-- Jordan's King Hussein, father of Jordan's present ruler
"Pundita! Were you listening to John Batchelor last night? Did you hear the part about Ahmadinejad saying he saw lights around people at the UN? He sounds crazy and he's another Hitler only with the Bomb! Do you think there's going to be a showdown soon between Iran and Israel?
Sleepless in St. Louis"
Get a grip. Ahmadinejad is not another Hitler. He's a servant. From his teens, he said and did exactly as he was told by his masters in Iran's military. He will continue to do so, or be dead of a tragic accident within 24 hours.
Ahmadinejad is going to find tragic accident anyhow if he doesn't stop causing the House of Saud to lose Face. They are big losers, if events force them to acknowledge that Jordan King Abdullah's plan for a resolution of the Israel-Palestine situation is the workable one.
The problem is that other Arab leaders don't trust Abdullah. More to the point, the Saudis and other Arab oil rulers fear that a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation will consolidate too much power in Abdullah's hands.
The American news media are hopeless, so the American public is unaware that vast changes have been going on in Jordan during the past year. In one sentence, Jordan's king is going ahead as if his plan had been accepted, and preparing the ground for a confederation. (1)
Meanwhile the Saudis are having to watch as the Iranian military and their hired goons -- al Qaeda and all the rest of the alphabet soup of Iran-controlled terror armies -- throw monkey wrenches into their plan for the two-state solution.
What should the American government do, during this critical period? Well, it's a little late in the day to throw their weight behind Jordan King Abdullah's solution. Besides, what does he know? He's a Palestinian -- half Palestinian if you want to be silly about it -- and his queen is a Palestinian. Why should he take the lead in developing a workable solution for the Palestinian people? That would be like putting the South Koreans in charge of negotiations with the North Koreans. America's foreign policy establishment has a reputation to uphold. Putting people in charge who know what they're doing threatens to skew the batting average.
But let's address your concerns about Ahmadinejad. Take a look at this:
[...] In a keynote speech on Wednesday to senior clerics, Ahmadinejad spoke of his strong belief in the second coming of Shi'ite Muslims' "hidden" 12th Imam.The key word in those passages is "Qom," which is not the holiest of cities for the Shia sect. If you want to be sure the Mahdi reads your letter, throw it down a well near Najaf or Karbala. The catch: those cities are in Iraq. They are the holiest cities, not Qom.
According to Shi'ite Muslim teaching, Abul-Qassem Mohammad, the 12th leader whom Shi'ites consider descended from the Prophet Mohammed, disappeared in 941 but will return at the end of time to lead an era of Islamic justice.
"Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi," Ahmadinejad said in the speech to Friday Prayers leaders from across the country.
"Therefore, Iran should become a powerful, developed and model Islamic society."
"Today, we should define our economic, cultural and political policies based on the policy of Imam Mahdi's return. We should avoid copying the West's policies and systems," he added, newspapers and local news agencies reported.
Ahmadinejad refers to the return of the 12th Imam, also known as the Mahdi, in almost all his major speeches since he took office in August.
A September address to the U.N. General Assembly contained long passages on the Mahdi which confused Western diplomats and irked those from Sunni Muslim countries who believe in a different line of succession from Mohammed.
This fascination has prompted wild stories to circulate.
Presidential aides have denied a popular rumor that he ordered his cabinet to write a letter to the 12th Imam and throw it down a well near the holy city of Qom where thousands of pilgrims come each week to pray and drop messages to the Imam. [...](2)
After the failed 1991 Iraqi Shia uprising Saddam Hussein ordered the slaughter and imprisonment of tens of thousands of the rebels. He ordered tanks to wreck mosques in Najaf and Karbala (Saddam later ordered repairs) and clamped down on pilgrimages to the cities. (3)
Many of the Shia clerics fled to Iran and settled in Qom, also a holy city. So Qom took on much greater religious significance under Saddam's crackdown. Now that Saddam and his regime are gone from power, the Shia clerics are returning in droves to Najaf and Karbala and so are the pilgrims. The Iranian clerics are not taking this lying down -- particularly since they suffered a complete loss of Face due to the Information Age. The theocratic revolution was a complete bust, and now the whole world knows it.
It's not just about donations by the Faithful flowing from Qom to Najaf and Karbala, although there is untold wealth at stake; it's about the prestige and power, in a world where the edicts of clerics command the unquestioning obedience of millions.
It's also about Tehran's attempt to win the obedience of millions of uneducated Iranians who are being herded out of the countryside and into the major cities as part of the government's attempt to deal with the water shortage crisis.
Above all, it's about the Iranian military's maneuvering for an attempted land grab in southern Iraq.
Let us be clear: the region was carved up by Westerners who thought it was smart to set national boundaries in a way guaranteed to keep the locals at each other's throat. It's called "divide and keep control." The strategy is stupid in the era of portable nukes but the point is that the Shia in Iraq now have a national identity that Tehran's military, and clerics, would like to see replaced by fealty to a religious sect.
So while I do not know whether Ahmadinejad sees lights around people, I am certain that his masters told him to go on a talking jag about mystical visions and the imminent return of the Mahdi.
As to whether knowledgeable Iranians are buying Ahmadinejad's talk about the Mahdi's Second Coming:
"Of course, we must pray for the return of the Imam, but we must also tackle inflation and unemployment," said former Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reform-minded cleric.(2)
Now what does any of this have to do with Israel? For the answer, closely read the following:
[...] WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein [...] planned to travel to Damascus this week to interview officials from Syria, Lebanon and the U.S. but his visa application was rejected because, according to at least one official in the Syrian embassy, he's Jewish.Mr Jumblatt is in a position to know. But why would Syria's regime be so desperate at this time? John Loftus noted recently that Bashar al-Assad is thumbing his nose at the West -- waiting for Bush and Chirac to leave office on the theory that the uproar about Rafik Hariri's assassination will die down then.
"This is absolutely ridiculous. Syria is out of control," said Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt, a veteran politician and head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party. [...] They are getting so desperate they would coddle [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon just to get out of their problems. Meanwhile they do this? [Rejecting Klein's visa] is just a stupid, stupid thing." [...] (4)
I would think the cause for desperation is Syria's status in the Arab world as Tehran's poodle, measured against Syria's desire to maintain standing in the Arab League. The Arab regimes don't have the same use for Tehran, now that they're certain Saddam's regime is gone for good.
However, the Arab League is not going to provide the firepower to protect Assad's clan if Assad tells Tehran to sit on a tack. Only the Americans in the region are equipped to provide that kind of firepower. Sounds like game, set and match to Pundita.
As to what any of this has to do with Israel -- nothing, except that Israel is again forced into the role of the magician's stage props. Right now, Israel is the prancing rabbits and dancing ladies, while Tehran tries to fit itself into the new order emerging in the Arab Middle East since Saddam's departure. Ahmadinejad will say anything to keep attention focused on Israel and away from Tehran's increased isolation in the region.
But you may trust that his talk about the imminent return of the Mahdi has gone down like bacon at a bar mitzvah with the Arab world's Sunni. The Mahdi is sacred to the Shia but not to the Sunni. So Ahmadinejad's mystic talk is what's known as digging a hole for yourself with your tongue.
Does this mean that the danger to Israel is not what it's cracked up to be? No; this is an extremely dangerous period for Israel. But it is a period -- an inevitable phase, once Saddam was toppled.
As to what Washington can do during this period -- they are stuck with the two-state solution. So the best they can do is pursue the solution until it works or collapses. They can keep repeating the same three points, not back down from them, and keep asserting that the US won't cut and run. And use every means to arm-twist leaders in Brussels, Moscow and Beijing to keep their machinations down to a dull roar in the Middle East.
All of that is pretty much what Condoleezza Rice is doing. The rest depends on cool heads in Israel and the Middle East Arab governments, and continuing to battle the terrorist armies.
The approach also requires that the US not shy away from elbowing out Britain, Germany, Russia and France as "peacemakers" in the region. They had their chance. All they did was make one mess after another.
As to where all that leaves Tehran's regime -- out of step with the Arab regimes in the region. Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw summed it when he said, "Iran is unique in opposing a resolution to the Arab-Israel dispute based on the principle of two states living side by side in peace and security." (5)
If Tehran holds to their posture they will be isolated in the Middle East, which means they will become increasingly desperate, with greater reliance on al Qaeda's way of doing things.
1) Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, July 2005 Are There Signs of a Jordanian-Palestinian Reengagement?
2) Reuters, November 17 via Persian Journal: Iran president paves the way for arabs' imam return
3) BBC, April 2003: Karbala and Najaf: Shia holy cities
4) WorldNetDaily, December 9: Lebanese leaders blast Syria's Klein snub
5) Reuters, December 9: Iranian leader condemned for Holocaust remarks