With negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program looming once again, understanding Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is critically important. Perhaps the best place to start is the moment the world first gained a glimpse of Ahmadinejad’s character and hardline program.
When President Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations in New York last September, he suddenly felt himself surrounded by light. It wasn’t the stage lighting, he said. It was light from heaven. Ahmadinejad related his otherworldly experience in a videotaped meeting with a prominent Ayatollah in Tehran. A transcript of his comments and sections of the video-tape wound up on a hard-line, pro-regime website, baztab.com.
According to the transcript, Ahmadinejad said that a member of his entourage at the UN meeting first told him of the light. “When you began with the words ‘In the name of God’… I saw a light coming, surrounding you and protecting you to the end [of the speech].” Ahmadinejad confirmed sensing a similar presence. “I felt it myself, too, that suddenly the atmosphere changed and for 27-28 minutes the leaders could not blink....They had their eyes and ears open for the message from the Islamic Republic,” he told Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli.
Ahmadinejad’s “vision” at the UN could be dismissed as political posturing if it weren’t for a string of similar statements and actions that suggest he believes that he is destined to bring about the “End Times” – the end of the world – by paving the way for the return of the Shia Muslim messiah. Given that Iran continues to pursue suspect nuclear programs, which could bring the Islamic Republic dangerously close to weapons capability, a leader with messianic visions is worrying. After all, this is the same man who recently pledged to use Iran’s newfound powers to “wipe Israel off the map” and to “destroy America.”