Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is rumored to have been hospitalized in critical condition according to Arabic media reports, just days after a report by Le Figaro stated that doctors had given Khamenei only two years to live.
The report can not be immediately verified but Le Figaro, citing Western intelligence officials, reported Wednesday that the 76-year-old leader, is suffering from stage four prostate cancer which has spread to other parts of his body.
The 75-year-old cleric, who has ruled since the death in 1989 of the Islamic republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini underwent prostate surgery in September which official Iranian news said had been successful.
As Iran's supreme guide, Khamenei has the final word on all matters of state and his authority far exceeds that of the country's elected politicians, including President Hassan Rouhani.
Khamenei's powers include direct control of the regime's media apparatus -- through state television and radio -- and thus he would have personally taken the decision to publicize his surgery.
Speculation about the leader's health has previously circled during periods of public silence from him but in recent weeks he has made numerous speeches and public appearances.
Before being appointed as head of state 25 years ago, Khamenei served as president for almost eight years during the Iran-Iraq war.
In 1981, he survived an assassination attempt which left his right arm paralyzed.
Khamenei's powers in military matters are particularly important, as he can pronounce peace or declare war by mobilising the armed forces of which he is effectively commander-in-chief.
Iran's Assembly of Experts, comprised of 86 religious figures elected by the people, is responsible for appointing the supreme leader and monitoring his actions.
The head of state is granted an indefinite term but the assembly has the power to dismiss him.