Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 20, 2009


CNN - He's been labeled by many as the "reformist," a man who can take Iran beyond the truculent anti-Western rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

So, when Iran's government announced over the weekend that Mir Hossein Moussavi had lost in his bid to become the country's next president, young Iranians took to the streets by the thousands alleging ballot fraud.

Thousands of others around the globe championed the cause on social-networking Web sites and agreed to wear green on Monday in solidarity with Moussavi's supporters.

But what is often lost in the outrage is whether Iran would look different under a Moussavi presidency.

Though the 67-year old is credited for successfully navigating the Iranian economy as prime minister during a bloody eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, he also was a hard-liner whom the Economist described as a "firm radical."

He, like most Iranians in power, does not believe in the existence of Israel. He defended the taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979, which led to the break in ties between the countries.

He was part of a regime that regularly executed dissidents and backed the fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie.

And as late as April, he opposed suspending the country's nuclear-enrichment program but said it would not be diverted to weapons use. . .

Moussavi was named prime minister in 1980. A year earlier, Iran had become an Islamic republic after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was forced into exile.

The same year, a group of students in support of the Islamic revolution took 52 Americans hostage and held them for 444 days.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1981, Moussavi defended the hostage-taking as the beginning of "second stage of our revolution."

"It was after this that we rediscovered our true Islamic identity," he said. . .

In 1988, author Salman Rushdie released his fourth novel, 'The Satanic Verses,' which Iran said insulted Islam. The country's supreme leader called for the death of Rushdie. And Moussavi, in a radio broadcast, said the order would be carried out.

Moussavi told the Financial Times in April that he would not halt Iran's uranium enrichment program if he were president. "No one in Iran would accept suspension," he said.

Since his stint as prime minister, Moussavi has been absent from politics. For the past 10 years, his official job has been to head the state-owned Art Center. He is a painter.

The long "20 years of silence," as the Iranian media dubbed it, is working to Moussavi's advantage.

Of Iran's population of 70 million, almost 60 percent are younger than 28 -- too young to have lived through the 1979 revolution. To them, Moussavi represents a sea change from Ahmadinejad.

While the president calls the Holocaust a myth, Moussavi has condemned the killing of Jews.

While Ahmadinejad has unleashed the morality police to ensure that women cover their hair in public, Moussavi has pledged his support for women's rights.

Most importantly, the youth are unhappy about the faltering economy under Ahmadinejad, with the unemployment rate topping 30 percent by some accounts. They are hungry for anyone who represents change, analysts have said.

"We have really an interesting moment of historic irony here," Afshin Molavi, a fellow at the New America Foundation, said on the CNN talk show Fareed Zakaria GPS.

"Moussavi is a child of the revolution. Moussavi was never a real reformer, either, when he was prime minister.

"And now he's being faced with the question: Should he unleash the young people out onto the streets who supported him -- thus threatening the very system that he fought for?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what? We'll just depose him after Operation Ajax 2. One thing at a time. The Pahlavi family will regain their rightful place. Don't worry.

June 21, 2009 9:38 PM  

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