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Aides to Ayatollah Khamenei Tweet From His Hospital Room

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By ROBERT MACKEY SEPT. 9, 2014

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    As Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recovers from prostate surgery, his social-media team has been unusually busy, sharing images and video clips on his Twitter feed that show visitors from across the Islamic Republic’s political spectrum flocking to his hospital room to pay their respects.

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    Government officials and political figures paying a visit to the Leader of the Revolution at the hospital. pic.twitter.com/r7TdRK2yQM

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) Sept. 8, 2014

    Close observers of Iran’s complex power dynamics drew attention to video released on Tuesday that appeared to show Ayatollah Khamenei’s contrasting emotions during visits from two former presidents, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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    #Iran: This is turning into a political theatre. Leader’s twitter feed posts pics of Rafsanjani kissing his forehead https://t.co/ew3Q8tOxv6

    — Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) Sept. 8, 2014

    Hooman Majd, the Iranian-American author of “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ,” noted that Ayatollah Khamenei seemed unable to disguise his lack of enthusiasm at a kiss on the cheek from Mr. Ahamdinejad — packaged by the ayatollah’s aides with video clips showing apparently warmer responses to similar greetings from Mr. Rafsanjani and others.

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    Watch the A-jad kiss, and SL reaction. Louder than words. http://t.co/REhe3m0Kil

    — Hooman Majd (@hmajd) Sept. 9, 2014

    Although the supreme leader strongly backed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s disputed victory in the 2009 presidential elections that led millions of Iranians to take to the streets in protest, relations between the two men cooled during Mr. Ahmadinejad’s second term.

    Ayatollah Khamenei, 75, also seemed happier to see Iran’s current president, the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani, in an image shared on Twitter on Monday by aides to both men.

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    President @HassanRouhani visits Ayatollah Khamenei in hospital. pic.twitter.com/1PTelXehhe

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) Sept. 8, 2014

    Arash Karami, who covers the Iranian media for Al Monitor, suggested that the stream of updates from the ayatollah’s hospital room, “in a sort of live blog,” might have been intended “to head off speculation about his health and, indirectly,” questions about who his successor might be.

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    The Leader has undergone a prostate surgery this morning in a public hospital & with God’s grace it was successful.

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) Sept. 8, 2014

    The images published on social media also included a video interview, posted Monday before his surgery, in which Ayatollah Khamenei described the procedure as “a normal operation and there is no need to worry.”

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    Video released by the office of Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking before prostate surgery this week. Khameneinews, via YouTube

    The updates continued on Tuesday, with another image of the ayatollah apparently resting comfortably and reading a newspaper.

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    Today’s photo of Ayatollah Khamenei in the hospital pic.twitter.com/R0hGY9U3vn

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) Sept. 9, 2014

    Mr. Karami wrote that the only notable absence from the gallery of visitors to the hospital room shared by the ayatollah’s office was former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist cleric who was once considered a possible successor as supreme leader whose supporters were at the forefront of the 2009 protest movement.

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