Iran and Obama’s Delaying Game

Yedidya Atlas is a veteran journalist specializing in geo-political and geo-strategic affairs in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, Nativ, The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon. His articles have been reprinted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the US Congressional Record.


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To fully comprehend the enemy we are facing, it would behoove Mr. Obama and his compatriots to understand that Iran is not a Chicago neighborhood and “engagement” by a community organizer just doesn’t cut it. This is not merely a facile observation. Mr. Obama’s recent State of the Union address demonstrates how out of it he really is:

“[The US] seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran,” President Obama declared. “We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community……It is time for the Iranian government to decide,” advised Community Organizer Obama, “whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.” Does he really expect al-Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to suddenly jump up and say: “you’re right, we changed our mind?”

Iran, as noted above, is a Shi’ite theocracy. To understand the Iranian leadership, its motives and mindset, and the fact that their present is predicated on their “focus[ing] on the past”, one has to understand Islamic history.

After the death of Islam’s founder, their Prophet Muhammad, there was a bloody dispute who would be the next leader. The Caliphate, or secular leadership of Islam, was handed to Muhammad’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr, rather than Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law and purportedly chosen successor. The Muslims who supported Ali called themselves the “Shi’a- Ali” or “Partisans of ‘Ali.”

In 656, the Umayyads revolted against Ali and established the Umayyad Caliphate. From this point onwards, authority was divided in the Islamic world. The Shi’a Ali, or the “Shi’ites”, recognized only the successors to Ali as authorities, and gave these successors the title “Imam” -  “spiritual leader of Islam.”

In Shi’ite history, Ali is the first Imam and was followed by a total of eleven Imams, who passed their title down to their sons in hereditary succession. However, the most important Imam of Shi’a was Hussein, who was killed/martyred by Yazid, the second Umayyad caliph, at the battle of Karbala.

A grand total of eleven Imams succeeded Ali  passing the Imamate down to their sons. However, the eleventh Imam, Hassan al-Askari, died without a son. Shi’ite Islam then divided into several different sects, the most important of which was the Qat’iyya  – “those who are certain.” They believe that Hassan al-Askari really did have a son, Muhammed al-Mahdi. The Shi’ite sect that believes that “the Mahdi” – the “Twelfth Imam” – hid himself in the 9th century and remains in hiding, is called the “Ithna-Ashari”, literally “Twelvers”,  and is the dominant Shi’ite group that now rules Iran.

According to the Shi’ites, at no time in human history has the world been without an Imam. This last Imam, the Twelfth Imam, according to Shi’ite belief is still alive today and is awaiting the time when he will return, guide the world, and restore Shi’a to its proper place as The universal religion.

The “Ithna-Ashari” sect of the Shiites (90 percent of the 75 million Iranians) has been the official state religion in Iran since 1502. The Ayatollah Khomeini turned it into an activist political doctrine and the basis for the present Iranian Islamic revolution. “Twelvers” also comprises more than half the population in Iraq and is a significant minority in Lebanon which includes the Hizballah (Hizb-Allah, Party of Allah).

Iran’s current rulers fervently believe the above. It is not mere whimsy when concerned experts, such as Bernard Lewis and Niall Ferguson point out that Supreme Leader al-Khamenei and Iranian President Ahmadinejad would even go so far as to hasten a nuclear showdown and cataclysmic strike via an attack on Israel as well as European and American interests (e.g.: Sunni Saudi Arabia) with its inevitable retaliation to hasten the arrival of the 12th  Imam. Ahmadinejad even called for the reappearance of the 12th  Imam from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly. And when speaking in Iran, Ahmadinejad declared that the main mission of the Islamic Revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam.

At the aforementioned Jerusalem Conference, another speaker, a Jerusalem rabbi, asked to be introduced to Professor Bernard Lewis since he was a big fan and had read 27 of his 33 books. He asked Professor Lewis why, since what he wrote was so clear, did the majority of western policy makers “not get it?” The Professor answered in Hebrew with a Biblical quote: “They have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear.” Israel’s leaders see and hear. President Obama should also before it’s too late.

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  • Ghostwriter

    Sadly,President Obama's living in a dream world. Let's hope that he awakens from it sooner than later.