Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Assembly of Experts Convening?

Reports from Qom, the seat of Iran’s senior Shia ayatollahs, indicate that at least half of the members of the Assembly of Experts, comprising of many of the senior clerics, are willing to convene a session of the Assembly in the light of recent developments in the country. The Assembly, headed by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, has the constitutional power of naming the supreme leader.

It is widely believed in Qom that the recent “coup” against Mir Hossein Mousavi, the presumed winner of the disputed presidential election, was orchestrated by the office of the supreme leader, specifically by Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba. The members of Khamenei’s household and his private office have been concerned with the health of Ayatollah Khamenei, believe to suffer from lung cancer. The election of an independently-minded president like Mousavi would have diminished the power and influence of Khamenei’s office in naming a successor acceptable to them in the event of his death.

When Ayatollah Khomeini died twenty years ago, his office led by his son, Ahmad Khomeini, was kept out of the selection process for the new leader and after the ascension of Khamenei, Ahmad’s political standing went down rapidly. Mojtaba Khamenei did not wish to see a repeat of that experience. He wanted to control the selection process and even be named as successor himself. A power grab to transform the Islamic Republic into an Islamic Caliphate, with the new imams linked by blood to the deceased one, preferably their sons.

Mousavi in a letter distributed yesterday makes an important observation on the underlying reason for the way Khamenei’s office behaved after Mousavi emerged as the winner: “The issue was not centered around the election itself, but was centered around institutionalizing a new system of government.”

The reports that at least half the members of the Assembly of Experts are willing to convene an extraordinary session of the Assembly indicates that many senior clerics are uneasy with the way Khamenei’s office had intervened in the election process. They are also concerned with the future of the system and might want to make changes to the office of supreme leader and the leader selection process to prevent a power grab by the circle of relatives and advisers around Khamanei.

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