After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a little-known clandestine Islamist group remerged from the ashes. Formed in 1953 with a radically anti-Bahai and anti-Sunni ideology, the Hojjatiehs flourished during the Revolution that ousted the Shah. The fiery, respected Sheik Hamud Halabi urged the Hojjatiehs to vote in favor of the Velayat-e-Faqih form of government in the referendum mainly due to fear of a communist takeover.
Velayat-e-Faqih, the “guardianship of the jurisconsult”, is the modern political doctrine set out by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In his book of Jurist governmental rule, he addressed the role of the clergy in the government. Under this doctrine, he proclaimed himself and his successors as Supreme Leaders of a purist Islamic nation.
In spite of propaganda purported by apologists and the naïve attention to Iran's presidential elections, virtually all authority lies with an absolute dictatorship under the Velayat-e-Faqih government: a concept dearly advocated and embraced by the founders of the Islamic Republic. Due to disagreement over the Velayat-e-Faqih system, the Hojjatiehs were banned in 1983. Ayatollah Khomeini was adamantly opposed to the Hojjatiehs‚ conviction that Shiites should advocate a more progressive arrival of the 12th Imam.
The Imam is a core concept in the teachings of Shiite Muslims. Born Muhammad Al-Mahdi, the Imam ventured into a cave in 941 AD hidden by the Gate of Occultation. Shiites believe that the Twelfth Imam will one day return to lead the religious battle between good and evil when the world has become consummately nefarious. They argue that it is only at that stage that a genuine Islamic Republic will emerge.
Since the arrival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the group has seen a mass resurgence in the government. Recently a former chief of staff of Khomeini claimed that the Revolutionary Guards and many of the cabinet positions had been filled by Hojjatiehs who control Ahmadinejad. Although it is disputed whether Ahmadinejad is himself a member of the society he has shown strong support for their Armageddon message. He was quoted as saying that “Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi,” and that “Today we should define our economic, cultural and political parties based on the policy of Imam Mahdi's return we should avoid copying West's politics and systems”.
Ahmadinejad's clerical spiritual advisor Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi is also an ardent Hojjatiehi. He has taught at the Hojjatieh-founded Haqqani Theological School in Qum. Qum is the central religious central of Iranian as well as many other international Shiites. During the last presidential elections he issued a fatwa urging all two million members of the hard-line volunteer basin Islamic Militia to support Ahmadinejad. Along with many other Hojjatiehs he advocates the hastening of the arrival of the 12th Imam leading to the battle between good and evil.
The arrival of Ahmadinejad was a domestically calculated power grab by the Hojjatieh adherents. Several signs point to the resurgence of this clandestine group, such as the recent call of Ahmadinejad for wiping Israel off the map, their harsh confrontational approach towards the West, their intermeddling in neighboring countries, increasing in the support of terror groups, the suppression of ethnic minorities at home, the lessening of the appearance of Khamenei and the increase in the oppression of the Bahais and Sunnis.
Perhaps wanting to circumvent the brash and naïve foreign policy agenda of Ahmadinejad on June 25th, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei created the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations. The prime objective of the council, which includes seasoned foreign relation veterans such as Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign minister and former Islamic Revolution Guards Corp admiral Ali Shamkhani, is to facilitate the countries foreign policy objectives.
Intellectuals need to engage in debate about the possibility of the commingling of the two factions and whether this will lead to a deepening disagreement between the ideological beliefs of the Velayat-e-Faqih system originally endorsed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and followed by his successors such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the even more radical Hojjatiehs. Ultimately their preservation may be more important than squabbling between factions with too many similarities and not many differences.
Strategic political maneuvers within the Islamic Republic may lead some to conclude an imminent conflict between the two factions but it's more feasible to conclude that, in the end, the two ideological factions will cooperate to preserve the system. At a time when the regime is under immense domestic and international pressure the last thing the Ayatollahs need is internal squabbling and resounding divisions.
The logical conclusion points in the direction of the combination of forces between the current Jurist run dictatorial system and the anti-Bahai, radically aggressive policies of the Hojjatiehs in order to preserve the Islamic system. Either way the regime will remain the world's leading sponsor of terrorism – the question is whether the Hojjatiehs concept of hastening the arrival of the 12th Imam by causing war and chaos across the world will take form.
Most analysts rightfully contest our best weapon in Iran are the pro-American people who in recent years have consistently poured out into the streets in pro-democracy demonstrations only to be arrested, tortured, and often times murdered. We should invest more aggressively in their liberation before we have to deal with a fanatical regime armed with nuclear weapons with a potent desire to drive the world towards Armageddon.