The Iran nuclear deal thrashed out between Tehran and Washington has heartened 99% of the world. It was a triumph for diplomacy; the vindication of politics; a welcome and refreshing injection of optimism and hope in a region where bad news and bloodshed are the order of every single day of every distressing month. Who in their right mind could possibly object to an nuclear agreement which makes the Middle East more stable and the world a safer place?
It isn’t only the United States that deserves credit: Russia, China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom have all applied their political wisdom and diplomatic effort to reach this point. It is a cause of hope that jaw-jaw has nullified the possibility of nuclear war-war. Diplomacy gets a lot of bad press these days: much easier to send in the drones and drop a few bombs.
It is easy to view Iran through the post-Shah prism of the West and decry its primitive apprehension of women’s rights and its unenlightened theo-political fusion of revolution and sharia. But Iran is an ancient country with five millennia of civilisation behind it. It is myopic to read a statement put out by President Hassan Rouhani or a fatwa issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and assume that Iran’s young, educated population share the values of their elders and putative leaders. They yearn to join the the family of respected world nations, but daren’t voice opposition to the Ayatollah cult for fear of being ‘disappeared’ or suspended from the nearest crane. We easily forget that 10,000 of these youngsters held candlelit vigils and 60,000 spectators observed a minute’s silence at Tehran’s soccer stadium in the wake of the attacks on September 11th 2001. They were profoundly moved by the atrocity and felt compassion for the ‘Great Satan’. You tend not to shed a tear for those you hate, or weep with the prince of evil.
The Iran nuclear deal makes the country a partner in bringing stability to the Middle East. As their Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, it is a “win-win” solution to end “an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons for dealing with serious problems that affect our international community”. President Rouhani tweeted: “#Irandeal shows constructive engagement works. With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges.”
So why does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounce the deal as a “one of the darkest days in world history” and a “stunning historic mistake”? You can’t put it down to the cause of Zionism: Saudi Arabia also has concerns.
Might it possibly be that, once again, the ‘developed’ nations of the world have naively forged a solution of secular vacuity in a space that is gravely religious?
Cleric Hassan Rouhani is a pious man, devoted like all Shias to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam. This President, like the previous one, believes that his government must prepare the country for the Imam’s return. All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days in the company of Isa (Jesus). But President/Cleric Rouhani pledged himself with Ayatollah Khamenei decades ago to work for the return of the Mahdi. Indeed, Iran’s military involvement in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq was (and is) purposely designed to agitate against Israel to hasten the Last Day. Iran’s dominant ‘Twelver’ sect believes the Mahdi will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam and descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.
Iran’s entire theo-political agenda is driven by Shia theology which is guarded by clerics who ensure that all legislation complies with their interpretation of Islamic law. And when it comes to foreign policy, this can only mean one thing for Israel, for they hold to the divine promise made in the Al-Israa Sura (Sura 17) that they will liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the first ‘Kaba’ to the Muslims – and will enter it as they have entered it the first time (Sura 17, ayat 7). And the prophetic foundation is the message of Mohammed that Islam will enter every house and will spread over the entire world.
They are dedicated and pledged with their lives to the ‘liberation of Palestine’ – all of Palestine. They describe the Jewish state as “a kidney transplanted in a body that rejected it”, asserting that the United States may want to “save the Zionist entity, but it will not be able to do so”. Nuclear power is the great equaliser: what begins with the production of electricity will end with a Shahab-3 missile. The Iran nuclear deal is not only a triumph for secular political diplomacy; it is the culmination of Shia Islamic eschatology. It is elemental to Iran’s final solution.