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Right after the US eliminated Iran’s Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian regime raised the Red Flag of War over the mosque in Jamkaran.

The highly symbolic gesture holds great significance. It symbolizes the declaration of a blood feud to avenge a grievance.

Jamkaran is near the theological seminary city of Qom. As the flag went up on January 4, the mosque loudspeakers broadcast the words, “O Allah, hasten your custodian’s reappearance,” referring to Islam’s messianic figure of the Mahdi, believed by Shi’ites to be the Twelfth Imam. The flag itself bears the Farsi words in white script against a red field: “Oh, ye avengers of Hussein.”

Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad, died on the field of battle against an overwhelmingly larger Sunni army in Karbala (today’s Iraq) in 680 AD. It is from that blood line of Muhammad that the line of Twelve Imams followed, a line that ended in the 9th century with the death of the Twelfth Imam, a child who left no heirs.

The senior leadership of the Tehran regime are often referred to as “Twelvers” because they are devotes of that Twelfth Imam, whom they believe is the Islamic figure of the Mahdi, who will return at the End of Time to usher in the Day of Judgment and the final victory of Islam over the earth.

Jamkaran is the site of a well into which Shi’ites believe the Twelfth Imam disappeared and from which he will re-emerge at the End of Time.

The raising of this flag, ordinarily flown only during the month of Muharram (the month that commemorates the death of Hussein at the Battle of Karbala), clearly is meant to signify a blood pledge to wage war until vengeance is exacted.

Today, that raised flag calls for a blood pledge to avenge the January 3 killing of Qods Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani. To date, to the best of our knowledge, the flag has not yet come down – even after the January 7 launch of a missile barrage at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed.

In Iranian social media and other outlets, Soleimani is being associated with Hussein, as a martyr for Islam and Iran. Widely disseminated artwork depicts a bloodied Soleimani (minus his left hand) being taken into paradise in the arms of Hussein himself.

The emotional appeal of such imagery and such symbology among devout Shi’ites cannot be overemphasized.

A key element of that eschatology of the End Times holds that the Mahdi’s return to earth may be expedited by the instigation of enough chaos, strife, and warfare that he will feel compelled to come back and set it all straight through the global conquest of Islam.

This was alarming enough in the context of a regime driving for deliverable nuclear weapons, but now, as Tehran pledges retaliation and vengeance for Soleimani, we must understand that what we have seen so far is just the beginning of what is to come.

Until that Red Flag of War over Jamkaran comes down, one way or another, the Islamic Republic’s retaliation is not finished.

Clare M. Lopez

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