Unconfirmed reports are coming out of Iran claiming that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 81 year old Islamic regime’s supreme leader, has died. An official announcement will be made only after the transfer of powers to his son, Mojtaba Khamenei, are complete.

Iranian journalist Momahad Ahwaze reported on Twitter on Saturday that people close to the Ayatollah were “very concerned” over his deteriorating condition. The concerns had led to the beginning of the process of transferring power to his 51-year-old son, Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei, who currently oversees several important security and intelligence departments in the country. Ahwaze suggested the illness might be a second bout with prostate cancer.

Khamenei, born 19 April 1939, is the second leader of Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1978, having taken office in June 1989. He was previously President of Iran from 1981 to 1989. Khamenei is the longest-serving head of state in the Middle East, as well as the second-longest serving Iranian leader of the last century, after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Khamenei is the most powerful political authority in the Islamic Republic and the commander-in-chief of its armed forces.

J-Post reported that Article 111 of Iran’s constitutions states that “the supreme leader’s successor is to be chosen by the Assembly of Experts, which currently consists of 88 ayatollahs. In the interim, the country would be administered by a provisional leadership council, which would consist of Iran’s president, chief justice and a member of the guardian council.

In June 1981, Khameini barely survived an attempt top assissinate him with a bomb. He was ill in 2007, failing to appear at public religious events, and rumors of illness or death cropped up. Again, in September 2014, Khamenei underwent prostate surgery in what his doctors described in state news media as a “routine operation” while Western intelligence sources claimed he had prostate cancer.

The United States and Iran have had no formal diplomatic relations since the Iran hostage crisis of 1980 when the US embassy was taken over and US diplomats were taken prisoner. Khameini was a vocal opponent of the US. He is also known for anti-Semitic rhetoric and for making threats against Israel.