Powerful ally behind the scenes to Iran’s Supreme Leader dies in Saudi Arabia

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Khoshvaght and Khamenei

The hard-line Ayatollah Azizollah Khoshvaght died in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday [Feb. 20] after a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Khoshvaght was not only a vociferous critic of Iran’s Reformists and Green Movement, dubbing the latter’s leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Hojjat al-Islam Mehdi Karroubi, “apostates,” but was also an important ally behind the scenes and a relative by marriage to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khoshvaght’s daughter was married to one of Khamenei’s sons, Seyed Mostafa Hosseini Khamenei.

Khoshvaght is also reputed to have been among a small circle of clergymen, close to the security forces, alleged to be responsible for issuing fatwas or religious rulings legitimating the execution of Iranian dissidents and intellectuals in 2000.

Political analyst Hossein Bastani has written an insightful essay published by BBC Persian about Khoshvaght, who has resided in relative obscurity compared to other much more well-known hard-line ayatollahs such as Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi or Guardian Council chief, Ahmad Jannati.

The wife of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the assassinated nuclear scientist, recently related a  story in which she speaks of one of her husband’s meetings with Ayatollah Khoshvaght, who had apparently studied ethics with the aged ayatollah. When Ahmadi Roshan asked him, “How close is the reappearance of the 12th Imam?” she says Khoshvaght replied, “It depends on what you’re doing in Nantaz.” As Bastani notes, while the anecdote may not have any reflection on Iran’s actual nuclear program, it certainly indicates Khoshvaght’s views of it, and his apocalyptic worldview.

Khoshvaght is also said to have warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the threat of earthquakes because of “poor veiling” in Iran’s capital. Khoshvaght, according to Conservative sources, previously claimed that a drought in 1997 was punishment for the election of Reformist-inclined President Mohammad Khatami.

In other news

Ismail Kowsari, deputy chief of the Majles’ National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, has told the site Asr-e Iran that the Reformists are “ineffective” and that “certainly” and without “much concern” the 11th government will also be a Conservative one: “Certainly one Principalist personality will take Ahmadinejad’s place as head of the eleventh government. For the same reason, it is stressed that not much concern is felt.”

Fatemeh Hashemi, the head of the Foundation for Special Diseases, has called “the disruption to the transfer of drugs” caused by Western sanctions against Iran, a “violation of human rights” in an interview with the Reformist daily, Etemaad. Hashemi is also the daughter of Expediency Discernment Council chief and former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Hossein Fadai, the head of the Conservative Self-Sacrificers of the Islamic Revolution, has claimed in a meeting with the militant group, the Helpers of Hezbollah, that the so-called “deviant current” usually associated with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei “thinks it is very smart and has said to itself ‘we must do something to be the victors in negotiations with America and break the taboo of non-negotiating with America’ … The deviant current says, ‘to return to power, we must polarize society.’”

Fadai also claimed that the “deviant current” is in pursuit of a considerable increase in subsidy payments, ahead of the upcoming presidential election. Needless to say, the Ahmadinejad government has been pushing for just this very policy.

Finally Fadai, expressing his views on the war of words and threats which unfolded between Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Majles floor in the course of the impeachment hearing of Labor Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, stated:

“It is possible that some friends might imagine that that which unfolded in the Majles was an accident, and was not the result of planning. I want to say that it is possible that it appear to be an accident, but really some were in pursuit of an agenda, and are following a common line, to cause the people to lose trust in the regime.”

 Image of Ayatollah Khamenei and Khoshvaght via Tasnim News