Religious leaders are considering an alternative to the supreme leader structure after at least 13 people were killed in the latest unrest to shake Tehran and family members of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were arrested amid calls by former President Mohammad Khatami for the release of all protesters.
Iran’s religious clerics in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.
Five family members of Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s most powerful men, were arrested at rallies on Saturday, including his eldest daughter Faezeh Hashemi, but released later.
The influential Rafsanjani,75, heads two very powerful groups. The most important one is the Assembly of Experts, made up of senior clerics who can elect and dismiss the supreme leader. The second is the Expediency Council, a body that arbitrates disputes between parliament and the unelected Guardian Council, which can block legislation.
Members of the assembly are reportedly considering forming a collective ruling body and scrapping the model of Ayatollah Khomeini as a way out of the civil crisis that has engulfed Tehran in a series of protests,
The discussions have taken place in a series of secret meetings convened in the holy city of Qom and included Jawad al-Shahristani, the supreme representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the foremost Shiite leader in Iraq.
An option being considered is the resignation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president following condemnation by the United States and other European nations for violence and human rights violations against unarmed protestors.
Rafsanjani issued no statements following Khamenei’s speech last Friday in which the supreme leader praised him along side Ahmadinejad as Iran’s new president.
The moderate Khatami called Sunday for the immediate release of protesters arrested in the country since June 13, saying their release could “calm the situation in the country,” the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.