Jafari said the current developments in the region, “the formation of [the Islamic State group] and Takfiri [extremist] groups, and the events that occurred in the past years are paving the ground for the emergence of Imam Mahdi,” Middle East Monitor reported. "You can now see the positive results in the readiness of nearly 200,000 young armed in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.”
Shiite Muslims generally believe the Mahdi will arrive following a period of widespread violence and instability, and will usher in justice and an event like the Armageddon, the conclusive battle between good and evil. The comments come as Iran has grown increasingly entangled with several regional conflicts, including in Syria, where Revolutionary Guard forces have been battling to support the embattled dictator Bashar Assad.
The conflict, which has broken down along sectarian lines, has given rise to apocalyptic theories, as war in the region was prophesied by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Syrian war, and millions more have been displaced.
The region has seen intensified sectarian tensions in recent weeks, particularly in the aftermath of the execution of a popular Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia, a country with a Sunni majority. The execution sparked protests in Shiite communities across several Muslim countries, including in Iran where protesters attacked the Saudi embassy.
Saudi Arabia and several of its predominantly-Sunni allies in the region cut diplomatic ties with Iran following the embassy attack. The execution and outcry that followed was seen as exacerbating already tense relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two of the Middle East’s major powers.