There are around 200,000 Shiite-Muslim youths in the region prepared to wage holy war upon the arrival of the Mahdi, a prophesized Muslim leader, Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency quoted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander as saying.
Speaking at an event organized by the Islamic Education Center for Strategic Studies, an Iranian think tank, IRGC Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari reportedly said that tens of thousands of Shiite youths had been armed and trained for jihad – in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen – in anticipation of the Mahdi's appearance.
The youths, he said, had been "prepared" for the Mahdi's appearance, going on to assert that the current chaos in the region – including the emergence of DAESH – was a sign of the Mahdi's imminent arrival. Shiite Muslims believe that the Mahdi will appear on earth to bring justice to mankind shortly before Armageddon and that his appearance will be presaged by widespread chaos and war.
Iran has been highly criticized by Turkey for its foreign policy and is accused of adopting a sectarianism-driven foreign policy. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said if Iran had not sided with Syrian President Bashar Assad in obedience to its sectarian-driven policies, war-torn Syria would not be in its current situation where thousands of Iranian troops and several Shiite militia groups from Lebanon and Iraq are fighting alongside the regime.
He also stressed that if Russia had not seen the regime of Assad as the means to hang on to power in the Mediterranean and if Iran had not adopted a sectarian foreign policy, the world would not have witnessed the current situation in Syria.
Iran can no longer hide its ambition to have nuclear weapons, Erdoğan said, and the world does not support Iran's nuclear efforts. Speaking on behalf of bilateral relations between the two countries, Erdoğan said there are differences between Turkey and Iran, but he does not want these differences to affect their good, neighborly relations. "We should not be enemies to each other based on sectarian attitudes," Erdoğan said.
At the 29th International Unity in Islam Conference in Tehran in December, Mehmet Görmez, the head of the state-run Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), called upon Muslims "not to turn a blind eye to the bloodshed of Sunnis and Shiites." Görmez was a speaker at the conference organized by an Iranian association and attended by top Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, who gave a speech filled with veiled criticism of Saudi Arabia. Görmez, the highest Islamic authority in Turkey, called on Muslim countries to commit themselves to "stopping the bloodshed of Muslims," rather than pursuing "strategies and politics."
At the Islamic World's Current Crises conference, Görmez stressed that no faithful Muslim should stay silent in the face of what is happening in the Middle East. "The Islamic world has a dagger in its heart today, in the form of a mindset that declares those who do not side with one group as infidels, justifying violence and murder at a time when a fever of strife is engulfing the 'ummah' (Muslim community)," Görmez said.
"We are supposed to have common suffering, prayer and problems, as the gun smoke engulfs the Muslim world. We have to act together against new movements as they impose interpretations of the religion on people and ignore the unity of Muslims calling for violence and brutality. The bloodshed of Muslims is something we should pay more attention to rather than determining new strategies and politics," Görmez added.