Upon taking office, Ahmadinejad undertook a series of moves thatsent shock waves through world capitals, rattled global markets, anddrove up the international price of oil. He told associates that he believedthe end of the world was just two or three years away. He said he believedhe had been chosen by Allah to become Iran’s leader at this criticalhour to hasten the coming of the Islamic messiah known as the TwelfthImam or the Mahdi by launching a final holy war against Christians andJews. He publicly vowed to annihilate the United States. He vowed towipe Israel "off the map." He also dramatically accelerated Iran’s effortto build, buy, or steal the nuclear weapons necessary to bring about theend of days, in accordance with his Shiite Muslim theology.
The first public hint of just how central Islamic eschatology wouldbe to Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy came during his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2005. Ahmadinejad stunned the audience of world leaders and diplomats by ending his speech with this prayer: "O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the One that will fill this world with justice and peace."
Back in Iran, Ahmadinejad then stunned a group of Islamic clericsby claiming that during his UN speech he was "surrounded by a lightuntil the end" and that "all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there,and for 27 or 28 minutes all the leaders [in the audience] did not blink....I am not exaggerating when I say they did not blink; it’s not an exaggeration, because I was looking. They were astonished, as if a handheld them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and earsfor the message of the Islamic Republic."
The following month, Ahmadinejad gave a speech in Tehran inwhich he further clarified his objectives. "Is it possible for us to witnessa world without America and Zionism?" he asked a gathering of terroristleaders from such groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. "You had bestknow that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can beachieved." He then urged Muslims around the world to prepare for theday when "our holy hatred expands" and "strikes like a wave."
Six months later, Ahmadinejad upped the ante yet again, declaringin a nationally televised address that Iran had successfully enriched uraniumand joined the "nuclear club," leading a number of Western intelligenceagencies and experts to predict that Iran could have operationalnuclear weapons in the next two or three years—just in time for theBush administration to leave office and, presumably, for the end of theworld to begin.
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