A Jumble of Interests
by HAMID FAROKHNIA in Tehran
05 May 2010 04:06
Last Saturday, May 1, a memorial service at Tehran's upscale Noor Mosque on Fatemi Square provided a rare opportunity: to see Iranian politicians of various ideological hues congregate for a few brief, if uncomfortable, minutes under one roof.
Few occasions involve such delicious incongruity as this. The regime's principals, present and ex-ministers, right-wing chieftains, centrist operatives, business magnates, the high brass of the Army and the Sepah, parliamentary heavyweights, public prosecutors, and police chiefs sat side by side with former political prisoners and bad boy Mehdi Karoubi. This potpourri of a crowd was paying its respects to the Hosseini family after the passing of family patriarch Seyed Ali Hosseini (photos from Mehr News Agency below). Operatives from each of the country's myriad factions were spotted watching the body language of the various players in the mosque for clues to the latest alliances and fluctuations in influence.
The deceased, father of the present Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad Hosseini, had four sons in total, all influential figures in politics and commerce. The Ershad minister is a well-known hardliner; his three siblings lean varying degrees to the left. In lieu of our own comportment-watching, the following brief biographies of the Hoseini brothers are offered:
I. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Guidance Mohammad Hosseini is the new cultural tsar. He is supposed to be a huge improvement on his predecessor, Safar Harandi, a super-doctrinaire former Revolutionary Guards colonel who single-handedly slashed 70 percent of the budget for the arts, drove hundreds of publishers and bookstore owners into bankruptcy, got rid of nearly half the stock of library books, and censored or completely banned most new nonreligious books for four interminable years. It could be argued that anyone would constitute an improvement.
Mohammad got his master's degree in Islamic studies and propaganda from that strange hawza-university hybrid, the Imam Sadegh University. He obtained a Ph.D. in Law from Tehran University in 1988, and was active in the 5th Majles in its National Security Subcommittee. He also served as the cultural attaché at Iran's embassy in Kenya. He subsequently moved to IRIB (the state television and radio network), where he was vice president during Ali Larijani's rein.
Mohammad earned his ultrarightist spurs as a science vice minster in the Ahmadinejad administration and then as president of Payam Noor University, a New Rightist concoction established as a counterweight to Rafsanjani's Azad University. Interestingly, he is not considered one of Ahmadinejad's New Rightist young Turks but a compromise candidate--he is a high-ranking member of the Bazaar-based Motalefe Eslami.
II. Seyyed Hamid Hosseini is a business tycoon of Rafsanjani mold. He heads Iran's Syndicate of Exporters of Oil Products and is a sitting member of Tehran's powerful Chamber of Commerce. He has been critical of Ahmadinejad's economic and cultural policies and publicly took him to task for closing down newspapers.
III. Seyyed Mahmood Hosseini is also active in business. Like Hamid, he holds a position in Tehran's Chamber of Commerce. He is an academic with reformist leanings.
IV. Seyyed Ahmad Hosseini is the top manager of Meraat Industrial Group, Iran's largest exporter of bitumen. He is a critic of Ahmadinejad's economic policies.
Majles speaker Ali Larijani offers his condolences to Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, the current Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance.Ahmadinejad Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei Gholam-Hossein Elham, Iran's official government spokesman and Ahmadinejad confidante. Majles Vice-Speaker Mohammad-Reza Bahonar Mehdi Karroubi Former IRGC Chief Yahya (Rahim) Safavi Gholamhossein Karbaschi, former Tehran Mayor, considered ally of reformist Mohammad Khatami. Reformist MP Mostafa Kavakebian in foreground (R) Hand to chest: First VP Mohammad Reza Rahimi, of recent Fatemi Street Nexus notoriety. (Karroubi appears to be giving high-five.) Ahmadinejad's parliamentary VP and defeated presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei.