Juan Cole draws out an interesting analogy here about Ahmajinedad’s eschatological vision, and dispels the oft-repeated myth that he calls for the violent destruction of Israel. I think this is compelling because it comments on the quality of both parties’ rhetoric:
Not only is Ahmadinejad the Iranian equivalent of a truther, he is also the mirror image of the Christian Zionists. That brand of evangelicals in the US believes that the establishment of Israel throughout geographical Palestine, i.e. the complete annexation of the West Bank and perhaps the expulsion of its Palestinian residents, will hasten the return of Christ.
Ahmadinejad holds the opposite. It is in his view the collapse of what he calls the Zionist regime and the emergence of a state for all Palestinians, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, that will provoke the Promised One to come. In Shiite Islam, the promised one is the return of the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, the lineal descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. In Muslim folk belief it is sometimes alleged that when the Mahdi comes, Jesus will also return, and they will join forces to prepare the world for the Judgment Day. When he was in Damascus on 25 February, Ahmadinejad spoke thusly when meeting with Syrian Muslim clergymen, as broadcast on the official Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 radio channel that day, and translated by the USG Open Source Center:
‘The day on which the Lord of the Age (REFERENCE to the 12th Shiite imam) and Jesus (peace be upon him) will come and spread monotheism and justice in the whole world, is close. Understand this. The final move has begun. God willing, with the destruction of the Zionist regime, the prophets’ mission will be fulfilled. Today, the settings of the stage for the resurrection of Jesus and endeavors to prepare the ground for the re-appearance of Imam Mahdi, are factors which make up the axis of unity of all those who have faith in the holy prophets.’
Because there will be a lot of propaganda around all this, I want to underline that Ahmadinejad did not then and has never called for the violent destruction of Israelis or Israel. He rather expects the ‘Zionist regime’ peacefully to collapse, as the Soviet regime in Moscow did. It is that peaceful collapse that will apparently in his view herald the return of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi, and of Jesus Christ.