Who will succeed Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei underwent prostrate surgery in 2014 and there have been rumors that he is not in the best of health. (file photo)

The succession question in Iran has come to the fore recently with the election of a new Assembly of Experts, the 88-member chamber of (male) theologians who pick and nominally oversee the work of the country’s supreme leader. Speculation mounted about potential successors to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei after the 76-year-old ayatollah underwent prostate surgery in 2014, and rumors about his health continue to circulate.

But ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani put the topic front and center when he spoke publicly in December about succession. Rafsanjani, an influential former confidant of the Islamic republic’s iconic founder Ruhollah Khomeini whose name has come up as a potential successor to Khamenei, said a group of clerics was examining qualified potential prospects who could become Iran’s next supreme leader.

Most analysts agree that it’s difficult to predict political developments in Iran if Khamenei dies or becomes incapacitated. Some suggest Iran might experience a period of political turmoil and increased factional infighting, while others, such as analyst and former State Department official Ray Takeyh, believe that Iranian authorities would quickly name a replacement “to project the impression of continuity and strength.”

There are also differing views about the actual role the Assembly of Experts is likely to play in choosing Iran’s third supreme leader (after Khomeini and Khamenei).

Amid the debates, a number of Iranian political figures have been touted as possible Khamenei successors.

-more at RFERL

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