By Steve Schippert
On one hand, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric is aggressive, frightening and violent. Yet, on the other, his direct manner presents openly the true intentions of the Iranian regime, even though it appears that some of his own aggressive designs stretch beyond that of even Ayatollah Khameini and the Guardian Council, ‘peaceful civilian nuclear power’ development notwithstanding.
Ahmadinejad is a true ‘1979 revolutionary radical’ who is in many ways in opposition to the mullahs of the Guardian Council, which hand-selected and approved his own presidential candidacy, as he believes they have lost touch with their revolutionary roots. He is opposed by the Mejlis (Iranian parliament) while he openly awaits the return of the 12th Imam.
It is the latter, the radical religious aspect, that makes Ahmadinejad potentially dangerously unpredictable in an international conflict/crisis management scenario.
After his election, Ahmadinejad met in Tehran with Hassan Nassrallah, the leader of Iranian-supported Hizballah. Ahmadinejad praised Hizballah as a "symbol of pure thought of Islam". In what seemed to be a signal of their coming increased active operational importance, he went on to say of Hizballah:
"Success, victories and progress of this popular and faithful force in political, cultural, social and military domains of Lebanon are results of purity and reliance on God's will which should be preserved and institutionalized as the main factor in the fight against enemies of Islam."
It is said that, as mayor of Tehran, he had city plans drawn up for the return of the 12th Imam. At his address to the United Nations General Assembly in October, he indeed ended his speech with a prayer imploring God to hasten the return of the 12th Imam for the good of humanity.
“From the beginning of time, humanity has longed for the day when justice, peace, equality and compassion envelop the world. All of us can contribute to the establishment of such a world. When that day comes, the ultimate promise of all Divine religions will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [12th Imam] who is heir to all prophets and pious men. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace. O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace.”
For foreign policy and national security analysts, discerning the potential impact of his fundamentalist beliefs is crucial. From the information available, it points to a troubling predicament of a purist fundamentalism potentially even more radical and dangerous than that of al-Qaeda, which seeks to establish a global Islamist Caliphate. Ahmadinejad appears to go one step further than the Sunni al-Qaeda and possibly seek to usher in the ‘second coming’ of the hidden 12th Imam, the Mahdi.
"Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi," Ahmadinejad said in the speech to Friday Prayers leaders from across the country.
It is important to be able to discern the degree to which he was either speaking in the general sense or in a more specific, concrete purpose, for to assume the former and be wrong could prove to be a fatal misjudgment.
Adding fuel to the ideological fire, Ahmadinejad’s statements at the Tehran al-Quds Day conference, “A World Without Zionism”, caused a worldwide commotion when he openly spoke of the need to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, which he went on to say was ‘very attainable’ and ‘very soon.’
“I do not doubt that the new wave which has begun in our dear Palestine and which today we are also witnessing in the Islamic world is a wave of morality which has spread all over the Islamic world. Very soon, this stain of disgrace [i.e. Israel ] will vanish from the center of the Islamic world – and this is attainable.”
Remember that, at the heart of the ‘wave of morality’ is Hezbollah, which he referred to as a "symbol of pure thought of Islam". The backdrop image for the conference was an hourglass, with the US broken at the bottom and a ball with the Star of David (Israel) falling through quickly behind.
Iran’s government is run in a two-column structure. On one side, there is the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) and the Guardian Council, a collection of mullahs in place to ensure that the government (and all things in Iranian life) adheres to the religious beliefs of the revolution. On the other side of the structure, the Mejlis is the Iranian Parliament. While the parliamentary members are elected by the Iranian public, the candidates they have to choose from are strictly screened and controlled by the Guardian Council (read: democratic reformists need not apply). The Iranian Presidency sits essentially between these two bodies as chief executor of their dictates.
Ayatollah Khameini and the mullahs of the Guardian Council seem to unexpectedly have a tiger by the tail. The Tiger continues to effectively and boldly remove the mask from the regime on an international stage. At the same time, to the degree that the Guardian Council has desired to improve at least economic ties internationally, Ahmadinejad is making this exponentially and possibly perpetually more difficult. While he was hand-selected by them, he has proven to be even to the right of them.
The Mejlis is at odds with Ahmadinejad, most notably having rejected all of his Oil Minister appointments since assuming the presidency. They are very displeased with his continuous appointments of people almost exclusively from within his ‘inner circle’ and his shake-up of government positions, firing many ministers and diplomats, including seven bank presidents.
Internationally, the United States and the EU have agreed to postpone an Iranian referral to the UN Security Council for a vote on sanctions regarding their nuclear program, having brought Russia into the fold to offer Russian enrichment of Iranian fuel and limiting Iran to the initial process of uranium ore conversion. At first glance, this can appear another frustrating delay and advantage for Iran. However, it is entirely possible that this move was put forth in full expectations that Iran would reject anything that removes their ability to enrich uranium. They have, as would be expected, accepted to ‘talk about having talks’ on the Russian solution. That in itself buys operations time and forestalls sanctions. But eventually, Iran will surely reject it, putting the final nail into the Iranian/Security Council coffin. It will have effectively brought Russia (and its veto power) on board.
Probably not by coincidence, it was released that Western intelligence reports indicate that Iran is training Chechen terrorists inside Iran near Qom and sending them back to Chechnya to fight Russian troops there. While entirely conceivable, the report’s validity is not the immediate issue. What is the issue in the context of the coming Iranian/EU-US-Russian negotiations is that intelligence agencies do not accidentally leak things to reporters. It was made publicly available for a reason: To solidify the Russian stance with America and the EU on Iran. The Russian vote at the Security Council would leave China to stand for Iran alone with a veto. China is not likely to choose this route and will therefore abstain. UNSC coffin nailed shut.
Ahmadinejad has made repeated statements (as have many Iranian officials) regarding Iran’s “right” to a full nuclear fuel cycle. He is being internationally boxed in.
Ahmadinejad is dangerous as it is, given his apparent disposition, as the president of the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. But as the president of a nuclear armed nation, the situation could be untenable.
Considering his aggressive radicalism in context with the potential convergence of nuclear opportunity, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could be the most dangerous foreign leader we have faced. He must be seen and analyzed as more than just ‘potentially’ irrational, as his religious beliefs must be clearly and thoroughly understood. His openly stated desires to “wipe Israel off the map” and “pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam” open the possibility that, with the power of nuclear weaponry at hand, he could unthinkably forsake the well-being of his own nation. In order to serve a ‘greater purpose’, he may be capable of creating a situation so cataclysmic that it would usher in the 12th Imam, thereby, potentially in his mind, saving the world and restoring Islam.