Spy services world wide have been mystified by the unusual absence from public view of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for nearly three weeks. He was last seen in public on Oct. 5 visiting the military college in Tehran with army chiefs.
According to one theory, he suffered a relapse from a chronic ailment and was secretly treated in the small hospital installed at his home. Another suggested he had gone into seclusion to escape the furor raging in his regime over the future of Iran’s nuclear program and relations wit the United States.
This dissonance erupted most recently in conflicting statements issued Friday, Oct. 26: One official reported that 20 percent uranium enrichment had been halted – only to be contradicted by another.
Khamenei can’t just drop out of sight unnoticed like some other world leaders because he routinely officiates at a heavy schedule of political and religious events.
His absence was widely remarked, when he failed, for instance, to deliver the keynote sermon at the annual Eid, Festival of the Sacrifice, two weeks ago, with explanation.
Neither did he send his usual message to this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca.
Indeed, the Shiite pilgrims abstained from demonstrations in closed tents during the hajj, an arrangement permitted under an agreement with the Saudi authorities after years of violent outbreaks.
And finally, no messages or blessings came from the supreme leader – not just for Eid but for Ghadir, a most important festival on the Shiite calendar. It is a celebration of the Shiite belief that Prophet Muhammad anointed Ali as his successor before a large assembly of the faithful – a claim repudiated by Sunni Muslims.
The rumor that Khamenei was undergoing life-saving medical treatment in the privacy of his home was, according to debkafile’s Iranian sources, denied by recent visitors who found him to be in good health and active. They said he had gone into seclusion by choice, to immerse himself in the final evaluation and drafting of the trilateral US-Russian-Iranian accord for resolving the issues of Iran’s nuclear program.
They add that this accord is already secretly in the bag. But the three leaders have decided not to break the news too abruptly. President Barack Obama is expected to announce publicly in the third week of December that an initial understanding has been reached on the road toward a partial and gradual accord. Ayatollah Khamenei and President Vladimir Putin are planning to drop word of a final agreement unfolding in stages, to avoid shock effects in Tehran as well as in other concerned Middle East capitals, such as Jerusalem and Riyadh.