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Mirhossein Moussavi

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Mirhossein Moussavi (left), Khomeini (right) in a campaign poster titled “Smell of Imam [Khomeini]”
Mirhossein Moussavi (left), Khomeini (right) in a campaign poster titled “Smell of Imam [Khomeini]”
NCRI, 26 May 2009- Iranians know him as “Khomeini’s prime minister during the Iran-Iraq war.” The description aptly underlines Mirhossein Mossavi’s position as the mullahs’ prime minister in the course of the eight year war with Iraq, as well as his intellectual orientation. Moussavi was born in 1941 in a small town northwest of Iran. Prior to the 1979 revolution, he was virtually unknown among intellectuals and political activists opposing the Shah’s dictatorship. Things changed when clerics usurped power after the revolution and joined forces in a unified political party called the Islamic Republic party. It was in this gathering that Moussavi was quickly noticed by the other members. Despite extensive infighting among them, party leaders had united against Iran’s democratic movements, liberal forces, and Kurdish parties who sought autonomy for Iran’s Kurdistan region. The Islamic Republic party managed to earn enormous notoriety among Iranians in a relatively short span of time. It was widely regarded as “the party of club wielders,” because it organized and unleashed paramilitary forces to terrorize democratic political opponents. At the time, Moussavi engaged in the theoretical rationalization and justification of the activities of these paramilitary groups, all the while assuming a quasi-intellectual gesture, arousing interest from Mohammad Beheshti, a powerful cleric and Khomeini ally. He was appointed as the editor-in-chief of the “Islamic Republic” daily, the Iranian regime’s equivalent of main Nazi newspaper, Münchener Beobachter. From 1979 to 1981, the newspaper’s main task was to steer fundamentalist factions to clash with the liberal party of Mehdi Bazargan (the first prime minister following the revolution), and also with Khomeini’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The paper then took on the additional role of spreading propaganda in praise of the military aggressions of the mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In 1980, Moussavi was appointed as the regime’s foreign minister. At the time, the regime’s ruling officials were grappling with tremendous infighting. Moussavi decided to support a faction widely known as the “Followers of Imam Khomeini.” This extremist faction espoused the intensification of the war with Iraq and called for the adoption of more ruthless tactics against political opponents. In the eyes of Khomeini, Moussavi’s unrelenting support for the execution of several thousand political dissidents in the summer of 1981 was a testament to his unwavering loyalty. Thus, in the fall of 1981, Khomeini appointed him as the prime minister. At that time, there was hardly anyone who viewed his appointment as long-term, but Moussavi managed to occupy the post for another 8 years. He owed his stretched out political career to being absolutely obedient to Khomeini, to the extent that Khomeini favoured him more than a cleric for the job. Khomeini also consistently lent his support to Moussavi in the course of the latter’s occasional disputes with Ali Khamenei (then the mullahs’ president and currently the regime’s supreme leader). During his 8 years as prime minister, Moussavi was a champion for the “Followers of Imam Khomeini” faction, due to his support for prolonging the war against Iraq, his inexorable services to the IRGC, and his so-called anti-imperialist stance. At the time, he offered a perfect explanation regarding the benefits of maintaining enmity towards “American imperialism.” He said, “The slogan ‘Death to America’ is the most important tool for confronting [opposition] groups. This slogan has had a stronger impact than our intelligence services when it comes to destroying such groups” (Islamic Republic daily, September 3, 1988). As the mullahs’ prime minister during the 1980s, Moussavi is considered to be one of the officials involved in the massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in 1988. Khomeini’s death in 1989 rendered Moussavi politically irrelevant, and led to a 20 year political hibernation. The new Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, was not as gracious to him as Khomeini had been. But, when in 2009, Mohammad Khatami decided to run for a third term in the June presidential elections, the mullahs’ Supreme Leader sent a green light to Moussavi instead in a bid to remove Khatami from the scene. Betraying Khatami, his friend and political ally, Moussavi agreed to declare his candidacy. In a statement announcing his candidacy, Moussavi reiterated his loyalty to Khomeini and praised the eight-year war with Iraq, while underscoring his support for the two most fundamental tenets of the clerical regime: 1) Continuing the nuclear weapons project, since “no government would dare to retreat in this regard.” 2) Opposing any modifications or amendments to the regime’s constitution, which upholds the principle of the Velayat-e Faqih (absolute clerical rule). While shunning the “reformist” label, Moussavi has instead described himself as a “fundamentalist reformist.”

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