Khamenei Is Dying. Three Radicals Tabbed as Successors – to Obama’s Chagrin

Iran’s supreme leader 76 years-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s health is in rapid decline. The prostate cancer he is suffering from is spreading to other internal organs.
Back in February, Khamenei asked the Assembly of Experts to ignore personal interests when choosing his successor. That was the first clue from Tehran that the journey to choose Iran’s next leader had begun.
Then, this week, the ex-Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, revealed secret negotiations underway with hundreds of candidates for the top post.
In addition, Imam of Friday Prayers Ahmad Khatami disclosed that a “top secret” committee is indeed studying candidates and reporting back to Khamenei.
DEBKA Weekly’s Iranian and intelligence sources say that the process is already much further advanced than Rafsanjani and Khatami would have us believe and has been fined down to three candidates for the succession.
All are ultra-radicals.
Their top-secret names are revealed here for the first time.
Grand Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, 68, is First Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Assembly of Experts. He is also an Iraqi citizen and a former member of Iraq’s Islamic Shiite Dawa, the party of two Iraqi prime ministers, Nuri al-Maliki in the past and the incumbent Haider al-Abadi.
In Tehran, Shahroudi is a close crony of the ailing supreme leader and a staunch supporter of the hard-line Revolutionary Guards.
What makes this extremist an even more tempting candidate for the pinnacle of Iran’s ruling hierarchy is that Shahroudi is the go-to religious figure for the Shiite heads of government in Baghdad. His appointment would foster the affinity between the two capitals – or even the leanings towards unification of the two neighbors under the flag of radical Shiite Islam
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, 91, was elected on May 24 as head of the fifth Assembly of Experts for the next two years by 51 votes out of 86, after beating the former head of the Council of Experts, the pragmatic rival of Khamenei, Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Jannati has been a member of the Guardian Council since 1980. Close to Shiite Iran’s Islamic fundamentalists, he was co-founder of the prestigious Haghani School and a strong influence on the former firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This ayatollah is on record as praising Iran’s judges In a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran on Jan. 29, 2010, for the executions of political dissidents and urging the executions to continue until all anti-regime opposition protests came to an end.
In another Friday prayer sermon, he said: “God ordered the prophet Muhammad to brutally slay hypocrites and ill-intentioned people who stuck to their convictions. Koran insistently orders such deaths. May God not forgive anyone showing leniency toward the corrupt on Earth.”
Jannati is a very close ally of the hard-line Revolutionary Guards Corps, which he holds up as the mainstay of the regime and disseminator of the Iranian revolution throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. He is an avid advocate of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Ahmad Khatami, 56, the Imam of Friday Prayers, was born in the city of Semnan, and studied at seminaries in Qom and his home town.
In 2006, when Pope Benedict XVI raised a furor by a speech that challenged the morality and humanity of Islam, Khatami demanded that the Pope "fall on his knees before a senior Muslim cleric and try to understand Islam.”
In 2007, he justified the death sentence passed against the writer Salman Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Revolutionary Republic, as “a revolutionary fatwa of Imam [Khomeini] “ which “is still alive and cannot be changed."
He denounced opposition protesters against the 2009 Iranian election results “for waging war against God” – a capital crime in Islamic law. More recently he denounced reformist presidential candidates as "leaders of sedition.”
Like Jannati, Khatami is closely allied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an outspoken advocate of Iran retaining its nuclear option.
One of President Barack Obama’s most compelling arguments in favor of compromise for the sake of concluding a nuclear accord with Iran was the claim that Ayatollah Khamenei had authorized President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Muhamad Jawad Zarif to sign it, on the understanding that it would be upheld by the supreme leader’s liberal-minded successor, who would go forward to promote Iranian ties with America and the West at large.
In the event, this hope is proving to be a pipe dream. Not only has President Rouhani avoided signing the nuclear deal, but all the candidates to succeed Khamenei – Shahroudi, Jannati or Khatami – represent a far cry from fulfilling any of Obama’s hopes.

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