world peace depends on it.
By Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy. He is author of A Time to Betray, an account of his double life as a CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.