Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is now around 80 years old and according to many sources, he is suffering from various physical and mental sicknesses such as prostate cancer, and paranoia. He has lost a hand and perhaps more in the bombing events in 1981. He may die at any time. Many in and out of Iran wonder if his death going to be a major change in the structure and especially the internal and external policies of the regime? Multiple historical cases indicate that the death of a tyrant is not necessarily a positive turning point for the related country. Some of these examples are: Khomeini’ death in 1989, Fidel Castro’s removal in Cuba and death of the father of the current leader of the North Korea.
When Khomeini died, the Council of Experts [Majles Khobreghan] that had 86 members was active and it voted in favor of Ali Khamenei, who lacked all necessary credentials, including the ones required by the Islamic-Shiite jurisprudence for such a position. However, this was only in the surface. The group that was actually pulling the strings in the country was: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ali Khamenei (the then ceremonial president) and Seyyed Ahmad Khomeini (Khomeini’s son), these figures had the military and intelligence establishments, the Majles and the administration under their control.
Rafsanjani invoked a memory of the late leader in which (as Rafsanjani claimed) Khomeini had opted for Ali Khamenei as his replacement. He said that he was sitting in a ceremony and Ayatollah Khomeini was sitting next to him. In the same occasion, Ali Khamenei was walking around and Khomeini (Rafsanjani claimed) said in his ears: he (referring to Ali Khamenei) is good for leadership. Later, this sentence (i.e. Khamenei is good for leadership) without referring to the mere claims of Rafsanjani, was made the subject of mass propaganda for the leadership of Ali Khamenei all over Iran.
Such a memory could remain just a memory if the influential group did not intend to make Ali Khamenei the replacement of Khomeini. There were many important Mullahs and the “sources of emulation” (Maraja-e Taghleed) such as Araki, Golpayeghani, Lankarani and Khoie that could be a successor to the dead leader. However, they were not even considered and instead of that Ali Khamenei was selected. The plan of Rafsanjani and his allies was to turn the leader into their stooge and play the role of strongman behind the scene.
Khamenei then used the heavy reliance on the IRGC as a tool to set aside the “plotters”. Sayyed Ahmad Khomeini died under suspicious conditions shortly after the death of his father, and Rafsanjani gradually was neutralized. So, there was a legal procedure but it was used by the real power brokers to elect the leader. Now, at the time of the present leader, we should see who are the elements that hold the power and if necessary they can select the leader and impose him to the legal apparatus (Assembly of Experts). Who is now holding the military, intelligence and security forces in Iran? Who is the Rafsanjani of Iran now?
It seems that the most important power centers in the present circumstances in Iran are: the Supreme Leader (Ali Khamenei), his Office and close companions (Bayat-e Rahbari), the IRGC, and the commanders of security and intelligence forces. The present Assembly of Experts is even more obedient than the one existed at the time of Khomeini’s death. The present collection of its members is handpicked and screened by the Guardian Council and through the process of “Nezarate Estesvabi” [interventionist supervision]. They are all serious supporters of Ali Khamenei. It takes only a telephone from the security apparatus to almost all of them to make their minds.
- These sources at the moment want a successor to the leader that believes in certain principles, such as :
- The leadership is not subject to public vote and election.
- The leader is the direct representative of the Hidden Imam and he is the personification of that relationship
- The leader has limitless authorities that comes from his connection to the Hidden Imam and he does not need to get the legitimacy from the people
- The leader can eradicate his opponents and those who do not observe the religious Islamic Shiite rulings
- The Shiite experts in jurisprudence or Faghih are in the service of the political power
- In order to preserve the power, it is necessary to use military forces.
If we take these principles into consideration, the pattern for another Khamenei becomes clear. His name is not important.