Former president Hassan Rouhani visiting Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei in hospital after the surgery (September 2014)

Iran's Rouhani Talks About The Day After Khamenei's Death

Sunday, 11/26/2023

Iran’s former President Hassan Rouhani has for the first time discussed possible arrangements to handle the situation after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's death.

He told a group of Iranian moderates including his aides in the previous government on November 20, "This round of the Assembly of Experts election, which is to be held on March 1…, is more important than the previous elections." The Assembly has the constitutional task to select the next Supreme Leader. 

Using the mildest language to evade Khamenei’s and his hardliner supporters' anger, Rouhani said, "May the Supreme Leader live long, but as the time passes, the day we would never want to come is more likely to arrive and the Assembly of Experts has to decide on the naming of the next Supreme Leader."

Rouhani added that he had his doubts about whether to register his candidacy for the Assembly of Experts election and that he finally decided to run hoping that he can make an impact on the Assembly's choice in the event of Khamenei's death.

Over the past weeks, when Rouhani revealed that he was a candidate and particularly after the official announcement about the endorsement of his credentials, many conservative media and politicians expressed their opposition to his candidacy although he already is an incumbent member of the assembly. Earlier, a state TV presenter asked the Guardian Council on live television to disqualify him.

Rouhani said at the meeting with his aides that the state TV is at its lowest point in terms of popularity and people's trust.

Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (left) and former President Hassan Rouhani

He said he is well familiar with the hardliners who are currently in control of the government and parliament, adding they would do anything to make sure that he cannot run. However, he insisted that he would encourage everyone to take part in the elections.

Many in the reformist and moderate camp consider Rouhani as one of the three potential candidates for the Supreme Leader, along with President Ebrahim Raisi and Khamenei's son Mojtaba.

Although Iran's reformist and moderates may not like it, but under the current circumstances Rouhani is the least likely winner in this imaginary contest. He is the least popular member of the hardliner dominated Assembly of Experts. From this perspective, Raisi has a better chance to be the Islamic Republic's next leader. In fact, thanks to his naivety, he could be the ideal supreme leader for a country to be run by a powerful and ambitious entity such as the IRGC.

In an alternative scenario, suggested by some Iranian analysts, Raisi is considered the most suitable candidate to succeed former Guardian Council Secretary Ahmad Jannati at this point. This move could strategically position Raisi to carry out Khamenei's directives effectively and potentially pave the way for the ascension of Khamenei's son, Mojtaba, to power.

In recent years, Khamenei has been grooming Mojtaba for the post. Mojtaba has been teaching a much-advertised high profile advanced course at the seminary in Qom and the state TV frequently referred to his seminary credentials. The Supreme Leader should be a learned Imam according to the regime’s ideology.

Some say even Rouhani could be a player in helping Mojtaba. He said recently that the next Supreme Leader need not need be a Mojtahid (a cleric high ranking enough to confer his own religious decrees). Of course, he could expect a reward for playing the part. A reward such as a guaranteed high-ranking position to keep for life. A position in which he could distribute power and money and exercise his influence on the political apparatus without causing any nuisance for the next leader.

Unlike countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Iran lacks an official position like that of a crown prince designated as the official heir to the current Supreme Leader. This raises concerns about the country's stability, particularly in the immediate aftermath of what Rouhani referred to as "The day we would never want to come."

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