Commentary on the fiery escalation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is accurately focusing on the never-ending Sunni-Shiite competition but an important component is missing: The Iranian regime believes an uprising in Saudi Arabia is the next sequence in End Times prophecy; an observation that enabled the Clarion Project to project about one year ago that Iran's next step would be looking for an opportunity to stir up the Shiite minority within its Wahhabist rival.
As explained in our January 2015 analysis, a video produced by the regime and leaked in 2011 explained the alleged correlations between current events and certain End Times prophecy. The video stated the death of Saudi King Abdullah would be a green light for the "imminent reappearance of the Mahdi."
These are not the interpretations of former president Ahmadinejad (whose office is reported to have made the video) or a fringe group whose views are unreflective of the regime. Iranian author Rohollah Faghihi wrote last year that Shiite scholars agreed with the correlation between the King's health and prophecy. Last year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps formed a Shiite militia named the Khorasani Brigades in Iraq, continuing the Iranian regime's linkage of Supreme Leader Khamenei with an End Times figure named Seyed Khorasani.
One Lebanese reporter explained in 2013 how Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors saw the civil war in Syria as the fulfillment of End Times prophecy. Whereas almost any non-Shiite Islamist observer would see the development as undeniably a setback for Iran's agenda, they saw it as Allah breaking an egg to make an apocalyptic omelet.
According to these prophecies, the death of Saudi King Abdullah would happen around the same time as a "holy revolution" in Yemen by Shiites. Abdullah's death was announced on January 23, 2015. The Iranian-backed Houthis had been fighting the Yemeni government for a long time but by the end of the same month, the Houthis' "holy revolution" had toppled the government and formally controlled it within the first week of February.
The next step in the sequence of prophecies is massive instability inside Saudi Arabia. The Shiite Islamists believe the death of King Abdullah would spark a power struggle within the Royal Family and, indeed, there are consistent reports of impending coups.
Now, with Saudi Arabia executing a popular Shiite cleric, the Iranian regime is hoping Saudi Shiites' outrage will fulfill that prophecy. Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority is the majority of the population in the Eastern Province, from where the cleric hailed and the province is also where the majority of Saudi oil production is located. For the Iranian regime and its Shiite Islamist supporters, their strategic interests, sectarian loyalty and End Times prophecy are all neatly aligning.
And Iran might have some help from Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in that endeavor, as it is bombing Shiite mosques in the region to trigger a broader sectarian war in line with its own apocalyptic prophecies.
The key question now is whether Iran believes this next step in prophecy is to be fulfilled organically with Saudi provocations sparking a Shiite backlash or if the Iranian regime believes its prophetic duty is to consciously fulfill that prophecy by actively orchestrating a Saudi Shiite uprising.
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.