It’s Michael Ledeen, putting some meat on the bone after he floated this a few days ago at the Corner sans details:
Three days ago, Iran’s dictator, Supreme Leader Ayatollah ali Khamenei, was rushed to the vast medical facility traditionally known as “Vanak” hospital (it now has an Arabic name that means “the 12th Imam Hospital”), a 1,200-room facility that saves half of its beds for the leadership.
Khamenei is known to be suffering from cancer, and taking considerable quantities of an opium-based pain killer…
Khamenei is still undergoing tests and receiving maximum attention. It is clearly a serious problem because he wanted to leave the hospital, only to be talked out of it by the doctors. The precise gravity of his condition is not known, but the argument over the wisdom of moving him to his own home suggests it may be quite serious.
My sources for this information are a very knowledgeable Iranian cleric plus another Iranian who has previously provided strikingly accurate stories from the highest levels of the regime in Tehran, suggesting that a major crisis may be underway in Iran.
Big news, as whether or not Iran becomes fully “Ahmadinejadized” will depend on who succeeds Khamenei. The leading candidates include Mahdi’s archrival, Rafsanjani, and his “spiritual mentor,” Mesbah-Yazdi, a hardcore jihadist nut who’s bestowed Koranic sanction on slavery and the use of nuclear weapons, among other things. I say again: the use of nuclear weapons. Not just their construction and stockpiling.
Think of him as the Emperor Palpatine to Ahmadinejad’s Vader. And, I guess, Rafsanjani as Jabba the Hutt. He’s a plutocrat who topped the list of Forbes’s millionaire mullahs back in 2003, so there’s at least a chance of him behaving rationally as supreme leader. Mesbah-Yazdi, by contrast, is rumored to belong to the Hojjatieh Society, a secretive messianic Shiite cult within Iran that believes the return of the 12th imam is imminent. He denies it, but that’s to be expected: Khomeini himself banned the Society in 1983, so even members of the ruling elite would be leery about advertising their association with it.
Long story short, if Khamenei kicks and the nuts consolidate power, Jim Baker’s dream of a grand bargain will explode like the Death Star. A different approach will be required.