In the past month, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was hospitalized in September for prostate surgery, has risen from his sickbed to hike in the mountains north of Tehran — and reprimand “wicked” Britain for creating ISIS.
But back when he was hospitalized, the press was in a mad dash trying to figure out what was really happening, what it all meant, and why Iran was, in the words of The Daily Beast, covering it up with its “usual tissue of lies.”
Reuters, meanwhile, speculated on what would happen the day after. As Iran’s second supreme leader, Reuters opined, Khamenei has been calling the shots in the Islamic Republic for decades, and he is likely to be quickly replaced by the powerful Revolutionary Guards in order to ensure the country’s stability.
On Al-Jazeera, analyst Meir Javedanfar wrote that the image of the aging Khamenei being kissed by Rouhani in his hospital bed has prompted widespread speculation about the ailing cleric’s eventual successor. With a reformist brother and a sister who defected to Iraq, most of Khamenei’s family – though descended from the Prophet himself – is unqualified, according to Javedanfar. One viable candidate, however, is Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, whose Iraqi connections are well-known – and whose policies are unlikely to deviate significantly from those of Khamenei.
But there may be no need to speculate at all, because clues are already appearing, according to Al Sharq Al Awsat’s Amir Taheri. Rouhani and Zarif are already hinting to the West that Ahmadinejad could return to power – if a nuclear deal isn’t clinched, that is. On the other side lies Hashemi Rafsanjani, the reformist leader who appointed Khamenei and regretted it ever since, and may now opt to become the next Supreme Leader despite being even older than the current one.
Who’s it going to be? Will the moderates have any say? And will anything change once he (and one thing’s for certain – it will be a he) is elected? Taking the internal constellation into consideration, not sure it makes any difference. The people of Iran most certainly do not call the shots. Meantime, the media will keep on speculating!