With the Iranian army practicing mock missile strikes on U.S. bases in Afghanistan, China only begrudgingly joining the European Union’s sanctions against Tehran, and the Israeli air force calculating firing solutions on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the headline in Foreign Affairs was startling: “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb.”

For more than a decade, the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran has frightened the world. After all, this is a regime that believes that if it can topple Western civilization, Iran will usher in the “second coming” of the Shi’ite messiah – five-year-old Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī, the long-awaited twelfth Imam, who vanished into a well in 941 A.D.

Iran’s fundamentalists teach that al-Mahdī will end his “occulation” or 1,000 years of invisibility — and will return to lead Iran’s restoration of the ancient Persian Empire and the imposition of worldwide Islam.

Speaking at a Tehran conference on Thursday, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, declared “the time has come for the disappearance of the West and the Zionist regime – which are two dark spots in the present era – from the face of the universe.”

Audio tapes proclaiming the coming of al-Mahdi

Iran’s Press TV quoted him as calling America and Israel the world’s “prime sources of tyranny and gloom.” Meanwhile, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared that America is blocking al-Mahdi’s return.

As Larijani was calling for the obliteration of Western civilization, out in the vital oil tanker shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were conducting “The Missiles of the Prophet” naval exercises at the Strait of Hormuz – demonstrating that they can hit targets in Israel, Afghanistan and Europe.

“The show of force is designed to coincide with the start in Istanbul of a new set of talks on Iran’s nuclear program, where Tehran faces the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany,” notes Amir Taheri in the New York Post. The talks, he writes, are pointless.

“It must be clear to anyone who has followed all this that Iran is acting in accordance with a famous Persian proverb: Leading the horse to water and bringing it back thirsty. That is,” writes Taheri, “Tehran will only make time-consuming gestures toward letting the ‘horse’ drink – but will never actually agree to stop the core of its nuclear program, which consists of enriching as much uranium as it can at higher and higher levels.”

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspects a nuclear facility

Iran’s ultimate goal, says Taheri, is to provoke a nuclear holocaust and pave the way for al-Mahdi, the “Hidden Imam” to re-establish Islam to its original, purest message, reveal the obscure secrets of the Holy Quran and make Iran’s Shi’ite brand of Islam the worldwide religion.

“The whole world will be brought into submission,” writes Amir Moezzi in the Encyclopedia Iranica. “Powers of inequality and obliviousness will be all eliminated, the earth will be inflated with justice and wisdom, and mortality revitalized by knowledge.”

Wall poster announcing a lecture in London