Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is suffering from prostate cancer, which has reportedly spread to the rest of his body. Khamenei underwent surgery for his condition last September, and doctors estimate that the 75 year old has perhaps two years left to live.
However long Khamenei has left, it seems Iran will have to appoint a new Supreme Leader in the not too distant future. There is no certainty about who would follow Khamenei, who has led Iran since 1989. The successor will be selected by the Assembly of Experts, a powerful body of over 80 conservative Islamic clerics. The next elections for a new set of Assembly members is scheduled for early next year. What happens after Khamenei depends on who is in the assembly at the time of his death – but the Assembly is overwhelmingly conservative.
Experts believe the following men are likely candidates for the Supreme Leadership: Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a former head of the judiciary; Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, an extremely hardline figure; Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli, a prominent scholar based in the city of Qom; Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatist politician and former president of Iran; and Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, an influential cleric and an assembly member. Whoever it is, let us pray that the next leader would allow Christians and other religious minorities to practise their faith in peace.