When he left Damascus for Baghdad late Thursday evening January 2, Qasem Soleimani was flying high. As the military leader, chief strategist and charismatic face of what he knew to be the world’s emerging and greatest empire, he had it all: prestige, power, presence. Not only did he command that rising empire’s independent military force, he was nothing less than the voice of Allah to leaders in nations soon to be absorbed: Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; Yemen and the Sinai.Although no one ever said so in quite these terms, he was, in fact, a rising prince of Persia. And the arms at his disposal! In addition to an immeasurable arsenal of conventional weapons, there was a growing repository of guided missiles; a world-class brigade of ruthless cyber geeks; even submarines; and soon, very soon, nuclear warheads.From the north and the south of the world’s most despicable usurper, if not so much to its east and to its west, Soleimani was slowly squeezing the Zionist entity, needling its psyche (and military focus) by jihadists within its pretentious boundaries, waiting for the perfect moment – when it was distracted – to strike at its heart from the north with a massive arsenal of at least 100,000 rockets. When the time came, rockets without sophisticated technology would draw the defensive shield of the Zionists’ interceptors. That shield would stop a lot of them, but not all. Not all.Then, at just the right time, hi-tech guided missiles would be launched, programmed to hit key military sites and, best of all, high-density population centers. Maybe, just maybe, inshallah, one of those missiles would carry a nuclear warhead. As Zionists died in a mushroom cloud of agony, all hell would break out throughout the region, even the world. It would be a tragic upheaval but a necessary evil because then, as prophesied, the long awaited savior of the world would emerge from centuries of withdrawal. The Imam Mahdi would return, establishing a worldwide caliphate of perfect peace; Islamic peace, of course.On the evening of the second day of what the West calls its New Year, Soleimani was fresh from meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, with one of his nation’s most important vassals, Hassan Nasrallah, the uncontested head of the pretentious “party of Allah,” Hezbollah. In that encounter, duly photographed, Soleimani had accepted, once again, the “General Secretary’s” obsequious hospitality. It was likely gratifying to the Islamic Republic’s major general of Tehran’s notably redundant Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC.The flight from Damascus was only one hour and five minutes, but it had been delayed. The Middle East Eye reports that his flight landed at 12:32 a.m. Baghdad time. Anticipating a comfortable weekend inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, Soleimani was met by the head of the Iraqi paramilitary force, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, said to be “a longstanding ally and a close friend.”Just over an hour later, less than two hours into the third day of January, Soleimani, Muhandis and their entourage left Baghdad International Airport in two vehicles, a Hyundai Starex minivan and a Toyota Avalon four-door sedan. As they reached the airport’s outer access road, both vehicles were almost evaporated by missiles fired by an American Reaper drone, a large remote controlled aircraft regarded by the US military as a “hunter killer.” Death was instantaneous for all inside both cars. Remains were so badly shredded, Soleimani’s death was confirmed by a still intact hand bearing his still intact silver ring embedded with a large oval carnelian stone.To Western eyes, events in Iran in the aftermath of Soleimani’s execution tend to look like a low-budget circus with all its performances gone bad.“Let’s put all of this together,” opines YouTube commentator David Wood. “On January 3, Major-General Soleimani was killed in a drone strike. On January 7, 56 Iranians were killed and more than 200 more were injured in a stampede at Soleimani’s funeral. On January 8, Iranian leaders responded to the killing of Soleimani with a missile attack on two Iraqi bases where US soldiers were housed, but... no one was killed. Also on January 8, the Iranian military shot down a Ukranian passenger plane as it took off from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing 176 people. On January 11, after three days of denying it had shot down the plane ... Iran admitted it had shot down the passenger plane.“So, in response to the US government killing one man, Iranians killed, by a stampede and surface-to-air missile attack, 138 Iranians and 94 others – none of them Americans.“I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think that Iranians might not be the best at war. [Mimicking Iranian leaders,] ‘Ah! They [the US] killed a general. Let’s start trampling each other to death in the streets and shooting down random planes.’“I’m making fun of them,” says Wood, “because if the Iranian establishment is this incompetent, there’s hope for the protesters who want to overthrow the establishment. The days of the ayatollahs may be numbered.”Iranian leaders as toothless buffoons is a gratifying narrative, but it is also wrong. If anything, the Islamic Republic is more dangerous than ever.As evidenced by Soleimani’s accomplishments in building a regional network of proxy terrorists, by the nation’s weapons-grade nuclear fuel technology, by hi-tech guided missile systems and a world-class cyber warfare unit, Iran retains all of these things, losing none of them with Soleimani’s death.Wounded by Soleimani’s execution and US President Donald Trump’s economic sanctions, the threat Iran poses to the Middle East and the world is not lessened, it is magnified. Indeed, notes Israeli journalist and geopolitical analyst Jonathan Spyer, it “can be expected to do all in their power to preserve the regime by all possible means.”Why? Three main reasons: the Mahdi and necessary upheaval; the Mahdi and Iran as the facilitator for his reappearance; the Mahdi and Tehran’s visceral hatred of Israel.On the day Soleimani was killed, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted, “We congratulate Imam Mahdi [aj] and Soleimani’s pure soul and condole the Iranian nation on this great martyrdom.”Who is Imam Mahdi and why was Khamenei congratulating him on the day of Soleimani’s death? In short, he is Islam’s messiah, the 12th of 12 Imams who are successors to Mohammed. Said to have been born in 879 CE, the Imam Mahdi is believed by Shi’a Muslims to still be alive, but hidden from mankind in “occultation” until a time of such upheaval on the earth that only his reappearance will rescue mankind and, in fact, usher in an age of global peace; Islamic peace, that is; a kind of peace in which all mankind is living in submission to the Allah of the Koran.Crazy to Western ears, this messianic creed is the raison d’être for the Islamic Republic of Iran according to its founders and leaders. It is also the basis of Tehran’s foreign and military policies; and it is impossible to overemphasize the Iran regime’s visceral commitment to it. The Imam Mahdi is invoked in every public gathering, both civil and military; he is the singular inspiration for every policy, every tactic, every mission; indeed, he is nothing less than the regime’s reason for its existence and, as such, its singular and unwavering motivation for the future.This reality does not bode well for those who see recent stumbles as indicative of an imminent fall of the mullahs in Tehran.Khamenei’s official website is full of teachings about Imam Mahdi, including one that states the Supreme Leader’s conviction that his reappearance is very near. “Reappearance of Imam Mahdi [aj] is near, because minds are ready,” Khamenei writes. The “aj” in parenthesis is shorthand for, “May Allah hasten his appearance.”“The mind of humankind is ready to understand, to learn, and to know, undoubtedly, that a lofty human will come to save them from the burden of oppression and tyranny,” Khamenei explains. “The Iranian nation, enjoys a great privilege today: the atmosphere of the country is an atmosphere of Imam Mahdi [aj],” he continues, adding that “many of our great scholars have personally met with this beloved [Imam] of hearts of the admirers during his occultation; many have made a pledge to him in person; many have heard from him some heartwarming words; many have been caressed by him and many others have received his kindness, care, and love.”How is this unwrapped in terms of Iran’s foreign and military policies today?Global upheaval is a prerequisite for the Mahdi’s reappearance. This means that inasmuch as Iran stirs up a global hornet’s nest, it advances the Mahdi’s return, a return that is imminent. The regime’s primary agenda is to strategically provoke the world to chaos; this is how it wins. Chaos brings the Mahdi who brings global peace. Call it “The Mahdi Doctrine.”The Iranian regime believes it has created an “atmosphere” that embodies the spirit of the Mahdi. Its religious, military and civil leaders have had personal encounters with him. In essence, then, today’s Iran is the womb from which the Mahdi will be reborn. Accordingly, the regime will go to any lengths to preserve itself. Accordingly, we should expect internal rebellion to be ruthlessly squashed. Protesters, especially organizers, will disappear. All external and internal opposition to the regime will be demonized.Israel must be destroyed. Tehran’s unrelenting objective is resurrection of the ancient Persian empire in the form of an Islamic caliphate. The primary impediment to that objective is Israel, the “Zionist Entity,” the very embodiment of evil in the world today. Notably, Khamenei’s Twitter feed is full of vitriol about Israel.“The Zionist regime is the epitome of evil,” he tweeted on Valentine’s Day in 2016. It is a “racist, usurping, lying, vicious, apartheid regime,” he added on February 5, 2019.What then must be done? “Once people in the West realize their problems stem from Zionist domination over governments, great social movements will give birth to a new world,” he explained on 2 March 2015. Accordingly, the “barbaric, wolflike and infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime but to be annihilated.”Translation: When the world finishes the job that Hitler started, the Mahdi will come, bringing heaven on earth; Islamic heaven, that is.Wounded by economic sanctions, embarrassed by internal protesters, Iran is more dangerous today than ever.Why did Khamenei congratulate Imam Mahdi on the day of Soleimani’s death? Because the real Prince of Persia is undeterred. He is still coming, and Iran will do anything to pave his way.