Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes Iran must ‘export’ the Iranian revolution (Photo: AP)
Those who dismiss the threat of a nuclear Iran fail to appreciate the true nature of that country’s regime. Consider, if you will, the suicide bomb which yesterday killed 42 people in Sistani-Baluchistan (a region of Iran which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan). General Noor Ali Shooshtari, the deputy commander of the Guard’s ground forces, was killed – along with five other officers and ten tribal elders.
A Sunni insurgent group called Jundallah quickly claimed responsibility. But that didn’t stop General Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Guard’s ground forces, from blaming Britain and America. “The terrorists were trained in the neighbouring country by the Americans and British,” he said. “The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran are unable to tolerate the unity in the country.” And, more ominously: “The Guards will give a very harsh and crushing response to this group, so the group will never be able to launch another act like this in the country.”
Let’s be clear. There a very few journalists who have inside knowledge of the CIA’s activities, and I am not claiming to be one of them. Although the US has denied any involvement, it is not impossible that American funding has reached Jundallah in the last few years (a 2008 New Yorker article explores the issue here, and Con Coughlin doubts it here). But General Pakpour’s comments surely represent something more profound. Iran, as a dictatorship, views unity as paramount. So whether it’s Shia/Sunni infighting or tribal disobedience, it will always be the West, rather than deep-rooted domestic problems, which is to blame.
The Iranian regime is peopled by conspiracy theorists, and its supporters are of a similar mindset. I have been continuously emailed by one such man since I wrote some weeks ago that we cannot rule out bombing Iran if its nuclear aims continue to near fruition. His last email arrived with a 17-page paper which described The Guardian as “a liberal, non-conformist wing of the British Establishment”. I’ve yet to work out if my correspondent is an Iranian agent, but I’m beginning to think not – reading his emails is like being stuck at a bar next to a boring drunk.
But the conspiracy theories of the Iranian regime are far more dangerous. And they come into sharper focus when the religious beliefs of President Ahmadinejad and his colleagues are properly examined. As Con Coughlin has written for Standpoint magazine, these are very religious men. As Shia Muslims, many of them are devoted to the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who they expect to return at the End of Days (after a period of bloody violence) to lead the world into an era of peace.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is as devoted to the coming of the 12th Imam as he is to Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution. Indeed, Con Coughlin’s has noted that Ahmadinejad once “made the outlandish suggestion that the Western powers were so concerned about the [12th Imam’s] possible return that they were scouring the world trying to find him, to prevent him returning to Iran and establishing justice on earth.” The US and Britain should remember all of this while they try to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Ahmadinejad religiously believes he should export the Iranian revolution – and it is this, combined with the conspiracy theorist’s promise of “revenge”, that will be a much graver threat should Iran obtain a nuclear capability.