Concerns over the health of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who reportedly suffers from prostate cancer, are mounting as the P5+1 and Tehran negotiate an agreement over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
According to recent reports in the Iranian press, Khamenei may only have months left to live, The Telegraph reported on Sunday, and an ensuing power struggle between hardliners and moderates over Iran’s top role could derail talks currently taking place ahead of the June 30 target date.
In March, Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the clerics who appoint and can dismiss the country’s supreme leader, elected ultraconservative Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi as their new chairman.
According to the report, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, a protege of Khamenei’s and a hardliner, has been positioning himself for the role, conducting purges of the more moderate potential candidates.
Larijani is the brother of Ali Larijani, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator and now chairman of the Iranian parliament, the Majlis.
A senior Western diplomat told the Telegraph that the West is now worried this power struggle could jeopardize the deal.
“With so many people jockeying for position, the hardliners will be tempted to prove their revolutionary credentials by vetoing any deal with the US,” he was quoted as saying. “The fear now is that this could jeopardize any progress we make in resolving the issue and lifting the sanctions.”
In April, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed in Lausanne, Switzerland to the outlines of a deal aimed at ending the decade-old standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
According to this framework, due to be finalized this month, Iran will dramatically scale down its nuclear activities in order to render any dash to making nuclear weapons all but impossible.
In return Iran, which denies wanting nuclear weapons, will see painful sanctions lifted by the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.