Rumours swirl about the potential resignation of Supreme Leader Khamenei

The grand ayatollah is said to have transferred his powers to his son Mojtaba due to serious health issues. The decision paves the way for the succession, but sources in the Islamic Republic deny it. According to some, the story is aimed at destabilising the regime at a time of intense tensions with Israel and the United States.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A tweet by an exiled Iranian journalist, Momahad Ahwaze, the first to report the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran last spring, is causing a stir.

Supreme leader Ali Khamenei apparently transferred his powers to his son Mojtaba due to serious health problems, paving the way for his succession in the Islamic Republic.

Several media outlets have carried the story, which has not been officially confirmed.

Anonymous Iranian sources have denied it, but denials are not enough to dispel doubts at a time of intense international tensions (with Israel and the United States) and internal turmoil a few months before a presidential election.

According to Ahwaze, as Khamenei’s conditions worsened last week, it quickly became apparent that the grand ayatollah needed medical attention. A long-scheduled meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was hastily cancelled last Friday.

The exiled journalist did not mention the nature of the supreme leader’s health problems, but they are probably related to prostate cancer.

In 2014 Khamenei underwent surgery for cancer. The following year, several newspapers, including the French Le Figaro, quoted Western sources saying that he had prostate cancer.

The supreme leader, who is now 81, came to power in 1989 following the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ruhollah Khomeini.

In reporting the story, the Iranian journalist said that the situation is so worrying that Khamenei’s powers were transferred, perhaps temporarily, to his 51-year-old Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei, who is already in charge of several security and intelligence departments.

Some Western media refer to him as the “gatekeeper” to Iran’s supreme leader and that he has good relations with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Pasdaran.

According to some analysts, rumours about the supreme leader’s health problems are fake news designed to destabilise the country at an important moment in its history.

Others point to the unusual transfer of power to his son, in violation of Article 111 of Iran’s constitution. Any successor is to be chosen by the 88-member Assembly of Experts.

In the interim, the country is administered by a provisional council that includes Iran's president, the chief justice, and a member of the Guardian Council.

However, with conflicting interests and the balance of power are at stake, the IRGC is seeking a greater role in choosing the supreme leader, who must maintain links with the clerical establishment.

In addition to Khamenei’s son Mojtaba, the leading potential successors to the supreme leader are Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, who was backed in past by President Rouhani, and his predecessor Sadeq Larijani.