Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who suffers from prostate cancer, is reportedly near death, potentially derailing an agreement over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
According to reports from the Iranian press, Khamenei may only have months left to live, and an ensuing power struggle between hardliners and moderates over who will succeed him as Iran’s top official could derail talks currently taking place ahead of the June 30th target date.
The sense of instability in the country is new as in March Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the clerics who appoint the country’s supreme leader, elected ultraconservative Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi to replace Khamenei.
According to new reports, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, a hardline protege of Khamenei’s, has been positioning himself for the role, purging more moderate potential candidates.
Larijani is the brother of Ali Larijani, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator and current chairman of the Iranian parliament.
“With so many people jockeying for position, the hardliners will be tempted to prove their revolutionary credentials by vetoing any deal with the US,” a senior western diplomat was quoted as saying. “The fear now is that this could jeopardize any progress we make in resolving the issue and lifting the sanctions.”
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed in April to a framework aimed at ending the decade-old standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
The outline would see Iran dramatically scale down its nuclear activities in order to insure it is unable to quickly produce a nuclear weapon.
In return for its cooperation, Iran will see painful sanctions lifted by the six powers.