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Christian Broadcasting Network Peddling Iranian End Times Propaganda

By Matt Duss  

"Christian Broadcasting Network Peddling Iranian End Times Propaganda"

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The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Erick Stakelbeck reports that “New evidence has emerged that the Iranian government sees the current unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi–or Islamic messiah–is about to appear”:

CBN News has obtained a never-before-seen video produced by the Iranian regime that says all the signs are moving into place — and that Iran will soon help usher in the end times.

While the revolutionary movements gripping the Middle East have created uncertainty throughout the region, the video shows that the Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand.

But according to Israeli Iran analyst Meir Javedanfar, who has seen the the never-before-seen video, it actually shows no such thing. Javedanfar — who wrote a biography of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he devoted an entire chapter to beliefs about the Mahdi — said via email that the video “is so inaccurate in its contents and predictions that it has raised the ire of the senior clergy at the Bright Futures Institute, which specializes in all matters relating to the issue of the hidden Imam, and is the highest religious authority in Iran with regards to this matter”:

According to an article in the Tehran based Tabnak, which is owned by Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, Hojjatolislam Javad Jaafri, a member of the board of the Bright Future institute called the movie a “deviation” and asked for its makers to be confronted by the law.

In Iran, predictions about the Mahdi’s imminent return are not in short supply. Some con men do it to make a quick buck, others do it for political purposes, such as members of the Basij. None have religious standing, nor do they have an impact on the decision making of the Supreme Leader who has the final say on all matters, because he is not a messianic.

The video “seems to have been produced by Ahmadinejad’s hardline Basiji supporters, and its biggest goal is to discredit the opposition which consists of Mousavi, Karroubi and Rafsanjani,” concluded Javedanfar. “It’s a political video. It has little religious substance.”

Javedanfar’s comments about the absence of messianic beliefs driving Iranian policy also concur with the analysis of Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who spent years studying Shia theology in the Iranian seminary city of Qom. In a 2008 report entitled “Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy,” Khalaji wrote that there is no evidence that Iranian strategy is guided by a desire to hasten the Mahdi’s return, and that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is much more concerned with the here and now:

Not one of [Khamenei's] speeches refers to any apocalyptic sign or reveals any special eagerness for the return of the Hidden Imam. As the theory of the guardianship of the jurist requires, the most significant task of the Supreme Leader is to safeguard the regime, even by overruling Islamic law.

It’s true that some Iranian leaders, most notably President Ahmadinejad, believe in the return of the Mahdi and the End Times. It’s also true that Ahmadinejad, a pious conservative Muslim, lards his speeches with references to the Hidden Imam, so much so that he’s been publicly chastised in the past by leading Iranian clerics, who told him he “would be better off concentrating on Iran’s social problems…than indulging in such mystical rhetoric”:

“If Ahmadinejad wants to say that the hidden imam is supporting the decisions of the government, it is not true,” sniped Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghadam, the spokesman of the conservative Association of Combatant Clerics.

“For sure, the hidden imam does not approve of inflation of 20 percent, the high cost of living and numerous other errors,” he said, according to the Kargozaran daily.

Ali Asghari, a member of the conservative Hezbollah faction in parliament, told the president not to link the management of the country to the imam.

Ahmadinejad would do better to worry about social problems like inflation … and other terrestrial affairs,” Etemad Melli daily quoted him as saying.

As for the video “evidence” that Iran’s leaders are itching to trigger the apocalypse, it seems that what we have is here is a work of intra-Iranian factional propaganda produced by an Iranian version of Glenn Beck or Frank Gaffney, which has already been roundly criticized in Iran by far more authoritative scholars and clerics, but is now being peddled to credulous Americans as a secret look into the minds of the madmen who run Iran. Iran certainly represents a challenge for U.S. interests and allies in the region, but promoting this sort of hysterical nonsense actually detracts from our ability to effectively meet that challenge.

It’s enormously amusing, of course, that this story should originate with CBN News, of all places. Elsewhere on CBN’s website, CBN founder Pat Robertson answers your questions about the End Times, which he, like other clerics John Hagee and Franklin Graham, has been scheduling for years.

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