A video grab from Iran's state TV showing Khamenei speaking in the fateful meeting in June 1989, when he was elected as Supreme Leader.

Iran's Khamenei Releases Old Tape To Strengthen His Legitimacy

Monday, 06/06/2022

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's website has published an audio tape to show that Islamic Republic’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini endorsed him as Iran's next leader.

Khamenei says in the 3:30-minute tape that in 1989 when Khomeini was determined to oust his deputy Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, a group of top leaders held a private meeting with the dying leader and told him that without Montazeri Iran will have no leader after his death, but Khomeini turning to Khamenei said: "You be the next leader!"

This corroborates in part with quintessential kingmaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's anecdotal account of Khmomeini's suggestion that Khamenei can be the Islamic Republic's next leader. Rafsanjani made the comment to encourage Assembly of Expert members to vote for Khamenei. All but 14 of them did in fact vote to elect Khamenei in June 1989.

The website says the contents of the tape is being revealed for the first time, but journalists in Tehran knew about it for a long time. The voice in the tape is that of Khamenei, telling someone about what transpired in the meeting with Khomeini. His website says the audio was recorded at a private meeting, but it does not say where and when.

In the recording, Khamenei says others who were present in the meeting with Khomeini were then- Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, Chief Justice Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili, Khomeini's son Ahmad and Majles Speaker and deputy chairman of Assembly of Experts Rafsanjani. At the time Khamenei was Iran's President.

Election as Supreme Leader

"I did not take it seriously at all," says Khamenei in the tape, adding a few more times that he never took Khomeini’s suggestion it seriously. "And I was determined not to accept this position if they insisted after Imam’s death," Khamenei continued.

Khamenei in the 1980s with Khomeni's son Ahmad and Rafsanjani

In fact, when the Assembly of Experts was discussing his nomination as the next leader, Khamenei delivered a brief speech in which he said he was against the idea of his nomination "because of religious and legal problems," apparently alluding to the fact that he was not a religious "source of emulation" at the time which was a key requirement for the post.

He said on the election day, a day after Khomeini's death: "One should pity a nation who would have him as their leader. My words will never be as influential as those of the Imam." Nonetheless, Rafsanjani insisted that Khamenei is the nation's best choice for a leader and added more anecdotal evidence about why Khomeini liked Khamenei to be his heir.

In fact, in 33 years since Khamenei’s ascendance to the top of leadership, his critics have always pointed out his weak claim to be Supreme Leader. Immediately after Khomeini’s passing, top clerics were discussing the formation of a leadership council, until Rafsanjani engineered Khamenei’s election in the Assembly of Experts.

Timing for releasing tape

The fact that Khamenei now publishes the tape to convince the nation of Khomeini's endorsement is significant. A series of nationwide protests since 2017 during which demonstrators called for his death or resignation, as well as the country's backbreaking economic crisis that has led to more protests, acknowledgement by officials that young Iranians no longer care for the values propagated by Islamic Republic, and Iran's weakness in terms of security while Israeli agents steal its secrets and attack Iranian nuclear sites, show that Khamenei's career is at its weakest point since 1989. These events have eroded his self-confidence, as many observed after his speech on June 4.

It is this weakness that has probably persuaded him to produce some evidence that Khomeini endorsed his leadership. However, Khomeini’s daughter Zahra Mostavafi and Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili who was present in the meeting with Khoemeini have said in the past the founder of the Islamic Republic did not single out Khamenei as possible Supreme Leader, and he referred to all three clerics present in the meeting as his possible heirs.

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