The mullahs believe Allah wants them to act now.
The documentary produced by Ahmadinejad’s office makes it clear that the Iranian regime sees itself as religiously-commanded to lead a united Arab coalition to destroy Israel in the near future. Interestingly, it said that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, though it is Sunni, is “in accordance with the Hadith.” The uprisings in the region are being seen as a green light for a new offensive to begin in the Middle East and Islamist forces are moving quickly to maximize their gains.
The immediate flashpoint in this new jihad is in Bahrain. The population is 70 percent Shiite but is ruled by a pro-American, Sunni Royal Family. Massive protests threatened to topple the regime that were responded to with deadly violence condemned by Iran. The Bahraini regime was forced to ask for intervention by the Gulf Cooperation Council and about 1,200 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and 800 from the United Arab Emirates came to its rescue. The Shiite opposition in Bahrain considers these forces to be an “occupation.” The leader of the hardline Haq opposition group flatly stated that the Saudi intervention gives the opposition “the right to appeal for help from Iran.” It is happy to oblige.
Hezbollah has offered support to the Shiite uprising in Bahrain and a website registered by the Iranian government is signing up volunteers to wage jihad against the GCC forces, including “martyrdom” operations that will be assigned via email. The website says that the fighters will be divinely guided by “the redeemer” who is behind the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Egypt and will lead the war against Israel, the U.S. and the enemy Arab governments. It is not clear who this “redeemer” is, but it is further proof that the Iranian regime believes it is fulfilling the commandments of Allah. The website says that a total of 1,858 volunteers have signed up, 60 percent of which are from Iran and 18 percent are from Bahrain. This isn’t just talk. Qatar has seized two Iranian ships near Bahrain loaded with weapons.
At the same time, there are relatively small but consistent protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is a Shiite majority area where most of the country’s oil resides. A successful Shiite uprising in nearby Bahrain would escalate the situation and the Iranian regime has repeatedly condemned the Saudi treatment of its Shiite minority. The aforementioned documentary produced by Ahmadinejad’s office states that the death of Saudi King Abdullah, either by natural causes or assassination (as called for in the film), is foretold in the Hadith as a sign that this final grand jihad is to begin. King Abdullah is 86 years old and is in very poor health.
It is not difficult to sense the fear instilled in the Saudi Royal Family. It has gone on a massive spending binge to appease its population. It announced a $36 billion aid package earlier this year and just announced a significant larger budget to finance projects around the country, including the upgrading of mosques; new offices for the religious police; the hiring of 60,000 more security personnel; bonuses for government workers; the creation of an anti-corruption agency; the construction of low-income apartments and much more. To Iran, this is more proof that it is about to fulfill prophetic destiny.
The documentary also asserts that the revolution in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood’s gains are part of this End Times scenario. Iran and the Brotherhood come from different branches of Islam but their struggles are tied. A senior Brotherhood official recently attended a conference in Tehran where he praised Ahmadinejad and said the region needed more leaders like him. The March 19 vote in favor of the constitutional amendments is a boon to the Islamists, as it paves the way for parliamentary elections as early as June and presidential elections as soon as September. This gives minimal time for political forces opposed to the Brotherhood to mobilize and campaign.
In Jordan, protests are smaller in comparison to the rest of the region but they are slowly getting larger, are consistently held and clashes are increasing. Here, too, the Muslim Brotherhood has a very powerful presence. The inevitable removal of Yemeni President Saleh, a staunch enemy of Iran, is also opening doors to the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliate, Islah, will gain politically and the Yemeni government will be too weak to stand in the way of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, whose fight is referred to as a “holy revolution” in the regime’s documentary. The Houthis stated recently that their goal is the overthrow of the Yemeni government.
The regime’s film does not say that Al-Qaeda is part of this prophetic jihad and Osama Bin Laden’s picture is on a wall of Iran’s enemies. This does not mean that the terrorist group won’t benefit from this instability. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is already expanding its base in Yemen, seizing a town, a strategic mountain and a weapons factory after the police presence in the area was reduced to cope with the government’s crisis. In Libya, at least one rebel commander belongs to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is tied to Al-Qaeda, and admits that about 25 of his fighters battled Coalition forces in Iraq. He also says that he was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 for fighting in Afghanistan against invading forces. CNN describes the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Libya as “energized” despite its lack of a presence in Benghazi.
This does not mean that everything is following the Iranian regime’s End Times vision. The uprising in Syria is clearly not in Iran’s interest and neither are the protests in the Gaza Strip and the declining popularity of Hamas. Recent terrorist attacks on Israel may be a desperate attempt to stabilize these situations and/or could be an opening salvo in this envisioned final jihad. Public pressure and protests in Sudan have been enough for President Omar Bashir, an ally of Iran, to announce he will not stay in office beyond his term. And of course, there is the opposition the Iranian regime also faces, though the film indicates that this is seen as a sign of the Hidden Imam’s reappearance as well.
Almost everywhere the Iranian regime looks in the region, it sees vindication of its apocalyptic worldview and signs that the final grand jihad it is meant to lead is imminent. The revolutions in the area are inspiring to Arab peoples seeking justice and freedom but they are just as inspiring to Iran and its Islamist allies. The Middle East is entering a dangerous new phase.