Iran's involvement in Syria's civil war did not grow simply out of its strategic interests in the region. The importance of events in Syria transcends mere worldly matters and is rooted in Iran’s messianic vision of the Shi’ite apocalypse. Iranian religious leaders believe the Islamic revolution that founded their state paves the way for the appearance of the Mahdi – the Shi’ite messiah – who will bring final justice to the world.
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The Islamic revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power in Iran, awakened messianic demons from their sleep. The rulers dreamed of a greater Iran and acted to export the revolution beyond their borders. For this purpose they made Palestine and Al-Quds their first priority. They turned the name Palestine into a club with which to bash the incompetent Arab leaders.
The ayatollahs wanted to use the Palestinian cause to gain the support of the Arab masses, which are sympathetic to the Palestinians’ aspirations. They learned to use the Palestinian issue from other Arab rulers. Since Sunni Islam’s rise to power in Turkey, Iran’s leaders have been embroiled in a lively competition over this issue with Sultan Erdogan.
But Syria is important to Iran for messianic reasons because according to Shi’ite traditions, the Mahdi’s reincarnation is associated with a bloody civil war that will take place in Syria and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. It begins on a small scale then escalates. Every time it seems to be calming down in one area, it bursts out in another, until the Mahdi appears.
Shi’ite traditions based on statements of Shi’a founder Ali ibn Abi Talib also refer to the yellow-flag carriers, who come from the west and take part in the war in Syria. Some even link this tradition to the color of Hezbollah’s flags, as did Iranian parliament member Roh Allah Hosseinian, whose statements were cited by the Iranian news agency.
The message was clear: When the yellow-flag carriers fighting against the Shi’ites’ enemies in Damascus are joined by the Iranian forces, it’s a sign of the Mahdi’s imminent appearance.
The Islamic Shi’ites couldn’t care less, from the religious point of view, about Palestine and Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque carry no religious significance to the Shi’ites. The Shi’ite interpretation of the Koran proverb mentioning Al-Aqsa says it means “a mosque of above” located in the sky rather than in Jerusalem. For the Shi’ite faith, the Great Mosque of Kufa, in Iraq, is holier than the one in Jerusalem.
The Shi’ite end of days plot also has a twist – the Arabs won’t get any joy from the Mahdi’s coming, because when he appears, “only the sword will talk between him and the Arabs.” Can these religious traditions explain the atrocities committed by the Alawi regime, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, against the Syrian “Arabs,” who belong to the Sunni faction?
Wonder of wonders, when the Shi’ite Mahdi appears, he will bear God’s explicit name in Hebrew. He will also hold Moses’ staff, wear Solomon’s seal and carry the Israelites’ Ark of the Covenant, in which the Divine Presence (shekhina) dwells. With the ark with the Divine Presence he will conquer cities and countries and impose law and justice in the world.
If this is the state of affairs in the end of days, it seems all the commotion between the Tehran regime and the Jerusalem regime is over nothing. All that remains is to call for an Israeli-Iranian messianic convention to sort out the dispute between the Shi’ite messiah and the Jewish one.
It appears the disagreements are not significant and the gaps can easily be bridged. Surely the Jewish messiah’s followers can explain to the Shi’ite messiah’s followers that they came to the wrong address.
And with such wacky rulers in the region, go build a modern state!