There has so far been no official reaction to the speculation. But "Tabnak," a popular website close to former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Mohsen Rezai, has dismissed the rumors and described them as fantasy. The website says it knows the reports are "a sheer lie" based on "precise information" obtained by its reporter.
On October 13, "Peiknet," which has ties to the opposition Tudeh Party, reported that three doctors quoted by the website had examined Khamenei and said that all his state meetings should be canceled.
That same day, U.S. foreign policy analyst Michael Ledeen quoted an “excellent” source on his blog saying that Khamenei is in a coma:
“Yesterday afternoon at 2.15PM local time, Khamenei collapsed and was taken to his special clinic. Nobody -- except his son and the doctors -- has since been allowed to get near him.
His official, but secret, status is: “in the hands of the gods”.
Reportedly this collapse is natural. Many would like him to move to his afterlife but reportedly the collapse was not ‘externally induced’ [no poisioning]. The few insiders who know about the collapse see this development ‘as a gift from the gods’.”
Ledeen last announced Khamenei's death in 2007. The semiofficial state news agency subsequently reported that Khamenei had been suffering from a cold.
"Tabnak" says the current rumors are "a laughable claim" by Ledeen. It goes on to suggest that the rumor is part of a U.S. effort to spread "discord and disrupt the internal atmosphere."
"This is done so that they can imply that the axiom of unity of the system and its main pillar is brought into question," "Tabnak" adds.
The "Rahesabz" website, which backs the opposition Green Movement, has noted the rumors and reported that similar rumors have circulated on and off for some 15 years. There have been various reports asserting that Khamenei suffers from cancer.
The website notes that in closed societies such as Iran, reliable information about the health of the leaders is difficult to come by.
"Rahesabz" goes on to say that even groups who oppose the Islamic establishment are worried about unpredictable events that could follow his death. The most worrisome outcome under that scenario has the Revolutionary Guard taking full control of the country in the event of Khamenei's death.
Khamenei last appeared in public on October 7, during a trip to northern Iran.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari