Obama and Ahmadinejad
By Amir Taheri
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Is Barack Obama the "promised warrior" coming to help the
Hidden Imam of Shiite Muslims conquer the world?
The question has made the rounds in Iran since last month,
when a pro-government Web site published a Hadith (or
tradition) from a Shiite text of the 17th century. The
tradition comes from Bahar al-Anvar (meaning Oceans of
Light) by Mullah Majlisi, a magnum opus in 132 volumes and
the basis of modern Shiite Islam.
According to the tradition, Imam Ali Ibn Abi-Talib (the
prophet's cousin and son-in-law) prophesied that at the End
of Times and just before the return of the Mahdi, the
Ultimate Saviour, a "tall black man will assume the reins
of government in the West." Commanding "the strongest army
on earth," the new ruler in the West will carry "a clear
sign" from the third imam, whose name was Hussein Ibn Ali.
The tradition concludes: "Shiites should have no doubt that
he is with us."
In a curious coincidence Obama's first and second names--
Barack Hussein--mean "the blessing of Hussein" in Arabic
and Persian. His family name, Obama, written in the Persian
alphabet, reads O Ba Ma, which means "he is with us," the
magic formula in Majlisi's tradition.
Mystical reasons aside, the Khomeinist establishment sees
Obama's rise as another sign of the West's decline and the
triumph of Islam. Obama's promise to seek unconditional
talks with the Islamic Republic is cited as a sign that the
U.S. is ready to admit defeat. Obama's position could mean
abandoning three resolutions passed by the United Nations
Security Council setting conditions that Iran should meet
to avoid sanctions. Seeking unconditional talks with the
Khomeinists also means an admission of moral equivalence
between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. It would imply
an end to the description by the U.S. of the regime as a
"systematic violator of human rights."
Obama has abandoned claims by all U.S. administrations in
the past 30 years that Iran is "a state sponsor of
terrorism." Instead, he uses the term "violent groups" to
describe Iran-financed outfits such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Obama has also promised to attend a summit of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference within the first 100
days of his presidency. Such a move would please the
mullahs, who have always demanded that Islam be treated
differently, and that Muslim nations act as a bloc in
dealings with Infidel nations.
Obama's election would boost President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad's chances of winning a second term next June.
Ahmadinejad's entourage claim that his "steadfastness in
resisting the American Great Satan" was a factor in helping
Obama defeat "hardliners" such as Hillary Clinton and,
later, it hopes, John McCain.
"President Ahmadinejad has taught Americans a lesson," says
Hassan Abbasi, a "strategic adviser" to the Iranian
president. "This is why they are now choosing someone who
understands Iran's power." The Iranian leader's entourage
also point out that Obama copied his campaign slogan "Yes,
We Can" from Ahmadinejad's "We Can," used four years ago.
A number of Khomeinist officials have indicated their
preference for Obama over McCain, who is regarded as an
"enemy of Islam." A Foreign Ministry spokesman says Iran
does not wish to dictate the choice of the Americans but
finds Obama "a better choice for everyone." Ali Larijani,
Speaker of the Islamic Majlis, Iran's ersatz parliament,
has gone further by saying the Islamic Republic "prefers to
see Barack Obama in the White House" next year.
Tehran's penchant for Obama, reflected in the official
media, increased when the Illinois senator chose Joseph
Biden as his vice-presidential running mate. Biden was an
early supporter of the Khomeinist revolution in 1978-1979
and, for the past 30 years, has been a consistent advocate
of recognizing the Islamic Republic as a regional power. He
has close ties with Khomeinist lobbyists in the U.S. and
has always voted against sanctions on Iran.
Ahmadinejad has described the U.S. as a "sunset" (ofuli)
power as opposed to Islam, which he says is a "sunrise"
(toluee) power. Last summer, he inaugurated an
international conference called World Without America--
attended by anti-Americans from all over the world,
including the U.S.
Seen from Tehran, Obama's election would demoralize the
U.S. armed forces by casting doubt on their victories in
Iraq and Afghanistan, if not actually transforming them
into defeat. American retreat from the Middle East under
Obama would enable the Islamic Republic to pursue hegemony
of the region. Tehran is especially interested in
dominating Iraq, thus consolidating a new position that
extends its power to the Mediterranean through Syria and
During the World Without America conference, several
speakers speculated that Obama would show "understanding of
Muslim grievances" with regard to Palestine. Ahmadinejad
hopes to persuade a future President Obama to adopt the
"Iranian solution for Palestine," which aims at creating a
single state in which Jews would quickly become a minority.
Judging by anecdotal evidence and the buzz among Iranian
bloggers, while the ruling Khomeinists favor Obama, the
mass of Iranians regard (and dislike) the Democrat
candidate as an appeaser of the mullahs. Iran, along with
Israel, is the only country in the Middle East where the
United States remains popular. An Obama presidency,
perceived as friendly to the oppressive regime in Tehran,
may change that.
Amir Taheri is the author of 10 books on Iran, the Middle
East and Islam. His new book The Persian Night: Iran Under
the Khomeinist Revolution will be published by Encounter
Books in November.
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