The 60 Second Update with

Ilan Berman

1. Who is the Mahdi and why does he matter?

The Mahdi is the Islamic Messiah. The most common form of Shi'a Islam, Twelver Shi’ism, holds that the Twelfth Imam, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, went into a state of "occultation" sometime in the 9th century. It is believed that his return - an event which will be preceded by a period of war and chaos - will herald the establishment of worldwide righteous Muslim rule.

In and of itself, this should not be alarming. All three of the world's major religions have some variation on this messiah myth. But a significant minority of Shi'a ascribe to a more immediate interpretation of this belief -- and feel that they can personally hasten the Mahdi's arrival. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is among them. He has expressed his belief that Iran's economic, cultural and political policies should be "based on the policy of Imam Mahdi’s return,” and said that there is a "civilizational war" underway between Islam and the West - one which could hasten the end times.


 Question 2. Taking Ahmadinejad seriously


Question 1 / Question 2 /  Question 3 /  Question 4 Question 5



Ilan Berman is the Vice President for Policy of the American Foreign Policy Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing information to those who make or influence the foreign policy of the United States and to assisting world leaders with building democracies and market economies

More From Ilan Berman

  • Winning the Long War
  • On the Issues
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Retaking the Offensive
Against Radical Islam

In Winning the Long War, Ilan Berman offers a comprehensive strategy for reclaiming the offensive in the global war on terror.

Berman argues the rules of engagement must be changed to defeat the enemy in the intellectual, economic, diplomatic, and political theaters.


Ilan Berman is one of the rising stars of American foreign policy. As Vice President for Policy of the American Foreign Policy Council, he is a frequent guest on radio and television. An expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, he has consulted for both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense, and provided assistance on foreign policy and national security issues to a range of governmental agencies and congressional offices.

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