LONDON (AFP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has terminal cancer and could be dead “within months,” according to a US document released by WikiLeaks and published by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.
The memo, sent from the US consulate in Istanbul, quotes a businessman with close links to Iran’s former president Hashemi Rafsanjani as saying that Khamenei had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.
“Khamenei is likely to die within a matter of months,” the August 2009 memo revealed by the whistle-blowing website, said.
At the time, Rafsanjani was mounting a campaign against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“As a result, Rafsanjani has stopped campaigning within the Assembly of Experts to challenge Khamenei, and now is focused on ‘letting nature take its course’,” the memo added.
“Following the Supreme Leader’s passing, Rafsanjani will try to mobilize the Assembly of Experts to appoint him as the new Supreme Leader.
“If he is successful…he would then invite Ahmadinejad to resign and call a new election.”
Ahmadinejad won a disputed election in June 2009, prompting mass protests on the streets of Tehran.
The demonstrations subsided around the same time that the leaked document said Rafsanjani had decided to change his strategy and “lay low”, the Telegraph noted.
The cable revealed that Rafsanjani did not see “opposition leaders calling for any further demonstrations or provocative activities…that might undercut Rafsanjani’s efforts to position himself as a future supreme leader.”
Hardliner Khamenei holds ultimate power in state affairs and has been a frequent critic of US policy.
Any serious belief that Khamenei was dying would bring about a fundamental shift in diplomatic relations, the Telegraph argued.
Despite frequent rumours of being treated for cancer, the supreme leader was photographed meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last weekend.