Yesterday Arab News ran an article entitled “Why Iranian Missiles Are Targeting Makkah [Mecca],” by Dr. Mohammed al-Sulami. He writes that the Houthis who have taken over most of Yemen “have been systematically targeting Makkah” with missile strikes, rather than Saudi military bases, at the behest of their Iranian patrons. Why? For two reasons, according to him. Secondarily, because the Houthis are “irrational” by nature–as are all such “militias,” whether Lebanon’s Hizbullah, pro-Iranian groups in Iraq, al-Qaeda or “Daesh” (ISIS). But primarily because the Houthis are doing Tehran’s bidding: trying to create violent chaos in Arabia, specifically in Islam’s holiest city, and thus spark the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi.
This is a version of the “hotwiring the apocalypse” thesis, which I have written about many times–on this site, in my book Ten Years’ Captivation with the Mahdi’s Camps, and most concisely in the article “Do Iran’s Leaders Want to Hotwire the Apocalypse?” Al-Sulami adduces two sources: an unlinked Iranian website with an article called “Akhir al-Zaman” (“the end of the age/time”), and a 2008 British Shii Muslim movie, 313 (referring to the number of martyred followers of Muhammad’s grandson Husayn). According to al-Sulami’s exegesis of these two sources, “the reappearance of the Mahdi will not be achieved unless chaos unfolds across Hijaz [western Arabia], because the existence of a powerful and harmonious government that is hostile to Shiites and the Mahdi is a major impediment” to Iran’s plan of coaxing him to manifest. Thus, the ayatollahs arm and induce the Houthis of Yemen to attack the Kingdom, specifically Mecca. But al-Sulami argues that the Yemeni pawns should not bear the brunt of the blame; rather, “the finger of blame should be pointed firmly at the Iranian regime.” For it is Tehran that “poses a real and grave threat to Saudi Arabia and the entire region.”
- Dr. al-Sulami should have noted that while the Houthis are Shii, they are not of the same ilk at Iran’s Twelvers. Yemen’s Shiis are Zaydis, or Fivers. They don’t hold the same firm eschatological beliefs as their Iranian cousins. Twelvers are so called because they believe the 12th descendant of Muhammad, also named Muhammad, disappeared–but did not die–in the ninth century AD and will return as the eschatological Mahdi. Thus there can only be one. The Zaydis/Fivers, on the other hand, believe that their community has been led, across the centuries, by many mahdis, who are sent by Allah to deliver the true Muslim community. There are enough similarities between Iranian and Yemeni Shiis that they can work together, over against Saudi Sunnis (as well as Sunni ISIS and AQ groups). So in the final analysis the Zaydis are almost certainly lobbing missiles at KSA for prosaic political and military reasons, not apocalyptic ones.
- So is al-Sulami correct that the ayatollahs and their overseas operators–in this case, the Quds (“Jerusalem”) Force of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps–are directing the Houthis missile strikes on Islam’s holiest city? Perhaps. I have argued, as in the aforementioned article, that Iran wants nuclear weapons, but not to use to hotwire the apocalypse by, in particular, attacking Israel. (Read it.) However, this Arabian apocalyptic pot-stirring might very well be something that some of the clerical regime wishes to carry out–since it doesn’t run the risk of an Israeli or American nuclear response, nor does it threaten to destroy Jerusalem, which is important in Islamic End Times machinations.
- Note that al-Sulami studiously avoids mentioning that the Mahdi is also a staple belief of Sunni Islam, derived from quite a few hadiths on topic. But since 1979, when a violent Mahdist movement tried to overthrow the Saudi Kingdom, most Saudi commentators have steered clear of broaching this topic. And KSA has seen any number of self-styled “mahdis” crop up in the years since–as I wrote about here just last month.