It all started with a blog by Michael Ledeen, a senior researcher at the US Institute for Public Policy in Washington, who reported the ayatollah's death.
Ledeen, a neoconservative, added no other details than the death itself, but because of his reputation, a cascade of rumors began spreading between blogs worldwide, all of them asking to know: Is it true or not? Is he dead or alive?
In the blog, written on the 'Pajamas Media' website, Ledeen reported that a source has "learned that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has apparently succumbed to the cancer that hospitalized him last month" at the age of 67.
A blogger of Iranian origin estimated that "something is happening, and I hope it is not the collapse of another dictator, becayse Iran should prepare for someone worse."
Another blogger, living outside Iran, wrote: "My mother in Tehran says that there are songs on television, so everything is as usual."
He added that before the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the former leader, the regime called on the public to pray for his wellbeing and prepared for the leader's death. But this time, there is no sign on the media in Iran testifying to an unusual event.
'An Israeli conspiracy'
Practically all media outlets in Iran are closely supervised by the regime and have yet to deny the report. The only website which responded to the rumors was Baztab, which is owned by Mohsen Razaee, the secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran, and which claimed that the report was "an Israeli conspiracy."
And what about Ahmadinejad? The energetic Iranian president continued his trip to the south of the country and did not convey any sign to testify that such a highly significant event has indeed taken place.
The last time 67-year-old Khamenei was seen in public was on December 15, when he arrived to vote in the elections for the Council of Experts and the local councils in Iran. Surprisingly, however, he did not appear in public in order to deliver his sermon in honor of the Hajj, as he does every year. Instead, his office issued a written announcement on his behalf.
If the Iranian supreme leader is indeed dead, the Council of Experts, a body comprised of 86 clerics, will elect one of its members as the new leader. Under such circumstances, internal struggles may erupt between the clerics in Iran, and this may undermine the Iranian regime.