Amini. though conservative, has been reported to be very unhappy with the post-election events. Amini is reportedly in hospital. Hassan Rohani is close to Rafsanjani.Mahdavi-Kani is conservative cleric, with very strong links and possible influence within the regime; he was also reportedly a proponent of the National Unity Plan.
OK, so each may have had a reason to be absent. But was Mesbah Yazdi, perhaps Ahmadinejad's most fervent backer, not present at a session that supposedly declared opposition "sedition"?
UPDATE 1430 GMT: Let's add to the mystery. At the beginning of the Assembly of Experts session, Rafsanjani said that Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the Deputy Chair of the Assembly was not present; instead, his son was attending. (Yazdi Senior also missed the autumn session, saying he was ill, and he tried to resign from the secretariat of the Assembly, but Rafsanjani rejected the resignation.)
Legally Yazdi Junior cannot represent his father in Assembly meetings. So was Rafsanjani making the point that Mohammad Yazdi, a backer of President Ahmadinejad, is so used to illegal activity that he sends his son to represent him? And/or was Rafsanjani diminishing the legitimacy of a meeting "under special circumstances" where non-members could sit in?
When the news came through, it hit like a hammer blow. The Assembly of Experts, headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani, had issued their statement after a widely-anticipated two-day meeting. The 86-member body had declared its loyalty to the Supreme Leader:
The more we go ahead, the more our supreme leader proves his competence. Ayatollah Khamenei shed light on realities in dealing with the post-election sedition and undertook huge efforts in view of bringing unity to the nation.
So far, nothing surprising. Last summer's possibility of an Assembly challenge to Khamenei is long gone; all "establishment" figures, including Rafsanjani, have circled political wagons around the concept of clerical supremacy (velayat-e-faqih). But then the unexpected:
The revolutionary patience of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic ended in December after sedition leaders missed numerous chances to repent and return into the gown of the revolution. Sedition leaders flunked the Dec 30 final exam and they were removed from Iran's political spirit.
Bam. Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami: your resistance is over. Not just over, forbidden. With that doubly-offered word "sedition", the threat of arrest had been made, not by the Revolutionary Guard or the Iranian judiciary but by clerics, some of whom were supposedly sympathetic to the opposition demands.
No wonder a prominent (and shrewd) activist e-mailed me, "This statement has me worried. And it takes a lot to get me worried."
But then the story moves from drama to mystery. Did the Assembly really put down this challenge to Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami?
The original source for the statement appears to have been Fars News. The Iranian Students News Agency also featured the story but simply summarised the Fars account. However, as far as I can tell, the supposed statement has not been covered by the Islamic Republic News Agency, and it certainly has escaped any mention on Press TV's website.
Perhaps most importantly, there is still no sign of the statement on the official website of the Assembly.
So this morning, we are left, not with the certain shock of a once-and-for-all challenge to opposition leaders but with the uncertainty of whether Fars --- which has been known to create or distort stories --- has been the source of either outright fabrication or the channel for someone (who? take your pick) to "leak" a statement which had not been agreed by the Assembly.
A bit of recent history may be in order. Last summer a statement appeared, in the name of the Assembly, criticising the leadership of Hashemi Rafsanjani and calling on him to step down as chair. The initial reading, given Rafsanjani's high-profile Friday Prayer speech in mid-July standing up to the Government and the subsequent pressure and threats against him and his family, was that the regime had rallied against the former President.
Not so. Within days, it emerged that the statement had been drawn up by only a handful of clerics and signed by the fiercely pro-Ahmadinejad Ayatollah Mesbah Mohammad Yazdi. A number of Assembly members made it clear that they had no part of the effort, and Rafsanjani remained in his post.
So now, rather than the intended portrait of a regime now united against the opposition, we have the picture --- should the speculation of a clumsy propaganda effort be borne out --- of a system whose heart is still divided. There will be no resolution.
Watch this space.