Senior Iranian politician Habibollah Asgaroladi, who served as secretary-general of the Islamic Coalition Party, passed away this morning at the age of 82 in Tehran.
Asgaroladi, a traditional conservative politician, held various important positions over the last 34 years, among them head of the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, the largest charitable organization in Iran, head of the Followers of Imam and Leadership Front and member of the Expediency Council.
In the final years of his life, his supportive statements of the 2009 presidential candidates under house arrest earned him the respect of Iran’s Reformists, who appreciated that he took a moderate path when traditional conservatives and hard-liners presented a united front against Mir Hussein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and even former President Mohammad Khatami.
Asgaroladi was close to both the merchant class and the Society for Combatant Clergy. Before the revolution, he spent nearly 13 years in prison for aiding in the assassination of late Prime Minister Hassan Ali Mansur under the Shah.
Due to his membership in the Islamic Coalition Party and close relationship to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and other influential clerics, immediately after the revolution, Asgaroladi became a prominent politician and was elected to parliament.
While serving as secretary of commerce, Asgaroladi clashed with then-prime minister Mir Hussein Mousavi over economic policies. Asgaroladi advocated for a more open and liberal economic policy, while Mousavi preferred more leftist policies. Asgaroladi and other prominent politicians, among them Ahmad Tavakoli, resigned from the cabinet over the dispute and wrote a letter of protest to Khomeini, then supreme leader.
According to Fararu, the letter said that “Some in the administration are trying to make the people government oriented, and some are trying to make the government people-oriented. … If we want to get out of this dead end that we are entangled with and open the lock on the economy of the country, we have to make the economy people-oriented.” Ayatollah Khomeini, however, advised that the resignation of seven cabinet members during war time was not a wise decision.
Since the 2009 elections, while having initially supported then-candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, like other traditional conservatives, Asgaroladi turned against the unruly president who would eventually openly clashed with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In December 2012, he made controversial statements about Mousavi and Karoubi that drew criticism from conservatives in the Central Council of the Islamic Coalition. Asgaroladi said that he did not recognize Mousavi and Karoubi as “leaders of the sedition,” and that they were rather seduced by the seditionists. He also referred to them as “brothers.”
Iranian officials labeled those who questioned the legitimacy of the 2009 elections, which led to mass protests, as “seditionists.” Asgaroladi’s statements were made at a time and in a domestic atmosphere in which it was taboo for any politician to make positive comments about Mousavi or Karoubi.