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July 31, 2007
Key Iranian Leader Dies
Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini-Speaker (head) of the Assembly of Experts died.
The Assembly of Experts is empowered to elect a new Supreme Leader or dismiss a sitting one. The current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is also reported to be very ill so he may soon be replaced.
The deputy Speaker of the Assembly of Experts is Ali Akbar Rafsanjani-a fierce opponent of President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad. Should Rafsanajani become leader of the Assembly of Experts he may be in a position to choose Khamanei's replacement-he may choose himself for this role. Rafsanjani is certainly not a friend of Israel's or America but he is not religiously inspired to destroy Israel or attack America and he is much more concerned with his growing wealth-thus the possibility of working with him (regarding sanctions and Iran's nuclear program) may be heightened.
He is probably the wealthiest man in Iran (A few years ago, Forbes named him one of the wealthiest men in the world) and his nepotism is legendary-but he has a mercantile bent and can be persuaded to cooeprate with America to preserve and enhance his wealth. One analyst believes that the Supreme Leader Khamenei fears the influence of Rafsanjani:
Eesa Saharkhiz, an analyst, predicted that Mr Khamanei might try to block Mr Rafsanjani again. That last is highly unlikely as there are 3 or 4 other powerful clerics sitting on the Assembly who would dearly love to take Khamenei's place when he's gone. And it should also be noted that Rafsanjani began the illicit Iranian nuclear program under his first term as president back in the early '90's. Clearly, if he is to give it up, he will be driving a hard bargain with the west to do so..
"The influence of Mr Khamenei will be very important. He may think he would rather have someone else in charge of the assembly," Mr Saharkhiz said.
The assembly was often criticised as toothless under Mr Meshkini's leadership. Despite the supervisory powers guaranteed by Iran's constitution, it never summoned Mr Khamenei to its meetings or asked him to submit reports.
Some analysts have suggested that Mr Rafsanjani could use leadership of the assembly as a springboard to the supreme leader's post. The position is the most powerful in Iranian politics, entitling its holder to the last word on all state matters. However, Mr Rafsanjani has told associates that he favours replacing the current one-man role with a collective leadership of several heavyweight figures.