Iran’s Supreme Leader Is Ailing, and He Has No Clear Replacement

In 1989, the founder and then-ruler of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, died and was succeeded by Ali Khamenei, who has been head of state since. But he is now eighty-three years old and reportedly suffering from prostate cancer, and it is unclear who will replace him. Shay Khatiri observes:

The office that English-language media routinely refer to as Iran’s “supreme leader”—really just “leader” in Farsi—is analogous to a Roman Caesar, a dictator perpetuo. The larger system is something like a non-hereditary monarchy. The constitutional succession mechanism entails secret meetings among the elderly clerics of the assembly, who argue about whom to elect until finding a compromise that satisfies the competing factions.

Khatiri consider several possible outcomes, and concludes that an agreement that divides power among representatives of the main factions is most likely:

The Islamic Republic’s constitution allows for a leadership council to serve in place of a single leader. While there is no limit on how many people can serve on the council, the assembly will likely settle on three. The public justification will elevate the reputations of Khomeini and Khamenei beyond human possibility: surely no single man could replace either of these otherworldly men, but perhaps three men working together could have the combined virtues and wisdom of these past leaders.

The political justification is that three spots would permit a power-sharing agreement among the factions while preempting the emergence of a cult figure with aspirations to unquestioned power that resemble those of his immediate predecessor.

Other possibilities ramify outwards from here—many of them violent, and a few of them peaceful. The death of Khamenei will be the Islamic Republic’s greatest survival crisis. It could be exploited to bring positive change to Iran. It could also become a wasted opportunity or a preventable tragedy.

Read more at Bulwark

More about: Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security