Omar Fadhil (of Iraq the Model fame) writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
[W]hile religion has always played an important role in prior Arab-Israeli wars, this time it has moved to center stage. It is the theological aspect of this conflict that makes it so explosive and could lead to its expansion.
As an observer of the conflict from Iraq, I see the signs that Iran may be starting to launch the mullahs’ version of an Armageddon, exploiting the religious beliefs of devout Shiites in the region. While this may sound more the stuff of prophecies than international relations, it is important to understand – especially in countries such as Lebanon and Iraq that have large Shiite populations.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran and the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq are both devout believers in the “Imam” of Shia Islam. Also known as “Imam Mehdi” – hence the name of Sadr’s militia, the Mehdi Army – he was the 12th grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. According to certain branches of Shia Islam, the return of the “hidden Imam” must be prepared by his followers, in a particular sequence of events. Chaos and rampant violence in the region are supposed to be among signs leading to the main battle in which the Imam will return to lead Shiites to victory.
More here .