Khamenei in Process of Picking Successor

A member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts stated November 28 that the assembly has created a “committee to determine the next leader.” Ayatollah Rahim Tavakol, one of three members on the new committee, said the committee will appoint a new “deputy supreme leader,” who will take over the top job when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies.

The other two members of the committee are Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Ahmat Khatami, who leads Friday prayers in Tehran. The committee has reportedly already shortlisted certain candidates.

No one other than the committee members, including myself and the chairman of the assembly, know the names of those who have been selected as possible deputy supreme leader.
—Rahim Tavakol

Check on power? The 88-member Assembly of Experts is tasked with monitoring the conduct of the supreme leader, dismissing him and choosing his replacement.

On the surface, this may look like a check on Khamenei’s power. The members are directly elected by the Iranian public. But each candidate is first vetted by the Guardian Council, a body whose members are appointed by Khamenei. Nobody gets on the assembly without Khamenei’s green light.

Heir apparent: Tavakol said Khamenei is the only individual outside the committee who knows the shortlist of candidates. Even the rest of the assembly is in the dark.

Iran previously had a deputy supreme leader. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dissolved the post in 1989 after a falling out with the post’s inaugural holder. Since then, there has been no designated “heir apparent” of Iran.

Khamenei is 84 years old and has ruled Iran since Khomeini’s death in 1989. He is not going to rule forever. The formation of this committee suggests death or retirement could come sooner rather than later.

New leader, same direction: Iran hasn’t had a new leader in over 30 years. However, don’t expect a radically new direction. Iran will continue its pushy, Islamist foreign policy. If anything, that pushiness will intensify.

Learn more: Read our Trends article “Why the Trumpet Watches Iran and Europe Heading for a Clash of Civilizations.”