DEBKAfile Exclusive: Iran’s supreme rule Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 68, appeared on state TV Monday looking pale and feeble, after suffering a cerebral stroke last Wednesday Jan. 3
January 8, 2007, 1:46 PM (GMT+02:00)
As soon as he was stricken he was transferred to the emergency department of the Khatam Al-Anbia hospital, since when he has recovered consciousness every few hours and can identify the people around him. According to our Tehran sources, after neurosurgeons diagnosed extensive brain damage, two foreign teams of specialists were rushed over from Germany and Switzerland Friday. By Saturday, they had stabilized his condition enough to put him before TV cameras and refute the rumors spreading round Iranian exile communities that he was dead. The rumors were started when he missed two important state and religious events and was not seen in public after Dec. 24.
In the interim, our Tehran sources report the aged, scholarly Ayatollah Mohammed Reza Mahdavi Khani, an apolitical figure, was appointed temporary stand-in for the supreme ruler. Khamenei who used the broadcast Monday to invite senior clerics from the holy city of Qom to visit him, is considering making Ayatollah Reza’s appointment as stand-in permanent.
Khamenei’s illness had been kept a close secret in Tehran for fear of an outbreak of factional hostilities. The elections held last month for the Council of Experts, which is competent to choose the supreme ruler, was not accepted by the radical political and military camps, especially president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his backers, the Revolutionary Guards. They took exception to the comeback of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who Khamenei had placed in line as his successor.
According to our Iranian experts, the supreme ruler has suffered some years from cancer of the digestive system, which recently spread to his prostate glands. A cerebral stroke on top of this malady is likely to remove him from public office.
The Islamic Republic appears therefore to face a period of confrontation and instability in the interim period between Khamenei’s rule and the succession - up to and including a violent coup d’etat by the RGs – with critical effect on the national nuclear program, depending on which camp prevails.
To keep the lid on the threatened factional showdown, Iran’s ambassador to the UN Mohammad Javad Zarif was ordered to deny reports of Khamenei’s death.
These rumors were greeted with joy by millions of Tehranis who posted the glad tidings by SMS. Police in the capital were ordered to detain people on the streets and check their mobile phones for these messages.