Iran’s hardliners have fiercely attacked Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who published a scathing attack hinting at plans for Supreme Leader’s son to succeed his father.

In a frontpage note Wednesday, Tehran's hardliner daily Kayhan, linked to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, called Mousavi “the delusional old man” and “the leader of sedition” and accused him of giving “all-out backing for Israel and Da’esh” but made no reference to his warning about alleged plans to appoint Khamenei’s enigmatic son Mojtaba as his successor.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a prime minister in the 1980s who has been under house arrest since February 2011, warned the nation on Tuesday over the alleged ‘hereditary leadership’ scheme.

Mousavi said there are regime loyalists who have suggested that the Experts Assembly, whose members are to appoint the country’s future leader, will choose Mojtaba Khamenei as the Islamic Republic’s next leader and “leader of the world’s Shiites”, a title born by Khamenei now. “May their tongues dry! Have the 2500-year-old monarchies been revived that [they are now talking about] sons’ succession [to leadership] after their fathers?”

Focusing on Mousavi’s criticism of Iran's support for the Syrian President Bashar Assad and other regional activities, the IRGC-linked Javan newspaper and Tasnim news agency also assailed Mousavi but made no mention of his warning about Khamenei’s succession. Tasnim also demanded that the reformist front and its leaders including former President Mohammad Khatami break their silence and condemn “Mousavi’s terrorist statement”.

Mojtaba Khamenei with the former commander of IRGC Qods Force Qasem Soleimani

Rumors about Mojtaba Khamenei’s ambitions to succeed his father have been circulating for nearly two decades. Khamenei and other officials have never commented on the rumors. “Why don’t they deny the rumors if they are not thinking of Mojtaba’s rise to the throne?” Mousavi asked.

Mousavi’s note has revived rumors about Mojtaba Khamenei’s activities and his alleged ambition to succeed his father for which he direly needs to qualify as an ayatollah by leading sources of emulation (grand ayatollahs). He is still only recognized as a hojjat ol-eslam, a much lower rank in the Shiite clerical hierarchy, among the top clerics of Qom, the center of Iran's religious seminaries where he teaches theology classes.

The 53-year-old Mojtaba is the second eldest of Khamenei’s four sons. He is an enigmatic figure who holds no public office in the government and is rarely seen in public but reportedly wields much more influence than the leader’s other sons in powerful organizations such as his father’s office and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Intelligence Organization. Mujtaba’s close associate Hossein Taeb, a former co-fighter in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), was removed from his position as chief of SAS in June.

Mojtaba Khamenei also has great influence in the country’s propaganda machine including the state-broadcaster (IRIB), and behind-the-scenes political dealings.

In November 2019, the 40th anniversary of the US embassy hostage crisis, US treasury sanctioned nine individuals in Khamenei’s inner circle, including Mojtaba.

Mousavi, 81, who served as the Islamic Republic's first prime minister from October 1981 to August 1989, under then President Ali Khamenei, was put under house arrest nearly two years after the disputed 2009 presidential elections, when the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner in suspicious circumstances at the expense of Mousavi.

During the protests that followed, protesters often chanted against Mojtaba Khamenei who they held responsible for meddling with the elections, bringing Ahmadinejad to power and the crackdown on protesters. “Die, Mojtaba, may you never achieve leadership”.

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