An opponent of Iran’s government – who had to flee the country – has warned that the country's top generals are lining up a replacement for the aging Ayatollah Khamenei – and he could be just like North Korea's feared leader.
Speaking to Daily Star, dissident and defence expert Babak Taghvaee said: "They are thinking about a young Ayatollah, Khamenei's son Mojtaba, who is only 48."
And Taghvaee warns that this is a big danger for the West and Iran's neighbours.
"The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the country's military leadership, has a long-term plan for a nuclear bomb," he said. "Or at least, nuclear ballistic missiles similar to those in North Korea."
With the support of the IRGC, Mojtaba's route to power seems assured.
Ayatollah Khamenei, 78, has been the Iranian Republic’s head of state since the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini – who spearheaded the 1979 revolution – in 1989.
“After [Khamenei] dies, Iran will be like North Korea,” Taghvaee explains.
Not much is known about the Ayatollah's second son Mojtaba – but in 2009 a source said that Mojtaba had been responsible for the suppressing of anti-government protests following that year's disputed election.
The source claimed he had covertly led street militias – or "basijis" – against the protesters, resulting in the deaths of 38 people.
Taghvaee warns that Iran’s nuclear programme could be stepped up a gear in the wake of the war with ISIS coming to an end in Syria.
“Iran’s air force is weak,” he said.
“It’s very old – it can’t protect the regime. So they need nuclear ballistic missiles to do this instead.
“Temporarily, the regime decided to stop this nuclear programme in order to concentrate on their plans in the Middle East – in Iraq and Syria. But now they are returning to their nuclear ambitions.”
Iran’s regime has faced a triple wave of protests in recent months, including from women’s groups and opponents of the strict form of Shia Islam practiced by the government.
As protests grow, last week a US Congressman warned the Iranian regime that its “days were numbered”.
Taghvaee has said that it isn’t certain what will take the place of the Islamic regime if and when it falls, but he knows what it is that the people don’t want.
“If you watch clips of the protests and hear what the people are chanting, it’s clear that they want something non-Islamic,” he said.
“They are fed up with the Islamic regime. They are fed up with the Mullahs, they are fed up with the Ayatollahs.
“These protesters want something nationalist, and they want something secular in the form of a republic or a constitutional monarchy like the UK."
But Taghvaee warns that, as long as the IRGC still hold the reins of power in Iran, then the country will – like North Korea – become a greater and greater threat to its neighbours and to the wider world.
Last month an Iranian general threatened to “open the gates of hell” and attack US bases in Syria after the country’s military installations were attacked in retaliation for the shooting down of an Israeli fighter jet.
With a young protégé who the IRGC can mould, Taghvaee warns that the next few years could be incredibly dangerous.