February 25, 2018

Profile: Mir-Hossein Moussavi

He is known as “Khomeini’s prime minister during the Iran-Iraq war.” This aptly depicts Mirhossein Mossavi’s position as the regime’s prime minister during the destructive eight year war with Iraq.

Moussavi was born in 1941 in northwestern Iran. He was virtually unknown among intellectuals and political activists prior to the 1979 revolution which overthrow Shah’s dictatorship. As clerics usurped power after the revolution, they consolidated their forces in a political party called the Islamic Republic party. In this gathering, Moussavi was quickly noticed. Despite extensive infighting, party leaders had united against Iran’s democratic movements, liberal forces, and Kurdish parties who sought autonomy for Iran’s Kurdistan region.

Well funded and supported, the Islamic Republic party managed to earn notoriety in a relatively short span of time. It was widely regarded as “the party of club wielders,” because it regularly organized and unleashed paramilitary forces to terrorize major political opponents and their supporters.

During this period, Moussavi was actively engaged in the theoretical rationalization and justification of these activities All the while, he assumed a quasi-intellectual gesture, arousing interest from Mohammad Beheshti, a powerful cleric and Khomeini ally.

He was appointed as the Chief Editor of the “Islamic Republic” daily, the Iranian regime’s equivalent of main Nazinewspaper, Münchener Beobachter.

In 1979 and 1980, the paper’s main task was to steer fundamentalist factions against liberal party of Mehdi Bazargan (the first post revolution prime minister), and to galvanize forces against Ayatollah Khomeini’s main opposition; the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Later, the paper took on the additional role of spreading propaganda in praise of the military activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In 1980, Moussavi was appointed the regime’s foreign minister. Moussavi supported a faction widely known as the “Followers of Imam Khomeini.” This extremist faction supported the intensification of the war with Iraq and called for the adoption of more ruthless tactics against political opponents.

Khomeini regarded Moussavi’s unrelenting support for the execution of several thousand political dissidents in the summer of 1981 as a testament to his unwavering loyalty. In the fall of 1981, Khomeini essentially appointed him the Prime Minister. Moussavi managed to occupy that post for 8 years. His long political career can be attributed to his absolute obedience to Khomeini. Indeed, Khomeini favoured him more than a cleric for the job. In the course of the occasional disputes with the then President Ali Khamenei (current supreme leaders), Khomeini consistently lent his support to Moussavi.

During his 8 years as prime minister, Moussavi became a champion of his faction due to his support for prolonging the war against Iraq, his inexorable services to the IRGC, and with his so-called anti-imperialist stance. He offered a simple explanation about the benefits of maintaining enmity towards “American imperialism” He reasoned, “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). With war serving as a distraction and a galvanizing force, his administration systematically eliminated the main opposition groups.

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, however. This led to a 20 year political hibernation.

Unlike Khomeni, the new Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has not been as gracious to Moussavi.
In 2009, Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president decided to run for a third term in the June presidential elections. Faced with a strategic deadlock and in search of orchestrating a presidential election show, the mullahs’ Supreme Leader sent a green light to Moussavi instead in order to remove Khatami from the scene.

By betraying his friend and political ally, Moussavi agreed to declare his candidacy, leading to Khatami’s withdrawal from the race. In a statement announcing his candidacy, Moussavi reiterated his loyalty to Khomeini and praised the eight-year war with Iraq. He further underscored his support for the two most fundamental tenets of the clerical regime:

A) Continuing the nuclear weapons project, stating that “no government would dare to retreat in this regard.”
B) Opposing any modifications or amendments to Iranian regime’s constitution, essentially upholding the principle of the Velayat-e Faqih (absolute clerical rule).

With the resume, Moussavi has tried to shun the “reformist” label, describing himself as a “fundamentalist reformist.”