Anti-American sentiment heats up in Iran over treatment of Iranian students in US
Strong anti-American feelings are being whipped up again in Iran -- and dimming recent hopes for release of the 52 US hostages. Fanatical Islamic groups are behind the latest outbursts of emotion against the United States.
Ostensibly they are protesting the arrest of nearly 200 Iranians students who took part in demonstrations in Washington July 27 in support of Ayatollah Khomeini.
But the fundamentalist groups appear, in fact, to be trying to give Iran an excuse for continuing to hold onto the hostages. (The death of the former Shah in Egypt on July 27, ending any possibility of his being returned to Iran as originally demanded by the hostages' captors, had raised tentative hopes of an earlier release.)
Said one foreign observer in Iran of the fundamentalists' aims: "They are afraid of what the Americans will do to Iran after the hostages are released. They've got to hold on to the hostages to prevent any reprisals."
Fundamentalist groups began by stag ing demonstrations in front of the US Embassy at night, after prayer meetings in a Tehran mosque where a group of them have held a hunger strike in support of the Iranians arrested in Washington. On the second night, the demonstrators burned an effigy of President Carter.
The militants occupying the US Embassy, meanwhile, called for a larger demonstration on the night of Aug. 4. A similar mass demonstration is scheduled for Aug. 5 in Tabriz in northeastern Iran, following a call by Ayatollah Khomeini's representative in that city.
The wave of such demonstration is expected to build up over the next few days. Also whipping the public into an intense mood of hate against the United States have been radio and television broadcasts, which have been blaring anti-American propaganda for several hours a day.
Much of the material used in the propaganda a blasts comes from the Islamic Association of Iranian Students in the US and Canada, the group that organized the demonstration in Washington late in July. Communiques issued by the association are read in detail on Iranian radio and television stations.
Islamic associations inside the country have taken the cue and issued their own statements that are also read -- thus intensifying the propaganda campaign.
One obscure group already has called for the trial of the hostages, and the speaker of the Iranian parliament announced Aug. 4 that a plan had been proposed by a number of parliamentary deputies for steps to be taken by the judicial authorities for the trial.
The Speaker, Ayatollah Akbar HashemiRafsanjani, told the house that consideration of a letter sent to the Iranian parliament by 180 US congressmen had been postponed. The congressmen had asked in the letter for better overall relations between Iran and the US and an early end to the hostage crisis.
Said one deputy scornfully Aug. 4: "The government of America and the parliament of that country were never concerned about the fate of the hostages. They are, in fact, thinking about their criminal domination and are opposed to the Islamic revolution in Iran. . . . They frighten us with a crisis but they do not know that we are not afraid of crises."
The reply to the letter, he said, should be sent not to the congressmen but to the families of the hostages and the American nation, to inform them that their government is deceiving them.
This quaint twist of reasoning was echoed in a message sent by President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr to the Islamic Association in the US. He said: "I have repeatedly said that it is the United States itself which is obstructing a solution to the hostage crisis. Again and again it creates problems so that the issue remains unsolved. Whenever there is talk of a plan for a solution to the crisis, we witness one of these games."
Actually, the crisis with the Iranian students in Washington erupted about the time the Iranian parliament was to have taken up the hostage issue.
This was expected to come about after the Majlis (parliament) had given its approval to a prime minister nominated by Mr. BaniSadr. That step was effectively postponed after opposition arose in the Majlis to the nomination.
For all practical purposes, Mr. Bani-Sadr had to withdraw the name he had proposed while a search continued for a man who would be acceptable to a house dominated by the Islamic Republican Party.
Probably sensing that the delay in finding a prime minister could be indefinite, Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in a Tehran address the day the Shah died that a parliamentary commission would begin studying the issue of the hostages that week.
But since the incidents between the police in Washington and the students of the Islamic association were blown out of proportion by Islamic groups inside Iran, there has been no more talk about the commission.