Me? A Reformer?: Iran's Mir-Hossein Moussavi might be surprised by his characterization in the Western press as a "moderate" and a "reformer," especially in the United States of Amnesia, where he was once reviled as a radical anti-American. (Mardetanha/Wikimedia Commons)
Would the real Moussavi please stand up?
Mir-Hossein Moussavi is the reformists’ leading candidate and challenger to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 Iranian presidential election (scheduled for Friday). Moussavi is not well known. But to call him a moderate is an overstatement.
As Iran’s prime minister during the Iranian Revolution’s most formative years (1981-1989) he was a hard-liner closely allied with then-president Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader, and a “firm radical,” as The Economist described him in 1988. Still, Moussavi’s 20-year absence from Iranian politics and his recent emphasis on moderation has the West, and young Iranians, beguiled.
It's an indication of how desperate many Iranians and most non-Iranians would like to see an Iran free of Ahmadinejad. But in our eagerness to see past Mahmoud, we may be missing the essential point about Moussavi: he's Ahmadinejad's ideological twin.
References to Moussavi as a “reformer” and a “moderate” have been oddly reflexive in the Western press, and particularly the American press. The characterizations are at best premature, and likely outright fabrications—unless Moussavi himself has disassembled his ideology and reconstructed it of more moderate parts.
That seems unlikely.
Moussavi's more patrician tone and sharper intellect distance him from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and seduce a young generation that never knew his radicalism and apologies for terror and bloodshed. But his policies and ideology, his faithfulness to the Islamic revolution, his economic policies, and his anti-Americanism are all of a piece with Ahmadinejad’s. His election to the Iranian presidency may signal a change in tone, but not a change in policies.
Read my complete profile of "Mir-Hossein Moussavi, Iran's Radical Turned Reformist."
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- Profile: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's "Supreme Leader"
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- Who Rules Iran? A Primer on the Islamic Republic's Power Structure
- What's a "Supreme Leader"?
- How Should Obama Deal With Iran?