Rumors that Khamenei has cancer have circulated since 2009, but a WikiLeaks document, quoted by the French daily LeMonde, revealed a diplomatic cable to the United States.
The cable is based on a report from a businessman – not from Iran – who learned of the Ayatollah’s disease from a contact in Iran. It was dated August 2009, when reports based on rumors stated that Khamenei collapsed, was taken to his special clinic, and that no one except his son and the doctors were allowed to visit.
However, expectations that he would die in several months, as indicated the leaked cable, were not fulfilled.
The death of the supreme Muslim ruler, who is superior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could spark an uprising against the Iranian regime - a scenario that Israel and the United States have been hoping for.
One blog on Iranian.com reported last year that billions of dollars were moved to Turkey to ensure the funds would be available to Khameni's family in case they have to flee Iran in the face of a revolution.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards and riot police violently subdued a growing street revolution in June 2009, when Ahmadinejad won re-election in voting whose results were widely considered to be fraudulent.
The source for the WikiLeaks report also told U.S. officials that former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, a leading critic of Ahmadinejad, was preparing himself to be a successor.