Did They Cross the Line? U.S. Military Under Fire for Welcoming Notorious Iranian Figure

This month, high-ranking U.S. military figures played host to a former senior Iranian official who faced criticism last year for openly boasting about the rigorous efforts of the hardline Iranian government to assassinate American leaders.

Hussein Mousavian, previously a key member of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team and presently a specialist in Middle East security and nuclear policy at Princeton University, was selected by U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to be the featured speaker at its 2023 Deterrence Symposium. This distinguished gathering, which took place in mid-August, saw the former Iranian official sharing a platform with the upper echelons of the U.S. military.

A video of this event was posted by STRATCOM on Monday, bringing attention to Mousavian’s participation and drawing criticism from former U.S. officials and seasoned analysts of Iran. They questioned the rationale behind the premier US military establishment hosting an individual who maintains close affiliations with the Islamic Republic.

Representative Jim Banks, a House Armed Services Committee member, expressed his concerns, stating, “Mousavian played a leading role in the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons to use as a threat against the U.S. and our allies. Now, he is spending his time at Princeton, spreading propaganda for the IRGC. Inviting him to spread falsehoods at a U.S. military seminar is beyond reason.”

Gabriel Noronha, a former Iran adviser at the State Department, shared his opinion with the Washington Free Beacon, asserting, “The decision to invite former Iranian ambassador Mousavian to address STRATCOM is incredibly misguided. He acts as a tool and agent of the Iranian regime, which explains why he is permitted to travel to Iran.”

Noronha pointed out that Mousavian’s continued ties with the Iranian regime are evident, as former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif affirmed in 2016 that Mousavian remains dedicated to advancing Tehran’s interests even while working at Princeton. Noronha called for a congressional investigation into the decision-making process that led to this highly inappropriate speaking invitation.

Iranian dissidents have long complained about Mousavian’s position at Princeton due to allegations that he violated human rights as Iran’s ambassador. Last year, Mousavian seemed to revel in Iran’s threats against former Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his deputy, Brian Hook. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps produced a documentary in which Mousavian described how Hook’s wife can’t sleep; she cries, she trembles, she tells Brian, “They will kill you.” According to Mousavian, this is because Hook killed Haj Qassem [Soleimani].

Advocacy groups like United Against a Nuclear Iran strongly criticized Mousavian for his apparent delight in the threats posed by Iran to former American officials.

Alireza Nader, an experienced Iran scholar based in Washington, D.C., expressed outrage at the situation, stating it is both outrageous and perilous that US STRATCOM invited a former regime official linked to the assassination of Iranian dissidents to be a speaker at its symposium, granting him access to the highest-ranking U.S. military officials.

Princeton University also recently faced scrutiny for employing Robert Malley, the U.S. envoy to Iran, currently the subject of an FBI investigation concerning alleged mishandling of classified information. Malley’s State Department duties have been suspended while the investigation unfolds.