Over the weekend unconfirmed reports emerged from inside of Iran concerning the health of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Saturday, London-based journalist Momahad Ahwaze tweeted that Khamenei’s health was rapidly deteriorating and there was growing concern about it in government circles. Ahwaze also reported that sources inside of Tehran had confirmed to him that Khamenei’s duties and powers had been transferred to his son Mojtaba Khamenei, who is in charge of Iran’s security and intelligence services. Separate reports were also published claiming a meeting of the Assembly of Experts on Leadership, an 88-strong body of elected clerics responsible for appointing and monitoring the supreme leader, had taken place. Some unconfirmed reports even surfaced claiming Khamenei had died.
Today, the Iranian government responded. Government spokesmen, and state-run media denied reports of the meeting, and claim Khamenei is alive and healthy. “By the grace of God and with the good prayers of devotees, the gentleman (Ayatollah Khamenei) is in good health and is busy vigorously carrying out his plans according to his routine,” Iranian government official Mehdi Fazaeli, said on Twitter. The Assembly of Experts even released a statement denying an emergency meeting had taken place.
Against the press releases and statements of the Iranian government is the fact Khamenei’s last public appearance was on 24 November. It is also well known that the Supreme Leader underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 2014 and is now 81 years old. It’s quite possible he is in ill health at the moment and the government is attempting to keep the news from becoming know.
Given what all has been happening lately with regards to Iran, and its nuclear program, the reports about Khamenei’s health add a wildcard to the situation. If it turns out his health is failing, Tehran might find itself facing a leadership crisis at the worst possible moment.