’s supreme leader has long fulminated against perceived plots by the Americans. More recently he has warned of the dangers of foreign enemy subversions in the era after he is gone. But on Wednesday he suggested that era could be 10 years away, or less.
In a speech to members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps reported by Iranian news media, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 76, said they must be on alert for any political and cultural infiltrations by the United States
Such infiltrations, he said, are more dangerous than any forthcoming economic changes in Iran that arise from the nuclear agreement with the United States and other world powers that was completed in July.
Iran’s enemies, he said, “are waiting for a time when the nation and system fall asleep, for example in 10 years when I may not be here, to realize their objectives,” according to a translation of the news accounts by Agence France-Presse. “But the nation and the authorities won’t let that happen.”
It was unclear why the ayatollah spoke of 10 years. Previously, he has alluded to guarding the sanctity of Iran’s future “when I am not here,” or similarly vague language, in what has been interpreted as a generic acknowledgment of his mortality.
While the ayatollah is not known to have any significant health issues, a year ago he underwent an operation on his prostate. Iranian news reports about the procedure made no mention of whether he had received a prostate cancer diagnosis, and all of them said he was in good health.
The ayatollah, who has the final word over the most important issues in Iran, is relatively young by the standards of Iran’s top leaders. His predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution in 1979 that overthrew the American-backed shah, died in 1989 at the age of 86.
Mohammad Yazdi, a conservative cleric who leads the Assembly of Experts, an 86-member body that has the power to choose a new supreme leader, is 83.
Still, Ayatollah Khamenei is a decade older than Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani.
Ayatollah Khamenei was a leading member of the group of clerics who ousted the shah and severed relations with the United States. He has always expressed a strong anti-American animosity.
Even with the nuclear deal, he said recently, there would be no further moves toward normalization with the United States.