Graeme Wood recently rattled a lot of people on the Left of the U.S. ideological spectrum by writing something in The Atlantic that many of those not wearing PC blinders already knew. Wood, shockingly, reported that ISIS really is Islamic, just as its name proclaims and its leaders insist, directly contradicting President Obama’s own notorious assessment. Per Wood, “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.”
Islamists get their motivation from mainstream Islamic texts, albeit from a highly literalist reading. Wood quoted Princeton professor of Islam and specialist in its extremist ideologies, Bernard Haykel, who went a step further: “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts… There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”
Wood continued by pointing out that ISIS is so outrageously violent because it believed it was on a divine mission to bring about a final battle with infidels that would usher in the Day of Judgment, according to Islamic eschatology. ISIS’s view of these teachings is that by provoking the West, and particularly the U.S., into a battle at an obscure village north of Aleppo, it can fulfill prophecy and pave the way for Islam’s final conquest of the world, in which more than half the world’s people will die. Its violence is therefore directly related to its belief that the end of the world is imminent; the closer the end, the greater the obligatory, righteous violence.
What Wood did not report is that many other militant Islamist groups also believe they are on missions to help Islam conquer the world and bring about Judgment Day. Indeed, it is pretty much standard teaching in Islam that Muslims must advance their ideology and help it dominate the world in order to fulfill their end-time prophecies. This is what jihad is all about. Evidently, looking at the various expressions of Islam, the more fervently a Muslim believes in Islam, and the more literally he reads the foundational texts, the more urgent he is likely to feel about that mission. And the more urgent he feels about his mission, the more likely he is to use violence and the more vicious and depraved the violence.
To visualize how this dynamic puts different Islamist groups into a coherent but foreboding pattern, imagine a simple chart with two axes and on the horizontal axis is time to the Final Battle while on the vertical is the degree of violence (see Exhibit 1). Islamist front groups in the West, such as CAIR, see a long road ahead before they can convert their host country to Islam or bend it to the will of the global Islamic ummah, so they are patient – and non-violent, seeking to advance Islam instead through “lawfare,” deception, and misdirection. On our chart, CAIR and its ilk sit in the lower left corner. Outside the U.S., groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Turkey, lurk in the background but, seeing Judgment Day over the horizon, are more impatiently excited and likely to use violence. On our chart, they are poised to the northeast of CAIR. Near the center of the chart crouch the militant militias, Hamas and Hezbollah, who believe the end is nigh and hence are very violent. And into the upper right corner has leapt ISIS, whose members believe that the end is at hand and that they are its midwife; their violence is utterly outrageous.
Wood also omitted from his article any discussion of Iran, which is even more important in light of recent developments. Numerous sources have reported that the Obama administration has offered Iran a deal that would allow it to build its nuclear arsenal in 10 years, while in the meantime sanctions would be lifted and Iran would be allowed to remain poised to break out and obtain nuclear weapons within a year – virtually inviting Iran to cheat and go nuclear before the decade passes.
Consider this proposed deal in light of Iran’s Islamist ideology. Fourteen years ago, then Iranian President Rafsanjani described the Iranian rationale for using nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. His successor, Ahmadinejad, frequently repeated that intention and extended it to the destruction of the U.S. Worst of all, Supreme Leader Khamenei reportedly not only expects the imminent arrival of the Mahdi, who will lead Islam to victory over the non-believers, but he even claims to have met him. As Fox News reported in November, 2011, “Khamenei told Iranians in July 2010 that he personally met with the Twelfth Imam [i.e., the Mahdi]. He also claimed to be the personal representative of the Mahdi on earth, and said all Muslims must ‘obey him.'” One doesn’t have to be an atheist to conclude that Khamenei must be delusional, yet our President reportedly wants to let his regime have nuclear weapons and expects that once so armed, it will behave in a rational and reasonable manner, presumably like France or Great Britain.
In light of Wood’s insights, how would Iran’s regime behave if it gets its nuclear arsenal? Its top rulers already appear to believe that the end is nigh. Once they have nuclear arms, are they likely to believe that they can actually, immediately precipitate the final conflict? And if they fit the pattern established by other militant Muslim groups, will they not therefore ratchet up their violence from the already high levels they and their surrogates now deploy to levels as outrageous as ISIS’? In other words, will a nuclear arsenal not make Iran even more violent and apocalyptic?
There’s another impetus for Iran becoming aggressive with its likely nuclear arsenal: its vicious rivalry with ISIS. Iran of course is the leader of the Shi’a sect of Islam, while ISIS is an extreme Sunni group that declares Shi’ites apostates and hence targets them for conversion or extinction. Each would like to exterminate the other, and both would no doubt dearly love to have the holy honor of being the one to usher in Judgment Day.
This President, his administration and chief advisors, and others on the Left have failed to grasp the ideology and intentions of ISIS because they cannot bring themselves to question the values and behaviors of Muslims, a cherished victim-group since the days of the elite Columbia professor, Edward Said -a mentor of the President. As liberal psychologist Jonathan Haidt tweeted in response to a question about why progressives won’t criticize Muslim values, “once a group is identified as a victim group, that can take priority over the content of its values and behavior.”
Now, among all Muslim groups, Iran appears to enjoy most favored nation status because the President and his administration are so intent on achieving a deal with the regime. As Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor put it in January 2014, resolving “the Iranian issue diplomatically… is healthcare for us, just to put it in context.” If the President and his crowd couldn’t see the plain truth about ISIS because of their ideological blinders, how likely is it that they are accurately assessing the Iranian regime?
As Wood accurately described, to the shock and consternation of the Left, ISIS is Islamic, very much so, and it is bent on destroying the world. That sounds like the height of ambition. But Shi’a Iran is on the same mission, and indeed in a race with the hated Sunni ISIS to the same apocalyptic goal, and the President of the United States of America looks bound and determined to assist it. That is the height of irresponsibility. Congress and the American people must not permit him to let Iran get its nukes.
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution