As I reported in January, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has begun taking the line that the September 11, 2001, attacks by al-Qaeda on New York and Washington were actually stage-managed by US “Intelligence,” to create a pretext for American invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. This view is not widely shared among Iranians or Iranian politicians. Iran itself lost nationals in Afghanistan and Pakistan to assassination by al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and Shiite Hazaras in Afghanistan were massacred by the same forces. Then-president Mohammad Khatami expressed warm condolences to the US after the attacks, noting that Iran had suffered from terrorism as well. Iranian young people held candle light vigils for the victims.
Ahmadinejad’s recent speech to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry reiterates this ‘truther’ crackpot conspiracy theory about 9/11. The speech also demonstrates a Manichaean vision of history, in which the virtuous Islamic Republic is ranged against the forces of capitalism, which he says was invented by Zionists and which is intrinsically belligerent, war-like, exploitative and genocidal. (This analysis of the capitalist system as fomenting aggression and war comes not from Shiite theology but from Lenin’s analysis of the outbreak of World War I, as a capitalist war over control of markets.) Ahmadinejad’s looney assertion that capitalism was invented by ‘Zionists’ is ridiculous, since capitalism developed in early modern and modern Europe and Zionism as a movement did not amount to anything until the late nineteenth century at the earliest. But the trope of an essentialist connection between Jews, capitalism and exploitation is a commonplace in the literature of anti-Semitism, and is probably the origin of this bizarre allegation.
Ancient Iran developed the first monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism, which holds that history is the unfolding of a battle between Ahura Mazda, God, and the evil Ahriman, a satan figure. The prophet of the new religion was Zarathustra, whom the Greeks called Zoroaster. The archaic language of the Old Persian (which is close to Sanskrit) of Gathas, his scripture, probably places him in the 1200s BC, though there are disputes and some date him hundreds of years later. Although some speak of Zoroastrianism as dualistic, Ahura Mazda is more powerful than Ahriman and will defeat him in the fullness of time. Human beings, the creation of Ahura Mazda, play a role in determining how soon the victory comes. When they lie or commit immoral acts, they aid and abet Ahriman. When they tell the truth and are virtuous, they aid Ahura Mazda and hasten the advent of the Saoshyant or promised future messiah. Zoroastrianism invented concepts such as the Last Days, the resurrection of the dead, and an eternal afterlife.
Although Iran converted to Islam gradually (and mostly willingly) after the seventh century CE, cultural influences of Zoroastrianism are visible in Iranian Shiite Islam. Indeed, Zoroastrian ideas probably influenced Judaism and the writing of the Bible during the Babylonian exile, as Iran came to rule Babylonia. And since the Parthian dynasty of Iran had a presence in Palestine shortly before the advent of Christianity, it is not impossible that Iranian themes influenced that religion, as well.
Ahmadinejad’s speech not only presents a dualistic war between good Iran and an evil, Ahriman-like United States (champion of oppressive capitalism), but also refers to the Iranian president’s emphasis on the Shiite Promised One or Imam Mahdi. He refers to Iran’s intelligence operatives as the ‘unknown soldiers’ of the ‘Lord of the Age’ (i.e. the Mahdi), and praises them for capturing Abdul Malik Rigi, the leader of the Sunni Baluch terrorist group Jundullah (Army of God), which has attacked mosques and other sites in the Iranian province of Baluchistan and Sistan in the southeast. Baluch are Sunnis and many feel oppressed under Persian, Shiite rule; the province is the poorest in Iran. Rigi’s televised confession alleged that he was recruited by high-level CIA and other US intelligence officials and did not strike me as credible as to its details, but it appears to have been widely believed by the Iranian public and to have hurt the image among them of the Obama administration, according to Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.
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.
Here is the USG Open Source Center translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech of March 6, in which he again says that September 11 was a plot of US intelligence services:
Iran: President Ahmadinezhad Says 11 September Attacks ‘Big Lie’
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Document Type: OSC Translated Text . . .
Tehran, 6 March: President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad had said: The arrest of
Abdolmalek Rigi (the leader of rebel Sunni group Jondollah) has humiliated the intelligence services of the US, Britain, and the Zionist regime [by his televised confession that he was working in tandem with the CIA to blow up mosques and other sites in Iranian Baluchistan -JC].
Ahmadinezhad, who was speaking at a meeting with the minister, deputy ministers, managers, and personnel of the Intelligence Ministry, congratulated the auspicious birthday anniversary of the prophet of light and compassion, His Holiness Muhammad al-Mustafa (peace be upon him) and the birthday anniversary of Imam Sadeq (Sixth Shi’i imam) (peace be upon him), IRNA reported on Saturday (6 March), quoting the presidential website. He said that the Intelligence Ministry’s personnel are the best collection of Hezbollahi (members of Party of God; meaning pious) forces and added: Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s intelligence system is the most virtuous intelligence system in the world.
The President said that the Lord of the Age’s Unknown Soldiers (intelligence forces) have a divine and sacred mission. He said: The Intelligence Ministry should be the most coordinated, organized, powerful, and flowing (Persian — Ravantarin) organization in the country.
The President said that the purpose of man’s creation was to establish a world government based on monotheism and justice. He added: Throughout history, devils fought against prophets and pious people. The climax of man’s fight against devils is taking place in our time. Today, the devils show that they are gathered at the forefront of the world arrogance.
He added: Man’s nature is a divine and heavenly one. When man’s thought and nature are limited to worldly affairs, then he will have no option but to fall.
The President said that capitalist thoughts have resulted in plundering, bullying, and the killing of mankind’s essence. He said: Liberal democracy is the result of a fight between power and wealth. The US-led world arrogance’s front against the Islamic Republic is the climax of the fight between the monotheism front and devils.
The head of the Supreme National Security Council said that all vices in history have gathered in the arrogance front. He said: The crimes committed by the world arrogant are unprecedented in history. Today, the heaviest massacre and terrorist actions in the world are carried out by their (the arrogant of the world) accomplices by raising the flag of human rights.
Ahmadinezhad said that the materialist thoughts were challenged and Marxism was destroyed after the emergence of the Islamic Republic. He said: Thanks to the grace of God, the capitalist system founded by the Zionists has reached the end of its path.
The president added: US invasions and NATO’s military expedition in the region are merely aimed at saving liberal democracy and the capitalist school of thought.
He said that the September 11 attacks and the demolition of the Twin Towers in the US were a complex scenario carried out by the intelligence (Persian — Eqdam-e Ettela’ati). He said: The 11 September event was a big lie. It paved the way for the military expedition to Afghanistan under the pretext of fighting with terrorism.
Ahmadinezhad referred to the arrest of Abodlmalek Rigi by the Soldiers of the Lord of the Age (the Iranian intelligence forces) and said: The arrest of this terrorist bandit has humiliated the intelligence services of the US, Britain, and the Zionist regime. . .
(Description of Source: Tehran IRNA in Persian — Official state-run online news agency, headed as of January 2010 by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, former media adviser to President Ahmadinezhad. URL:http://www.irna.ir)
End/ (Not Continued)