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Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipur is a Twelver Shi'a Hojatoleslam cleric who was active in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and later became interior minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran[1] He is "seen as a founder of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon"[2] and one of the "radical ... elements, advocating the export of the revolution," in the Iranian clerical hierarchy.[3]

In an assassination attempt targeting Mohtashemi, he lost his right hand when he was opening a book loaded with explosives.[4]



Mohtashemi studied in the holy city of Najaf Iraq, where he spent considerable time with his mentor the Ayatollah Khomeini. After the revolution he served as Iran's ambassador to Syria and later became Iran's Minister of the Interior. While ambassador to Syria, he is thought to have played a "pivotal role" in the creation of the Lebanese radical Shia organization Hezbollah, working "within the framework of the Department for Islamic Liberation Movements run by the Iranian Pasdaran." Mohtashemi "actively supervised" Hezbollah's creation, merging into it existing radical Shi'ite movements: the Lebanese al-Dawa; the Association of Muslim Students; Al-Amal al-Islamiyya.[5][6][7] In 1986, when the Office of Islamic Liberation was reassigned to Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and his "close supervision" of Hezbollah was cut short.[8] He is also described as making "liberal" use of the diplomatic pouch as Ambassador, bringing in "crates" of material from Iran.[9]

In 1984, after the Beirut bombings, Mohtashemi received a parcel containing a book on Shia holy places. As he opened the package it detonated, blowing off his hand and severely wounding him. Mohtashami was medevaced to Europe and survived the blast to continue his work. The identity of the perpetrators of the attack is unknown.[10]

In 1989 [11] the new Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ousted Mohtashemi from the Lebanon desk of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replacing him with Rafsanjani's brother Mahmud Hashemi.[12] This was seen as an indication of Iran's downgrading of its support for Hezbollah and for a revolutionary foreign policy in general.[13]

In August 1991 regained some of his influence when he became chairman of the Defense committee of the Majlis (parliament) of Iran.[14]

More controversially, Mohtashami is thought

to have played an active role, with the Pasdaran and Syrian military intelligence, in the supervision of Hezbollah's suicide bomb attacks against the American embassy in Beirut in April 1983, the American and French contingents of the MNF in October 1983 and the American embassy annex in September 1984.[15][16]

and to have been instrumental in the killing of Lt. Col. William Higgins, the American Chief of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization's (UNTSO) observer group in Lebanon who was taken hostage Feb. 17 1988 by Lebanese pro-Iranian Shia radicals. The killing of Higgins is said to have come "from orders issued by Iranian radicals, most notably Mohtashemi," in an effort to prevent "improvement in the U.S.-Iranian relationship." [17]

While Mohtashemi was a strong opponent of Western influence in the Muslim world and of the existence of the state of Israel,[18] he was also a supporter and advisor[19] of reformist Iranian president Mohammad Khatami who was famous for championing of free expression and civil rights. Mohtashemi was in the Western news again in 2000, not as a hardline radical but for refusing to appear in court in Iran after his pro-reform newspaper, Bayan, was banned.[2]


  1. ^ Iran: Early Race For Clerical Assembly Gets Bitter Radio Liberty
  2. ^ a b Iranian publisher defies court
  3. ^ Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon, (1997) p.126, 103
  4. ^ Ali Akbar Mohtashemi explaing story of assassination attempt and how he lost his hand.
  5. ^ John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? Oxford University Press,(1992) p.146-151
  6. ^ Independent, 23 October 1991
  7. ^ Roger Faligot and Remi Kauffer, Les Maitres Espions, (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1994) p.412-3
  8. ^ Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon, (1997) p.89-90
  9. ^ Wright, Sacred Rage, (2001), p.88
  10. ^ Wright, Sacred Rage, (2001), p.89
  11. ^ sometime after August 17
  12. ^ Nassif Hitti, `Lebanon in Iran's Foreign Policy: Opportunities and Constraints,` in Hosshang Amirahmadi and Nader Entessar Iran and the Modern World, Macmillan, (1993), p.188
  13. ^ Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon, (1997) p.104
  14. ^ Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon, (1997), p.106
  15. ^ Foreign Report, 20 June 1985
  16. ^ New York Times, 2 November 1983; and 5 October 1984
  17. ^ Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.146
  19. ^ Reformist newspaper closed in Iran BBC News 25 June 2000


  • Ranstorp, Magnus, Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis, New York, St. Martins Press, 1997
  • Wright, Robin, Sacred Rage, Simon and Schuster, 2001

External links

Preceded by
Ali Akbar Nategh Nori
Interior minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Ali Mohammad Besharati Jahromi?


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