A 20-minute video clip showing an emergency closed-door session of the Assembly of Experts choosing a mid-ranking clergy, Ali Khamenei as the successor of ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini has been leaked for the first time.
A copy of the video reviewed by Radio Farda, shows that contrary to what was earlier believed, Ali Khamenei was assigned to serve as a “caretaker” of the Islamic Republic’s leadership for a limited one-year period, after which the country’s leadership will be transferred to a council with members elected through a referendum.
In a speech in the same session on June 3, 1989, Khamenei admits that he is not qualified for the leadership of the Islamic Republic. “First of all, we should shed tears of blood wailing for the Islamic society that has been forced to even propose me” to serve as a caretaker of the country’s leadership.
Khamenei, then a “hojjat ol-Islam” – and not a higher ranking ayatollah- insists that offering him the job, even as a caretaker, “…is technically and fundamentally undoable and against the law. I have already categorically told his eminence, ayatollah [Akbar] Hashemi [Rafsanjani who was chairing the session], I will not accept such an offer”.
Furthermore, Khamenei emphasizes that offering the caretaker job is against the Islamic Republic’s Constitution which requires the Leader to be a “marja’”, or a grand Ayatollah publicly accepted as Shi’ites’ source of emulation.
“Regardless of the fact that I do not truly deserve to occupy such a position, installing me as the caretaker has technical problems. [My] leadership would be formal [and only on paper], not a real one. Well, based on the Constitution, I am not qualified for the job and from religious point of view, many of you [all clergy members of the Assembly of Experts] will not accept my words as those of a leader. What sort of leadership this will be? “
Moreover, Khamenei quite explicitly argues that many of the members of the assembly are senior clergymen who will never approve his [a mid-ranking cleric’s] decision as the final word.
The members remind Khamenei that the offer is limited to one year and he is supposed to take over as a temporary leader.
At the end, ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairing the session, argues that Khamenei is qualified for addressing social problems and tackling “religious affairs” with “a little help” from “others”.
It is widely believed that Rafsanjani helped Khamenei get elected as Supreme Leader, because he probably thought he could control a relatively low-ranking clergyman, weak in religious credentials.
Declaring the end of debates, Hashemi Rafsanjani calls the members to stand up if they approve Khamenei as a temporary leader until the permanent leadership is elected through a “referendum”. Hashemi Rafsanjani is the first to stand up and most of the members follow suit.
The Assembly of Experts is the deliberative body empowered to designate and dismiss the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.
It is not known how the video has reached an Iranian journalist in exile, who has released it on social media.
If this is a deliberate leak, the timing is quite interesting at a time when widespread protests in Iran have created a dangerous uncertainty for the regime.