25 Jul 53%
A long time ago, around 874 AD a man named Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan had misteriously disappeared. He was a well-respected Imam in what is now Iraq, a direct descendant of the Prophet, and he had apparently gone into hiding. For 67 years he had communicated with his followers through the Four Deputies, then he went silent.
The majority of Shia muslims believe that he is the Hidden Imam that is patiently waiting without revealing himself since 941 AD to this day.
They believe he is the Mahdi – the messiah that will come in the hour of dire need, when Islam will be losing a terrible war and will be almost defeated. And when he comes, he will lead all Muslims in the final battle. He will become the ultimate saviour of mankind and will bring a peace and justice to the whole world under the rule of Islam. Some say he will do it together with Isa, whom we know as Yehoshua ha-Notzri or Jesus of Nazareth.
It is difficult for me as an agnostic to take this belief seriously, but most Shia muslims do, including most religious Iranians. After all, it is no more improbable than many other wildly unrealistic stories in Chrisitianity and other religions. I would say it actually sounds quite tame by comparison: there are no human-swallowing whales, structurally unsound towers, infinite ladders, impossibly overloaded cargo ships or parting seas. Just a very old wise man. A bit too old maybe, but stranger things are known to happen on occasion.
The idea has its internal logic: because the prophecy says that Mahdi will come during a terrible war, when muslems are in a hopeless position and almost obliterated, there is a logical condition for his coming that can be triggered. And some believe that the best way to trigger the Hidden Imam’s return is by actually starting a war they can’t win. This would fulfill the required conditions for the Mahdi to come and usher the world Caliphate. Some powerful people among the Iranian Ayatollahs shared this view.
The trick seems simple: attack “The Great Satan” as they call America, or “The Little Satan” as Israel is lovingly called, or both, with enough damage to guarantee the unbridled wrath of the West in return. The 9/11 attack of Al-Qaeda and other meager attempts were not nearly at the required scale. Something else was needed here, something impossible to ignore, something to trigger a world war of the West against the whole Islamic world.
This was just what the Horsemen needed. While they exerted a subtle influence on one of the younger and more zealous Ayatollahs, one of them had impersonated a rogue Russian nuclear scientist escaping from behind the new Iron Curtain and eager to share the latest Russian science and technology for political asylum and a bit of a personal enrichment.
With ayatollah’s support he was given a green light and the entire Fordow underground facility located at the former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base, built deep in a mountain in order to render it impenetrable to any aerial attack.
This facility had been merrily enriching uranium for years, but the decision to move to the “breakout phase” and process it to weapon grade was never made. The somewhat pragmatic Ayatollahs had feared a massive Israeli or American preventive strike that was sure to follow a move like that. But the rogue scientist had brought them the know-how for construction of ultra-compact nuclear devices with a superior shielding technology that finally allowed them to produce and transport functioning nuclear warheads while avoiding Western detection.
There was plenty of highly enriched uranium just waiting to be put to good use. Now there was a will to use it.
And when there’s a will – there’s a way.