Iran’s Supreme Leader has terminal cancer and could die within months US officials were told by a well-placed Iranian informant, diplomatic cables show.
UK TELEGRAPH (H/T Robin)- Ayatollah Khamenei, the chief religious leader of Iran, who holds the final word in state affairs is a hardliner well-known to be hostile to America. Details of the health and lifestyle of the 71-year old are shrouded in secrecy.
Any credible information that he was dying would fundamentally change the diplomatic stakes in negotiations between Tehran and its Western adversaries.
The US consulate in Istanbul reported in August, 2009 that a businessman close to Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president, that the Supreme Leader had been diagnosed with a fatal form of Leukaemia. The source said Ayatollah Rafsanjani believed his great rival would be dead in a “matter of months”.
The timing of the information is significant since Ayatollah Rafsanjani was at the time orchestrating opposition to the re-election of President Mahmound Ahmadinejad, who has triumphed in a blatantly rigged election the previous June.
“As a result, Rafsanjani decided to stop challenging Khamenei, and instead is preparing the ground to have himself appointed Khamenei’s successor,” the report said. “If he is successful – though clearly he would face stiff opposition from Ahmadinejad allies in that Assembly – he would then invite Ahmadinejad to resign and call a new election.”
Mass protests that had rocked the regime began to peter out around the same time as the consulate was reporting that Ayatollah Rafsanjani had changed his strategy. The diplomatic note cautioned that reports of his imminent death had been seen before.
Ayatollah Khamenei has frequently been rumoured to have had cancer treatment. He has a withered arm from a grenade attack and walks with a stick. Opponents have also circulated rumours of an opium addiction.
The Supreme Leader was pictured at the weekend meeting Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon, who was visiting Tehran. The family of Ayatollah Rafsanjani have suffered from official harassment, including the issuance of an arrest warrant for his London-based son, Medhi.
Iranian students shouting “Death to the Dictator” and “Khamenei is a murderer.”