The coup in Yemen by Iranian proxies and the death of Saudi King Abdullah must be seen through the eyes of Iranian regime elements focused on the "end-of-times" prophecies. These huge developments are seen not only as strategic opportunities by the Iranian regime; they are seen as fulfillments of prophecy signaling the imminent appearance of the Mahdi to bring final victory over the enemies of Islam.
THE END-OF-TIMES WORLDVIEW
The Iranian regime’s view of the world is centered around the appearance of the Mahdi, also known as the Hidden 12th Imam in Shia Islam. It also explains its strategy in the context of prophecies surrounding the Mahdi’s arrival on the scene, including issues related to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Former President Ahmadinejad famously displayed his belief that the Mahdi’s return is very near to the point that other regime elements derided him and his clique as “deviant” for believing that the Mahdi is directly guiding them.
Ahmadinejad was not doing this for domestic political reasons. If anything, it hurt him politically. He’s continued the rhetoric even after leaving the office. In April, he said the Iranian regime will “provide the setting for the Hidden Imam’s world revolution” and it’s the “prime goal” to facilitate the “beginnings of the emergence of the Hidden Imam.”
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s beliefs are not different. He likewise preaches that the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran is the fulfillment of prophecy to set the stage for the Mahdi to defeat Iran’s enemies.
Like Ahamdinejad, Khamenei believes Iran has a responsibility to consciously fulfill prophecy in order to trigger this event. His representative in the Revolutionary Guards said in June that Iran needs to shape the necessary “regional preparedness” for it to happen.
In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric said that Khamenei told his inner circle that he had met with the Mahdi, who promised to “reappear” during his lifetime. A sermon by a top cleric in Qom and shown on state television claimed that Khamenei said “May Ali protect you” the second he was born.
The most vivid explanation of the end-of-times prophecy in the Iranian regime’s calculations came in 2011 when a terrifying video was leaked titled, “The Coming is Upon Us.” It was obtained by Reza Kahlili, a former CIA spy within the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian regime did not contest its authenticity.
The basis of the video was that the Iranian regime is fulfilling specific prophecies to trigger the appearance of the Hidden 12th Imam. Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah are depicted as the incarnations of figures foretold in prophecy.
Kahlili said the production of the film was overseen by President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and it ends with a list of endorsements from clerics. A portion was shown on the regime-controlled media.
The blowback was fierce even from within the regime. A major seminary in Qom even condemned the comparison of Ahmadinejad to the military commander who will lead the final war. Significantly, it did not condemn the comparison of Khamenei to the political leader who will ally with the Mahdi known as “Seyed Khorasani.”
The regime tried to distance itself from the video, but the filmmakers said it was shown to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad for approval. They also pointed out that prominent clerics and Revolutionary Guards commanders call him “Seyed Khorasani” to his face. Khamenei’s representative in the Guards told a state newspaper on April 12, 2011 that ayatollahs agreed that Khamenei is Khorasani.
The Iranian regime’s foreign policy is based on a fusion of these strategic and ideological goals. It rationally pursues these extremist objectives. The mistake that many Western analysts make is conflating the two. The regime appears Soviet-like in its strategic calculations, but they are made for a highly ideological end.
DEATH OF SAUDI KING & COUP IN YEMEN
The full significance of the death of Saudi King Abdullah can only be understood through the Iranian prophetic framework.
The aforementioned video produced by former President Ahmadinejad’s office is very clear that King Abdullah’s death is considered the clearest sign of the Mahdi’s imminent reappearance, so much so that it called for his assassination.
“Whoever guarantees the death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, I will guarantee the imminent reappearance of the Mahdi,” it forcefully declares.
The film predicts that the death of King Abdullah will be followed by immense internal strife in Saudi Arabia. This leads us to what just happened in Yemen.
Iranian writer Rohollah Fahihi authored an article earlier this month about how the expected death of King Abdullah is being linked to a prophecy about the appearance of the Mahdi coming shortly after the death of a king named Abdullah in the Hejaz region of today’s Saudi Arabia.
The film cites the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as leading a prophetic revolution. Their capturing of Yemen’s capital and achieving what is essentially a coup against the U.S.-allied government will be seen one of the strongest signals that the Mahdi is about to appear.
The film also mentions a prophecy about a Yemeni figure named Yamani who will lead a march to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It suggested that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is destined to play this role by pointing to his Yemeni heritage.
The rise of the Houthis will likely revise this interpretation. A leader directly from Yemen is more likely to be seen as the Yamani figure that will launch an offensive into Saudi Arabia.
OTHER FULFILLED PROPHECIES
War in Iraq
The end-of-times video states that the U.S. fulfilled a prophecy about an enemy invasion of Iraq from the south that kills its leader. The regime sees the current conflict in Iraq as part of the environment for the Mahdi’s appearance.
Last year, a new Shiite militia with strong Iranian backing formed in Iraq to fight the Islamic State terrorist group and it also operates in Syria. It is tellingly named Saraya al-Khorasani or the “Khorasani Brigades.” As discussed, Seyyed Khorasani is the prophesied political ally of the Mahdi.
The choice of name may be inspired by a legendary Shiite military leader who defeated the Umayyad Caliphate. However, the Khorasani Brigades’ emblem is identical to Khamenei’s Revolutionary Guards, strongly suggesting that Khamenei is seen to be Seyyed Khorasani.
Fahihi's aforementioned article quotes a Shiite cleric in Qom, Iran as explaining that the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria are seen as fulfilling a prophecy by Imam Ali about a deceitful Muslim group raising black flags. These enemies will be named after cities, making a further correlation to the Islamic State through its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Civil war in Syria
A reporter for Al-Monitor wrote in September 2013 that Hezbollah is treating the rebellion against the Syrian regime as part of prophecy based on a Shiite holy book titled Al-Jafr. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy confirmed this report in August.
Hezbollah believes that it foretells the killing of Syria’s leader (presumably Bashar Assad) and that a Sunni leader will come to power that oppresses the Shiites until Iranian forces arrive to liberate them. Hezbollah likely views the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) as these enemies.
Perceived U.S. weakness towards Iran
The end-of-times video shows clips of U.S. officials talking about Iranian military might. Intimidation of America is offered as evidence that the Mahdi is about to come.
In May 2012, an Iranian newspaper controlled by Khamenei featured an article that seeped with enthusiasm for U.S. policy. It had prophetic overtones by mentioning the fall of the Saudi royal family as if its demise is a foregone conclusion.
“With diminishing support for Israel and with the (upcoming) collapse of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, there won’t be any obstacles left facing Iran with its policy of annihilation of Israel,” the author writes.
The writer was particularly enthused with U.S.-Israeli tensions over the interim nuclear agreement and negotiations with Iran. He also pointed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt.
“It can be said that within the last 60 years, this is the first time that the Zionist regime [Israel], since its illegal inception, has had to endure rejection by the West over its vision and interest in the region,” he said.
IRAN'S NEXT MOVES: PROPHECIES TO BE FULFILLED
Destabilization of Saudi Arabia.
The prophecy states that there will be internal strife in Saudi Arabia so that is what must happen according to the Iranian regime. Some of this may be due to in-fighting within the royal family or a clash between reformers and the Wahhabist clerics, but there are also options for Iran to help trigger it.
First, the Houthi rebels of Yemen can move north into southern Saudi Arabia. Secondly, Iran can try to stir up the alienated Shiite-majority population in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. This is a tempting target because of the favorable demographics and the fact that the area is home to 90% of the country’s oil.
Destabilization of Bahrain
The pro-U.S. Sunni government of Bahrain oversees a population that is 70% Shiite. A popular revolution nearly toppled the monarchy in 2011 until the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates sent troops to assist the government's violent crackdown.
“[Bahrain is] the best opportunity to begin setting the stage for the emergence of the 12th imam, our Mahdi,” said a representative of Khamenei to the universities at the time.
Iran nearly instigated a military clash with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia before backing down. The government stabilized but Iran continued to sponsor terrorist plots.
In February 2013, Bahrain foiled a plot by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi Hezbollah to attack the Interior Ministry and international airport. There was also a bomb plot, perhaps likewise hatched by Iran, to destroy the King Fahd Causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. State Department confirms that an Iranian shipment of arms to Shiite opposition personnel in Bahrain was foiled in December 2013, specifically the February 14 Youth Coalition. The situation has since quieted down, but the Iranian regime will ramp up its activity in Bahrain if Saudi Arabia becomes distracted in handling its own destabilization.
Strengthening ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and operations to destabilize Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
The Iranian end-of-times video states that a prophetic figure named Shoeib-Ibn Saleh will spearhead an Iranian-Arab bloc against Israel, the U.S. and their Arab allies under the political leadership of Seyed Khorasani (Khamenei).
Ahmadinejad’s office predictably said he is the incarnation of this character. He is now out of office but the prophecy still stands.
The film cites the Arab Spring as an ongoing fulfillment of prophecy and identifies the Muslim Brotherhood (and therefore Hamas) as the Sunnis destined to ally with Iran. The issue standing in the way is the Syrian civil war.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is refusing to even negotiate with Iran, but that may change due to international pressure and dependency upon Turkey and Qatar. Iran has restored ties to Hamas and Hamas is offering Hezbollah a joint jihad against Israel. Khamenei is emphasizing his belief in a Shiite-Sunni alliance.
The Sunni Islamists’ massive setbacks in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya will have to be reversed for this prophecy to be fulfilled. Egypt says Hamas is involved in terrorist activity against its government. Sudan, an ally of Iran and Hamas, is accused of supporting Islamist forces in Libya and may do the same in Egypt.
Victory in Syria
Hezbollah and Iran believe the prophecy requires them to save the Shiites in Syria from radical Sunni oppressors. This may not necessarily mean re-capturing all of Syria.
It is possible that they will settle for a scenario where the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are defeated, the Allawites (a Shiite offshoot) are protected and a ceasefire is reached with the rebel-held areas, especially if those rebels are willing to go along with a Shiite-Sunni jihad against Israel.
The bottom line is that Iran and Hezbollah believe that the Mahdi will only re-appear after Syria is brought to some kind of resolution that leaves the Allawites in power.
According to this end-of-days belief, all of these events lead up to the Iranian-led capturing of Jerusalem, after which the Mahdi will appear and bring about the final victory.
These violent beliefs and goals cannot be ignored.
The Iranian regime will feel a sense of immense empowerment by the coup in Yemen and the death of King Abdullah, especially if the prophesied instability happens in Saudi Arabia. Khamenei and those in the regime who think like him will see this as Allah’s green light for a dramatic escalation.
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Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.