Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during a meeting with his provincial representatives in Tehran

Two Iranian Clerics Say Khamenei Opposes Hereditary Succession

Thursday, 02/29/2024

Two candidates vying for the Assembly of Experts election in Tehran suggest that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei opposes the notion of naming his son, Mojtaba, as his successor.

However, the timing and context of these statements on Wednesday, just two days before the March 1 elections, raise questions about their authenticity and purpose.

For many years, Iranians and Iran watchers have wondered if Khamenei has been grooming his son to succeed him, especially with presenting him as a religious scholar, a trait seen as important for the future ruler.

The Assembly has the constitutional role of selecting the next ruler after Khamenei’s passing and its composition important for the Supreme Leader.

Mahmoud Mohammadi Araghi, a cleric close to Khamenei and a current Assembly of Experts member, stated in an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) that Khamenei has voiced his disapproval of the committee's suggestion to appoint his son as the next leader. The committee which includes President Ebrahim Raisi is composed of three Assembly of Experts members to identify suitable successors for Khamenei and to introduce them to him for consideration.

Mahmoud Mohammadi Araghi, a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts

Similarly, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, another candidate for the AoE election whose credentials were first rejected by the Guardian Council and then approved at the last minute, has also reiterated that Khamenei is against the idea of hereditary succession.

However, Pourmohammadi emphasized his readiness to support any candidate deemed fit to succeed Khamenei, irrespective of their familial ties.

The timing of these remarks and Iranian officials including Khamenei's concerns about an expected low turnout that endangers the regime's legitimacy gives rise to speculations about these remarks having been dictated by Khamenei to tell the voters that their voting will not be meaningless and that his successor has not been chosen beforehand.

On the other hand, Mohamadi Araghi's account of Khamenei's opposition to hereditary succession dates back to nearly three decades ago when Khamenei was not as confident and arrogant as the present time.

The remarks made by the two candidates about Khamenei's opposition to hereditary succession come only a few days after several AoE members confirmed that the committee of three has already made its decision about the succession. One Assembly of Experts member who was sure about the process of selecting the next leader having been completed, said that his name will not be revealed as officials fear that foreign agents might assassinate him!

Despite the suggestions about Khamenei's opposition to hereditary succession, some clerics such as Qom Seminarian Sadeq Mohammadi insisted that Khamenei's son Mojtaba is still one of the choices for succession.

Mohamadi Araghi also made other controversial statements apparently aimed to pacify disgruntled voters to go to the polls for the parliamentary and AoE elections on Friday. He said the Islamic Republic's former and current leader have always preferred non-clerics as President and cabinet ministers. However, five of Iran's eight presidents since 1979 have been clerics.

Asked about why he thinks the Guardian Council barred former President Hassan Rouhani from running for a seat on the Assembly, Mohammad Araghi said the rejection of Rouhani's qualifications was probably related to matters other than his religious and academic credentials, but he refused to say what those matters were.

Rohani had said earlier that the next round of the Assembly of Experts is more important than the previous rounds as it might be time for the Assembly to make tough decisions about succession. Mohammad Araghi also said that Khamenei is aging and most probably electing the next Supreme Leader will have to be done by the new Assembly of Experts.

However, if the committee and Khamenei have already chosen the successor, the Assembly will become redundant, and its decision may not be needed. To be on the safe side, like several other AoE members, Mohammadi Araghi also said that he hopes Khamenei will be alive until the Shiites' hidden Imam emerges from occultation, where they believe he has been for nearly 14 centuries.

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