Princeton Faculty Member Brags About Death Threats Against Trump Admin Envoy

University Middle East expert Hussein Mousavian was a former Iranian official

Seyed Hossein Mousavian
Hussein Mousavian (Getty Images)
January 9, 2022

A former Iranian official who is a faculty member at Princeton University recently bragged in an interview about how his hardline government’s death threats against a former top Trump administration official had him and his family "trembling" with fear.

Hussein Mousavian, a former member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team who works as a Middle East security and nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University, said in a recent interview that the Iranian regime’s threats to murder Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Iran, have heavily impacted Hook’s family life.

"I went to America and an American told me that Brian Hook’s wife can’t sleep, she cries and trembles, she told Brian, ‘They’ll kill you,’ since Hook was a partner in the death of Haj Qassem [Soleimani], that’s how much they were trembling," Mousavian said, referring to Iran’s vow to kill Hook for his role in the Trump administration’s drone strike that killed Iranian terror leader Soleimani two years ago. Mousavian’s comments were made in a documentary produced and released this month by a company tied to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps titled 72 hours. His Farsi language remarks were independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

Mousavian’s comments have renewed focus on his employment at Princeton, which Iranian dissidents and activists have long criticized due to the former official’s alleged role in Iranian human rights abuses. Mousavian, who regularly travels between Iran and the United States, has been working at Princeton since 2009 and has served in senior roles for the Iranian regime. Mousavian’s knowledge about Iran’s threats toward Hook, which the U.S. government has taken very seriously, according to sources familiar with the situation, demonstrates how Tehran has been able to mainstream its allies into prominent positions at U.S. universities and other American outposts, such as D.C.-based think tanks.

"It’s simply dangerous for any university to employ Mousavian, as he has directly celebrated death threats against Brian Hook and has been implicated in the death of Iranian dissidents in the 1990s," Alireza Nader, a veteran Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think-tank, told the Free Beacon.

United Against a Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group critical of the Iranian regime, called on Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber to fire Mousavian "from any association or affiliation with Princeton without delay."

Mousavian "sounded gleeful over the fact that American citizens and their families were concerned by death threats received from supporters of the Iranian regime," former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) and former U.S. ambassador Mark Wallace, UANI’s leaders, said in a statement. They also called Mousavian’s role at Princeton a "stain on the university’s reputation and credibility."

"At a time in which the U.S. intelligence community assesses that the Islamic Republic is working to develop networks for terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland, there should be no room at Princeton or any other U.S. institution for Ambassador Mousavian," Lieberman and Wallace said.

"We condemn any threats against U.S. officials, former U.S. officials, or U.S. citizens," a State Department spokesman added in response to a Free Beacon request for comment.

Princeton did not respond to Free Beacon requests for comment.

Mousavian, in an email to the Free Beacon, said he was merely discussing the realities of the threat. Soleimani’s assassination, he added, "was a clear violation of international laws."

"During past decades, the U.S. and Iranian official threatened each other thousands of times," Mousavian said. "Academics and analysts have always quoted the threat statements and analyzed.  In an interview, I mentioned that such threats, cause harms to families which is a fact. The reality is that the assassination of General Soleimani in Baghdad was a clear violation of international laws since he was in an official visit invited by Iraqi prime minister to discuss fight on terror and improvement of Iran-Saudi relations. I always have reiterated that the U.S. and Iran should avoid threatening and the use of force and resolve their dispute through diplomacy."

Mousavian attended Soleimani’s funeral and maintained in an opinion piece at the time that the murdered military leader was not a terrorist.

Mousavian was also named in a recent lawsuit against Princeton brought by Xiyue Wang, a historian at the school who was kidnapped by Iran and held in its notorious Evin prison for three years until he was freed by the Trump administration in 2019, the Free Beacon first reported in December. Wang’s lawsuit alleges that Princeton left him to "rot" in Iran as the school sought to maintain its relationship with the hardline regime. Wang maintains Princeton relied on the advice of "pro-regime activists and academics," including Mousavian, in downplaying his kidnapping.

"Everything Princeton did and abstained from doing was centered around absolving its institutional responsibility, protecting its institutional reputation, and maintaining its political relations with Iran," the lawsuit states.

Mousavian is not the only former top Iranian official working at an American University.

Oberlin College has come under fire from the Iranian dissident community for employing Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, a religion professor and Nancy Schrom Dye chair in Middle East and North African studies. Mahallati served as Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. in the late 1980s, when Iran killed thousands of dissidents over a span of several months.