In a commentary in the Tampa Tribune, he writes:
Several years ago, prior to my retirement from the CIA, I was meeting with a senior Iranian asset in the Middle East. I had finished debriefing him on the intelligence he had to provide, and we had launched into a more expansive conversation about the overall direction of American policy toward Iran. I was trying to explain the rationale behind our sanctions regime and the thought process that had led us to conclude that we could persuade the Islamic Republic of Iran to modify its behavior.
The asset interrupted me. "You really don't have any idea who you are dealing with, do you?" he asked. I told him I was not sure I understood what he meant.
The source elaborated. We were under the illusion we were dealing with rational actors. We were not. We were under the illusion we were playing a game, which would stretch out over many years. Our adversaries in Iran shared no such belief. They expected this conflict to reach its climax in the very near future.
They also knew, to a moral certainty, that they would win.
Iran is an overwhelmingly Islamic nation, and almost all Iranians belong to the Twelver sect of the Shia branch of Islam. This sect awaits the return of the 12th Imam, or Mahdi, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed anointed by Allah himself. According to the Twelvers, the Mahdi has been in hiding in caves since the 9th century.
The Mahdi has been hidden for 1,200 years now, but he will return just before the Day of Judgment. According to the Hadith, his return will be preceded by three years of chaos, violence and cataclysmic events. He will rule over the world for a period of seven years, eliminate all tyranny and oppression, and usher in an era of peace. He is, in many ways, the Muslim equivalent of the Jewish Messiah or the Second Coming of Christ. He is, however, the only one of these apocalyptic figures who expressly intends violent world conquest.
Some Twelvers, including the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameinei, believe that they are to prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi. In order to do so, they are to bring on the state of chaos and destruction, which will precede the Madhi's return. The worse things get; the faster they win.
The source's point was not simply to remind me of the tenets of the Twelver sect, with which I was already familiar. It was to stress the literal sense in which these tenets were understood by Ahmadinejad, Khameinei and their supporters. These were not, the source stressed, metaphors or parables. Ahmadinejad did not understand the story of the Mahdi to be a reference to some end state in which the world would live in peace and harmony. He understood it in a completely literal, simplistic way. He accepted it word for word as the absolute truth.
Read the rest here.
It's fascinating, and reaffirms my belief that the reason Iran is being so intransigent about everything is that they are bucking for a major confrontation that will herald the 12th Imam.