The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is eighty-years-old. For a senior Shi'ite cleric in the Iranian regime, the eighth decade of life does not necessarily mean being closer to death.
There are several Shi'ite clergymen in Iran today who are much older than Khamenei, including, to name a few, ayatollahs Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, 100, Hossein Vahid Khorasani, 98, Hossein Nouri Hamadani, 94, Ahmad Jannati, 93, Ebrahim Amini, 93, Nasser Makarem Shirazi, 92, Jafar Sobhani, 90, and Abdollah Javadi Amoli, 86.
Masses in Iran widely believe that the regime-related Shi'ite clergy, contrary to ordinary Iranians, live a very long life since they do not have any stress or worries, and have access to the best medical facilities.
Khamenei is not an exception. For at least the past thirty years, he has not paid a penny for rent or mortgage; his residence is steps away from where he works. If he decides to go somewhere, his bulletproof chauffeur-driven vehicle is at hand. His job is permanent, and his responsibility is limited to listening to a potpourri of reports and delivering speeches, without being accountable to anybody.
Therefore, it is next to impossible to guess how long Khamenei is going to survive.
Meanwhile, by a wild guess, the eighty-year-old Khamenei might live at least ten more years.
Nonetheless, the opponents of the octogenarian ayatollah believe that the Islamic Republic, with or without Khamenei, is deteriorating and on the verge of collapse.
The Regime in Trouble
The establishment is struggling with a voluminous combination of internal and external challenges that might even end the regime, while Khamenei still at the helm.
People across Iran are fed-up with the social and political mess overwhelming their country. In the meantime, the regional and international noose around the country's respiratory and vital system is tightening. The whole Islamic establishment is so inefficient that it is unable satisfy people's basic demands and needs. Many analysts believe that soon Khamenei is going to witness the collapse of the entire forty-year-old regime right before his eyes.
However, other analysts argue that all these threatening challenges and problems are necessary, yet not enough, for the downfall of a regime.
In such a context, one may ask:
-If the Islamic Republic persists and avoids collapse despite all the challenges, who is going to succeed the octogenarian Khamenei?
-Is Khamenei going to nominate a successor before passing away?
-How could he influence the process of picking his successor?
-Who are the main influential actors in appointing a new Supreme Leader?
Khamenei Never to Give Up
His past thirty-year record leaves no room for doubt that Khamenei loves to have a say in almost everything, from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers and ballistic missiles program to defining a good book, a piece of verse, or singling-out the best religious eulogists.
Therefore, it is hard to expect him to remain silent on the crucial issue of who will be the next Supreme Leader.
Based on the country's constitution, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic is selected by the powerful all-cleric Assembly of Experts (AE), members of which are endorsed by the Guardian Council (GC), which is directly appointed by Khamenei.
The GC immediately crosses out anyone nominated for a seat in the all-male-cleric AE, as soon as Khamenei suggests so.
Being in such a dominant position, Khamenei might nominate his successor before dying. However, it remains to be seen whether, after his death, the AE would obediently carry out his wishes or engage in in-fighting, rivalriess, and disputes.
Another possibility for Khamenei could be following Fidel Castro's footsteps; i.e., voluntarily retiring from his endless term and appointing a successor.
However, there is no sign of such an inclination, since Khamenei is still resolved to increase his already massive power and authority. His search for more influence in all domains seems insatiable.
Hence, it seems that he might be more inclined to manipulate the arrangement of the GC and AE in a way that they would pick his successor according to his wishes.
All recent appointments by Khamenei, including installing a mid-ranking loyal cleric Ebrahim Raeesi as the head of Judiciary, placing another loyal mid-ranking clergyman, Sadeq Amoli Larijani as the chairman of powerful Expediency Discernment Council (EDC), indicate that the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader is setting the scene for the selection of his yet unnamed favorite successor.
Nonetheless, as it was said before, nothing could be guaranteed after the death of Khamenei, or any other autocratic ruler in the world.
The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Radio Farda