A Man With a Dangerous Mission

A stunning election put a hardliner into the Iranian presidency. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to make Iran a paragon of Islamic national power—just like the mullahs who put him into office.
From the August 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

He came out of nowhere and flipped an election on its head.

In the lead-up to Iran’s June 17 presidential vote, polls showed the frontrunner to be Hashemi Rafsanjani. When he was president from 1989 to 1997, the conservative Rafsanjani openly supported terrorist attacks and assassinations and oversaw a massive military and arms buildup. But for this election, he recast himself as a “moderate”—the only candidate savvy enough to stay on good terms with Iran’s religious leaders but strong enough to stand up to them when necessary. The strategy seemed to be working.

Polls can lie. On election day, Rafsanjani’s surprisingly poor showing necessitated a runoff vote with the second-highest vote getter. This was, astoundingly, hardline contestant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Tehran’s mayor was a dark horse no one had paid much attention to. Cast in the image of the ruling religious regime, the most anti-Western of all the candidates, he actually does make Rafsanjani seem “moderate” by comparison. Polls just days before the election put him in sixth place, with a mere 3 to 4 percent of the vote. But the runoff election a week later was a stunning upset: With about 60 percent of eligible voters participating, Ahmadinejad won in a landslide, gaining 61.7 percent of the votes compared to Rafsanjani’s 35.9 percent.

What happened? The result left governments across the globe in shock. It seemed to be a realization of all their worst fears.

Since the 1979 revolution that made Islam the supreme source of its political doctrine, Iran’s chief strategic aim has been to dominate the Middle East—in particular by serving as a model of Islamic national rule to Muslims worldwide.

Ahmadinejad, after his victory, signaled his zeal for this goal. “My mission,” he said, “is creating a role model of a modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic society.”

This election is a defining moment in Iran’s ascent to regional supremacy. It falls in step with what the Trumpet has prophesied will occur and signals a dramatic acceleration in Iran’s fulfilling its critical role in end-time events.

Watch Iran. Its ambitions are about to be realized.

Who Is This Man?

The new president, age 49, holds a PhD in engineering from Iran’s most elite university, making him the best-educated of any president in Iran’s modern history.

Ahmadinejad is a child of the Iranian Revolution. As part of an ultraconservative faction of the radical student group Office for Strengthening Unity, he participated in the infamous takeover of the Unites States Embassy in Tehran in 1979. He then got a job as an interrogator in Tehran’s Evin Prison, notorious for its brutal treatment of political prisoners.

During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, he became a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (responsible for Iran’s missile and nuclear weapons programs) within the intelligence and sabotage arm called “Jerusalem Force,” which handles terrorist attacks and assassinations. For his work in targeting Iranian dissidents abroad, he has been identified by Western intelligence sources as a suspected planner in the killing of Kurdish dissidents in Austria and Germany.

Ahmadinejad worked as a basiji in the state-sponsored militia that disciplines civilians for violating Islamic codes of conduct and dress. He also helped organize Ansar-i-Hezbollah, a semiofficial paramilitary group that serves a similar function. When he was appointed mayor of Tehran in 2003, he organized comparable enforcer groups to patrol the capital city.

Widely described as deeply religious and having a manner that recalls the strict early days of the revolution, Ahmadinejad has begun his press conferences with Koran readings and recitations. A New York Times reporter made these observations in a June 27 piece: “Ahmadinejad does not appear overly concerned about what anyone outside Iran is thinking of him. He speaks with a nationalist pride, and a determination to have Iran treated as an equal, not as a second-class party at the negotiating table. At the news conference, the new president carried himself as a rehearsed politician ….”

Of course, in the theocratic republic of Iran, the real power rests not with elected officials, but religious leaders. Under Iranian law, the ayatollah (now Khamenei, successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 revolution) can override the president on any action he wishes, and the 12-member clerical Guardian Council can scrap any decision of the elected parliament. Islamic leaders head the revolutionary court, the Tehran Justice Department and the special court for the clergy.

That’s just fine with Ahmadinejad. Compared to Iran’s past presidents, he has an unprecedented level of ideological unity with the clerics. In his victory speech, he highly praised the government structure that makes him, and all elected officials, accountable to the religious rulers. “Religious democracy is the only path toward human prosperity, and it’s the most advanced type of government that humans can ever have,” he said.

After he was elected, Ahmadinejad reaffirmed his solidarity with the religious ideals of the 1979 revolution by saying, “We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy.” In one of his first acts as president-elect, he paid his respects at Khomeini’s shrine.

Gone, then, are the days of tension and struggle between the secular and religious arms of Iranian rulership. Ahmadinejad’s victory convincingly ended Iran’s dalliance with a slightly softer, more secular government, represented by President Mohammad Khatami. Ayatollah Khamenei can now lead as he pleases, without the encumbrances posed by a reform-minded president. One Tehran-based political scientist said the new president will effectively function as Khamenei’s “executive secretary.” Young Iranians are calling him “the Supreme Leader’s personal chimp.” For the first time, the ayatollah will control all the levers of power.

The real victor in the election, in effect, was Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Ayatollah’s Choice

How did Ahmadinejad move from invisibility to landslide within a week?

Some analysts have called the hardliner’s victory a popular backlash against the status-quo clerical corruption represented by Rafsanjani and against perceived meddling in Mideast affairs by the U.S. In truth, the opacity of Iran’s election process makes it difficult to determine the degree to which this outcome actually reflects the will of the Iranian people.

In the end, however, it doesn’t matter: Ahmadinejad clearly reflects the will of the mullahs. They were the muscle behind the victory. Ahmadinejad’s win is a convincing indicator of their urgency in attaining their goals.

The Supreme Leader specifically chose the short list of presidential candidates who were allowed to run. Thus, over a thousand hopefuls—including all consequential reformists—were eliminated from contention.

But that was only the beginning of the clerics’ strong-arm tactics. After the first round of voting, Iran’s Interior Ministry publicized allegations of an organized vote-buying operation; others, including Rafsanjani’s campaign staff, claimed that military personnel—even top-ranking officers—illegally interfered by campaigning and intimidating voters, something that would not have happened without Khamenei’s blessing.

The Guardian Council promptly dismissed as false all the allegations and proceeded with the runoff as scheduled.

Then came a massive rally behind Ahmadinejad—including endorsement from a bloc of 132 members of the conservative-controlled parliament and a group of Koran experts and publishers, who called him the only candidate capable of achieving Ayatollah Khomeini’s ideals. Ahmadinejad made strong appeals to poor, rural areas, with promises of “putting the petroleum income on people’s tables”—distributing more of Iran’s oil profits to them. The poorest provinces ended up providing bushels of votes for him.

Allegations of fraud dogged round two as well. The director of parliamentary affairs for the Interior Ministry told reporters he saw Guardian Council interference at all the polling stations he visited. “The monitors of the Guardian Council were not only filling out the tariffs and controlling the voters’ ids, but also constantly issuing orders for everyone,” he said.

A senior Iranian official linked Ahmadinejad closely with the ayatollah’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei, as well as Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who leads the Guardian Council. Furthermore, his campaign was backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij.

Time reported, “The opposition in Iran grumbles that Khamenei’s hand—and funds—may have given the modest Ahmadinejad’s campaign a huge and unfair boost” (July 4). According to Iranian author Amir Taheri,” Ahmadinejad’s chief asset, and the main if not sole reason for his victory, is his relationship with and fierce loyalty to the Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, the true and almost absolute ruler of the country. The two met in 1979 when Khamenei served as deputy defense minister and have been close ever since” (Australian, June 27).

In the end, despite the fact that fewer people voted in the second round compared to the first, Ahmadinejad’s vote count jumped from 5.7 million to 17.2 million in one week. Even if one factors in his receiving the 5.8 million votes that went to other hardliners in the first round, the tripling of his support is truly remarkable. And no accident.

However they managed it, the clerics got themselves just the man they wanted.

As Sadegh Zibakalam, a political analyst at Tehran University, said, “The people of Iran would be naive to believe that Ahmadinejad was one of them, a simple man with no backing. Ahmadinejad is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind him are the regime’s most powerful political and military institutions” (Time, op. cit.).

The fact that he was chosen over Rafsanjani is significant. As London’s Guardian put it, “the hardliners could not even reconcile themselves to coping with a skilled old political operator of his kind, or face the prospect of him offering some sort of rivalry to Khamenei” (June 27). They feel it’s time foraction—and want nothing in their way!

Having orchestrated a similar outcome last year in order to regain control of Iran’s parliament from reformists, the anti-Western conservatives have now secured complete control over the executive and legislative branches, as well as the judiciary, security and armed forces—every elected and unelected institution in the nation.

Having aggressively gained this power, they are bound to aggressively use it. There is nobody inside Iran now to slow them down in their desire to push. This means they will naturally keep pushing their terrorist foreign policy until somebody outside Iran accepts their challenge.

Nuclear Program

The most migraine-inducing question on the minds of Western leaders is how Ahmadinejad’s election will affect Iran’s nuclear program. This issue plainly reveals the position of strength from which Iran is operating—as well as the weakness of the West.

For years, the Islamic Republic has played coy games over its nuclear activities—carrying on with charades of negotiation while furtively developing the technology. Finally, in March, it virtually admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program—betting that, as opec’s second-largest oil producer, it is too valuable to the West to be targeted. The U.S. being overstretched in Iraq and depending on Shiite support to suppress the insurgency there also gives Iran leverage.

Its gamble has worked: Europe and the U.S. have effectively ruled out any pressure tactic beyond talk—and talk has proven utterly ineffective. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder recently described even sanctions as being an unsavory option, because they might jeopardize Europe’s valuable supply of Mideast oil.

The Iranian election had EU officials so worried they openly threw their support behind Rafsanjani of all people, calling him the best hope for forestalling the Iranian nuclear threat. Pitiful proof of how much the world’s hands are tied over Iran: Despite widespread uneasiness over its nuclear program and terrorist activities, no one is taking action—for the time being, that is.

All this happened under the watch of a “reformist” president. What will happen now that a hardliner is taking over?

Some say it will help—that, with the true nature of the regime unmasked, the West will be more apt to take action against it. Much more likely is that Ahmadinejad’s presidency will accentuate the feebleness of the West’s approach.

Ahmadinejad isn’t playing coy. A proud believer in Iran’s right to its own nuclear technology, he campaigned on a brash pledge to keep the program rolling. After the election, he confirmed it will continue—albeit for “peaceful” purposes. “Nuclear energy is a result of Iranian people’s scientific development, and no one can block the way of a nation’s scientific development,” he said. “This right of the Iranian people will soon be recognized by those who have so far denied it.”

That’s not to say that all the charades are over. There will likely be more talk. We may even witness military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites. But Bible prophecy strongly indicates that talks will fail and any action will not be tough enough to deter Iran in the long run.

Iran will get its nukes.

One can easily see how gaining nuclear capability will increase the nation’s political standing and national sense of stature and destiny.

But even in the short term, thanks to Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the world is about to get to know a more radical and determined Iran.

“Out of Step”?

The U.S. State Department glibly said the election result shows Iran to be “out of step with the rest of the region in the currents of freedom.” American officials continue to cling to the line that, given enough time, democracy will triumph: Iran’s reform-minded population will find a way to dump the mullahs and install a moderate, more West-friendly government in their place.

This is wishful thinking—and it misses the point. No matter how many Iranians are disappointed with the election result, the fact is that the mullahs have the motivation—and the power—to drive the country in exactly the direction they want it to go.

Time will show Ahmadinejad’s win to be not “out of step,” but a peek at the future.

That future belongs to the mullahs—still seeking regional dominance for Iran—still working toward the universal rule of Islam. It belongs to the man with a self-proclaimed mission to create in Iran “a role model of a modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic society.”

A generation on from the Iranian Revolution, this ambition still resonates with an apparently huge swath, if not a majority, of Iranians. Spengler wrote in the Asia Times, “Most of the country remains sunk in misery, but the humblest Iranian farmer still has the pride of a conqueror in his heart.

“That is the great gift of Islam, which offers much more to the faithful than the ordering of traditional life. It promises to impose the system of traditional life upon the world. Islam is the vengeance of tribal society upon the cosmopolitan empires, first against the Sassanids and Byzantines, then against the Holy Roman Empire, and now against the West. The Muslim does not cower in his village waiting for the inevitable encroachment of a hostile world, but seeks to impose his will on the world” (June 28; emphasis mine).

The U.S. may not want to believe it, but several analysts warn of one probable ripple effect from the election: an expansion of Islamic extremism.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, a Tehran University political science instructor, wrote, “The 2005 presidential election in Iran is a vivid reminder of the lingering ethos of Islamic revolution long considered dead by so many simplistic experts. … Clearly, the spirit of Islamic revolution lives on” (Asia Times, June 28).

We are witnessing nothing less than the rise of the Iranian Revolution’s second generation.

And this time, Iran will succeed in rallying other nations to its cause.

Throughout the Mideast, Islamic fervor is growing; great portions of the region are falling in step with the move toward more austere commitment to fundamentalist Muslim doctrine.

Remove the blinders and the truth is plain: The more the U.S. pushes for democracy in the Mideast and proclaims its willingness to accept whatever that may produce, the more frightening the region becomes. In the Palestinian territories, the terrorist group Hamas is sweeping elections. In Lebanon, it’s Hezbollah. In several countries, similar results would follow should the political process be opened to the will of the people.

Even in Iraq, Shiite Muslims are the dominant power, many of whose hearts resonate with the spirit of the Iranian Revolution. Iraqi Shiite political and religious officials congratulated Ahmadinejad and voiced their desire for stronger mutual ties between their countries. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, at a news conference with Iran’s foreign minister before the election (May 18), said, “[T]he party that will leave Iraq is the United States, because it will eventually withdraw. But the party that will live with the Iraqis is Iran, because it is a neighbor to Iraq.” How sympathetic is Jaafari to the views held by hardliners like Ahmadinejad? After the 1979 revolution began, he tried to spread the revolution in Iraq; Saddam Hussein targeted him for it and he fled to Iran; his political party operated in exile out of Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War. He maintains strong links with Iran’s ruling clerics. The Trumpet continues to watch for the new Iraq to cast in its lot with Iran as the Bible prophesies (read “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” in our June 2003 issue on www.theTrumpet.com).

The Middle East has never been known for unity. But in the burning coals of this region-wide religious revival are elements that could be forged into something akin to Ahmadinejad’s vision: devotion to Islam; missionary zeal that translates well into passionate politics; hatred of the West. These were the qualities that put Ahmadinejad into office.

Iran’s election was a trumpet call to arms in the midst of a divided region. It was the Islamic Republic’s leadership signaling to the world’s Muslims, particularly the Shiites, that it is time to rally!

Foreign Policy With a Push

Make no mistake: Tehran will soon find itself with enough power and leverage to show the whole world who is, in biblical language, “the king of the south” (Daniel 11:40).

As the Trumpet stated in its July 1997 issue, “The Bible prophesies of an Islamic king of the south to be a major political force in this end time. Religion will be the guiding force behind the king of the south. As these prophecies unfold, we can expect religious radicals and dictatorial rulers to gain prominence as they enter onto the world stage for one final scene.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is just such a religious radical. He is keen to transform his nation into a role model of a modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic society. With the mullahs smiling down on him, the Trumpet expects Iran to move significantly in this direction under the leadership of its new president. Soon he may oversee the dramatic and emboldening transformation of his country into a nuclear power.

The Prophet Daniel foretold that “at the time of the end shall the king of the south push.” We live in the “time of the end” today.

The word push means to strike, to push with the horn, or to wage war. Push is a violent word! Iran has never been meek and mild in its foreign policy—but it is about to become much more aggressive. Daniel spoke of a forceful, provocativepush unlike any we have yet seen. As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said, “[T]he stage is being set—right now—for this to occur!” (King of the South).

Watch for Iran’s foreign policy to become much more pushy. With all power consolidated in the hands of its ultraconservatives, this country’s brashness and confidence as a real force in the region—and worldwide—is about to explode.

But in this instance specifically prophesied by Daniel, the gamble will not pay off.

What happens as a result of that push will shock everyone who witnesses it! By that time, a united Europe will have grown strong. It will rise up and meet Iran’s challenge very successfully.

All the conflict that has shaken the bloodied Middle East from the dawn of civilization will seem tame compared to the chaotic conflagration that is about to engulf the region! And that terrible war will shortly thereafter spread worldwide. Not a man, woman or child will escape it without God’s protection!

Your Bible prophesies in detail what is to happen to the Iran-led king of the south—and what the ultimate fate will be of the Middle East. You need our free booklet The King of the South to educate yourself on what to watch for in the months and years ahead—and to prepare yourself for when it comes.