Monday, September 8, 2014

The Ayatollah's Health

Today it was announced that Ayatollah Khamenei had successful prostate surgery. This level of transparency from Iran is unprecedented. While speculation about the health of the Supreme Leader is nothing new, an acknowledgment of the Ayatollah's medical situation by the Iranian government is a drastic shift.

Khamenei is paralyzed in one arm due to an assassination attempt in 1981, but this is not his only health problem. In October of last year, Khamenei was out of the public eye for weeks. Some believed that this was due to recurrence of a long term chronic illness. US State Department cables leaked by Wikileaks alleged that Khamenei has cancer, believed to be terminal. In 2007, Khamenei missed an important religious event, and for a while, there were rumors that he had died.

It is unclear if the prostate operation has anything to do with the Ayatollah's other rumored health problems or if this was the problem from the beginning and he will be in better health in the near future. If the Ayatollah is terminally ill, there may be some interesting times ahead as the administrative body tasked with selecting the replacement is currently a bit unstable.

Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani the head of the governmental body (Assembly of Experts) responsible for electing (and theoretically replacing a Supreme Leader if necessary) is currently in a coma following a heart attack in June. The newest session of the Assembly of Experts was recently convened without Mahdavi-Kani, and a prominent reformist cleric and member of the assembly was also absent. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former President, Speaker of the Majles (Parliament) of Iran, and chairman of the Assembly of Experts, whose family has been systematically persecuted, was pictured today kissing the forehead of Ayatollah Khamenei. Rafsanjani may be back in the good graces of the establishment, and able to influence the selection (possibly even getting himself nominated).

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