Feb 22, 2009

Prof. Bernard Lewis Warns of Iranian Leaders’ “Apocalyptic Mindset”

By Joel C. Rosenberg

Readers of Epicenter 2.0and this weblog know that I have been warning U.S. and Israeli leaders for several years about the dangers of the eschatology or End Times theology held by Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad and how it is driving Iran’s foreign policy. Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and I have discussed the subject and I believe he understands the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, neither President Obama administration nor the new Congressional leadership seems to understand whom they are facing in Tehran.

In that context, I was encouraged to see a transcript of a panel discussion last week in which Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis, arguably the West’s foremost expert on Islam and the Middle East, warned of the “apocalyptic mindset” of the current Iranian leadership and said Ahmadinejad in particular cannot be deterred by the arms control strategies that worked with the Soviet Union.

“In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there is a scenario for the end of times, where the final battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil will occur. For Christians and Muslims alike, this means between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The ‘us’ being differently defined, the ‘them’ being more or less the same. From the view of a certain section within the Iranian leadership, it’s not by any means unanimous, that time is now. For a group… whose main leader is [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, the apocalyptic time has come. “Ma’adi,” the Muslim messiah is already here. The final battle has already begun. That is important for another reason, and that is concerning Iran’s nuclear weapon. The Soviet Union had weapons right through the cold war, but neither side used them because they were aware the other side would use them as well. It was called mutual assured destruction (MAD) which was the main deterrent of using the weapons. For most of the Iranian leadership, MAD would work as a deterrent. But for Ahmadinejad and his group, with their apocalyptic mindset, MAD is not a deterrent, but an inducement. They believe that the end of time has come and the sooner the better. So the good can go enjoy the delights of paradise and the wicked, meaning all of us here, can go to eternal damnation.