A Lebanese reporter for the Al-Monitor Middle East news service explains that Iran and Hezbollah view the Syrian civil war not only in a strategic context, but in a prophetic one. In their belief, the radical Sunnis will conquer Syria for a short period of time and then Iranian forces will intervene on their way to destroying Israel.
The unnamed reporter points out that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is, like Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, “known for being a strong believer” in the Shiite prophecy that Iran will lead an End Times war against Islam’s enemies. At that time, the Mahdi will “reappear” and defeat the infidel.
According to the author, Iran and Hezbollah rely upon a book of prophecies called Al-Jafr to guide them. It was passed down to Jafar al-Sadiq, for whom the Jafari school of Shiite jurisprudence is named after. Teachers of this book say that the Syrian leader will be killed in a civil war during the End Times.
A Sunni leader will take over Syria and persecute Shiites, Allawites and Christians. The persecution will continue until an Iranian army invades Syria via Iraq, killing this Sunni leader on the way to capturing Jerusalem. Once Jerusalem is taken, the Mahdi will appear. Interestingly, in a modern context, this means that Hezbollah is fighting to preserve the regime of a man (Bashar Assad) that they believe will be killed.
Keep in mind, the Jafari school of jurisprudence is mainstream Shiite doctrine. There’s bound to be disagreement over the interpretation of prophecy, but these are not the beliefs of an isolated cult. 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 very similar eschatological viewpoint is articulated in a 2011 documentary produced by the office of then-President Ahmadinejad. The film, titled The Coming is Upon Us, does not predict a Syrian civil war but shares many of the same details articulated by the Al-Monitor reporter in Lebanon.
A critical point of convergence between the two sources is about Saudi Arabia’s role in prophecy. Both agree that the death of Saudi King Abdullah will be a major trigger. In fact, this event is so central to the Iranian film that it opens up with the statement, “Whoever guarantees the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I will guarantee the imminent reappearance of Mahdi.”
What’s amazing about this film is the high level of detail of the discussed prophecies. It is easy to see why, if you were a devout Muslim (especially a Shiite), you would believe that the Mahdi’s return is near.
The arrival of Jews in Palestine from the West and the birth of the state of Israel, the conquering of Arabia by the Al-Sauds and the global dominance of the U.S. and the West are all clearly foretold, it claims.
An Allah-blessed revolution will take place in Iran led by a man based out of Qom. The narrators point to the 1979 Islamic Revolution as a clear fulfillment. After this happens, a series of vague and specific “signs” are to follow.
The most specific “signs” are related to Iraq. The Iranian video claims that prophecy requires the invasion of Iraq by infidels from the south with heavy use of aircraft, as happened in 2003. The infidel will cause tribal divisions and the evil dictator of Iraq (Saddam), will be killed.
Other signs include the Westernization of Muslim youth (with the 2009 Green Revolution offered as evidence), the Iran-backed Houthi rebellion in Yemen and the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak.
“The preparer,” named Seyed Khorasani, will rule Iran at this decisive point in history. He will come from Khorasan Province, his strong army will have black flags and there will be a “sign” in his right hand. The filmmakers point out that Khamenei fills these requirements and has a disabled right hand.
Yamani will coordinate the offensive against the infidel with Khorasani that trigger the Mahdi’s reappearance. The film argues that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is his incarnation. Yamani will have a Yemeni background and it says that Nasrallah’s ancestors came to Lebanon from Yemen.
Khorasani/Khamenei’s military leader is given the name of Shoeib-Ebne Saleh. The film allegedly produced by Ahmadinejad’s office predictably says he is the incarnation of this figure. However, any military commander under Khamenei can arguably be him.
Analysis of these prophecies helps us see the future through the eyes of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime.
Iran and Hezbollah are first focused on assembling an anti-Western Arab coalition. The Coming is Upon Us film specifically cites the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a step towards this, even if Iran and the Brotherhood are on opposite sides in Syria.
This stage includes fomenting internal strife in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority country governed by a pro-American Sunni monarchy. A representative of Khamenei said in 2011 that Bahrain presents “the best opportunity to begin setting the stage for the emergence of the 12th imam, our Mahdi.”
The development that Iran is eagerly awaiting is the death of the Saudi King Abdullah, which will trigger internal strife throughout Saudi Arabia. It is probable that this is when Iran hopes to begin a rebellion in the Shiite-majority Eastern Province where 90% of the country’s oil is.
After Assad is killed and replaced by a vicious Sunni leader, Iranian forces are to invade Syria from Iraq. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the Iraqi government’s slide into the Iranian orbit are undoubtedly seen as dramatic “signs.”
Once an Arab coalition is formed and Syria is invaded, Jerusalem is to be captured by the Iranian-led forces. At this point, the Mahdi is to reappear and final victory will come that includes a Nasrallah-led march to Mecca.
The Al-Monitor report appears fanciful until all of these pieces are put together. Once they are, it is easier to understand why the Iran-Hezbollah bloc is confident of victory.
“According to Shiites who believe in this [Al-Jafr] book, mainly Khamenei and Nasrallah, there is one possible explanation. The signs of reappearance of Mahdi are being successfully unveiled, and the Great War with Israel and the disbelievers is just around the corner,” writes the Lebanese reporter.
The Shiite Islamists’ End Times worldview does not necessarily result in recklessness. They do consider military strength and geopolitical realities, but the objectives of those calculations are to fulfill prophecy. Any policy debate that takes place among them is not about whether to pursue the war that summons the Mahdi, but how.