The more you learn about the Iranian president, the more you believe there's a madness to his methods.
Indeed, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's methods - his talk of wiping Israel off the map and his apparent obsession with obtaining nuclear weapons - may spring from a madness most frightening: a belief that provoking a nuclear confrontation may hasten the second coming of the Mahdi - Shi'a Islam's so-called hidden 12th imam that will save mankind and create a perfect Islamic society worldwide.
"Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one," Ahmadinejad has said.
Worse yet, the extremist Hojjatieh Society, which Ahmadinejad has close ties to, believes the second coming will be preceded by chaos, bloodshed, pestilence and a catastrophic showdown between good and evil.
An abiding faith is one thing. But UPI editor at large Arnaud de Borchgrave notes that the president of Iran "believes the apocalypse will happen in his own lifetime. He'll be 50 in October."
Needless to say, Ahmadinejad shows signs of a distinct detachment from reality.
For one thing, he blindly denies the existence of the Holocaust. And after a defiant and bizarre speech to the U.N. General Assembly last fall, he recalled feeling he was in a divine green aura that prevented onlookers from blinking for half an hour.
This is a man the world must not let obtain nuclear weapons.
"Ahmadinejad's confirmed relationship with religious extremists," writes Patrick Devenny of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., "along with the degree to which he has embraced their bleak and violent visions, is a sufficient cause for concern."
Devenny suggests that Ahmadinejad's alarming views may spring in large part from his association with Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, a reclusive cleric so extreme that he's been marginalized even by the hard-line rulers of Iran. Mesbah-Yazdi advocates complete separation from the West and, Devenny says, "immediate execution" for anyone who insults Islam.
This cleric, Devenny says, is Ahmadinejad's "spiritual guide."
J.R. Dunn, former editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, has written that, "While mayor of Tehran, (Ahmadinejad) had a broad avenue built to welcome the Mahdi. As president, he began a railroad to the town of Jamarkan, where the Mahdi is alleged to be biding his time in a well, awaiting the great day. He spent $17 million for an elegant mosque in the same area. (Islamic researcher Daniel) Pipes tells us Ahmadinejad also had his list of proposed cabinet members dropped into the well for the Mahdi's approval."
There's also an officially disputed story - but one believed by the working people in Iran, according to UPI's Borchgrave - that one of Ahmadinejad's first orders of business after his election was to have his cabinet ministers sign "a 'compact' pledging themselves to precipitate the return of the Mahdi" - and to drop it down the Jarmarkan well where the 12th imam is said to be waiting.
In short, this is a guy who shouldn't be allowed to buy a .38-caliber revolver.
If we let him get his hands on a nuclear bomb, we'll all be more insane than he is.