According to observers, Iran’s religious leaders are at a loss on how to end large-scale anti-government demonstrations because of disagreements over security measures and high-level wrangling over who would succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
New speculations regarding the 83-year-old supreme leader’s failing health have coincided with the widespread uproar over the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in moral police detention, endangering Iran’s religious establishment.
Although the 86-member Assembly of Experts will, in principle, elect the next ruler, influence-gambling has already started, making it hard for the governing clerics to agree on a set of security measures.
The leadership is in chaos because of this campaign. An escalating conflict is the last thing the country needs right now, according to a hard-liner official. The continuation of the Islamic Republic is currently the foremost concern.
His son Mojtaba and President Ebrahim Raisi are the two contenders widely regarded as the front-runners to succeed Khamenei. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, declared that neither had widespread support. But repression, not popular support, keeps the Islamic Republic in power, and both men have extensive experience with repression.
Few Iranians accept the government’s story that a coalition of “anarchists, terrorists, and foreign opponents” is behind the unrest, which has now extended to 80 cities around the country.