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Aftershocks of Iran, Afghanistan, Camp David

By Ned TemkoStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / April 9, 1980



Tehran, Iran

Iran, shrugging off american sanctions, has declared a "holy war" on its own chaotic economy -- and, in effect, has left the US Embassy hostages in the hands of the student militants, at least until summer.

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The initial consensus among Western diplomats here was that the Us measures probably would do more harm than good for the captives.

The sanctions imposed by President Carter in Washington April 7 could make their impact felt here eventually. iran's tacit April 8 admission of its sad economic state was seen as one indication of this.

But diplomats feared President Carter's moves would hurt Iran too little, too slowly, while also serving to strengthen the hand of hard-liners opposing any concession on the hostage issue.

Two things, some Western and Iranian analysts said, could change that picture , however:

* Full-scale war between Iran and neighboring Iraq, for which Iran's US-equipped military forces would need spare parts.

* Active, unanimous participation in the sanctions by Washington's Western allies and Japan, perhaps including a boycott of Iranian oil in the industrialized world.

To counteract this latter possibility, Iran's oil minister, Ali Akbar Moinfar , warned that any country that participated with the US in sanctions on Iran would be cut off from Iranian oil supplies.

European diplomats, meanwhile, were divided on how, why, or even whether their capitals might fall into step with Washington on the sanctions.

And although Iran and Iraq continue to sling invective across their common border, there was no indication by late April 8 that they were preparing for outright war.

"There are explanations on both sides for war. For both countries, this could be a way out of serious internal situations," commented one Arab diplomat.

"But I don't know whether either country will be rash enough to go through with this. If Iraq [a radical Arab state] fought Iran after President Carter's sanctions, it would look like the Iraqis were siding with Washington."

The US sanctions, announced shortly after midnight April 7 Tehran time, seemed to sink in slowly.

At midmorning April 8, with relations between the two countries effectively cut, the Foreign Ministry nevertheless calmly extended the visa of one America correspondent.

The ruling Revolutionary Council under President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr met twice in extraordinary session. Mr. Bani-Sadr, postponing a planned trip outside Tehran, met with provincial governors in the capital.

Iran then answered Washington.

"We consider this [US action] a good omen," said a message from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. "It is the one thing President Carter has done for oppressed peoples . . . seeking liberation from international plunderers."

The gist of various official statements was that the sanctions would free Iran for what the Revolutionary Council's spokesman termed a "holy war for [ economic] independence."

He said this would mean producing more and consuming less. The Foreign Minister said it would mean an end to a rash of labor unrest launched in the name of "anti-imperialism."