"We moved too soon," a member of the Mujahideen-e Khalq, the leftist guerrilla organization told a foreign journalist. He was speaking a few days after the June 20 Street clashes between the guerrillas and revolutionary guards as the Majlis (parliament) was in the process of ousting President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr.
Asked what he meant by "too soon," the Mujahideen militiaman explained, "There is a split in the Islamic Republican Party [IRP]. By acting when we did, we have caused the party to close its ranks." He mentioned particularly the rift between the late party chief, Ayatollah Muhammad Beheshti, and the speaker of the parliament, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.
But the Mujahideen need not have been to concerned. The split within the party has widened in a power scramble since a large explosion in the party's headquarters killed Ayatollah Beheshti and some 70 others.
The official line in Iran now is that the explosion was the work of the Mujahideen guerrillas. The revolutionary authorities have a warrant for the arrest of Muhammad Reza Kolahi, 23, who, they say, had Mujahideen links and had "infiltrated" the ranks of the party workers.
But one source with access to the inner circles of the party tells a different story. The IRP, he believes, has been shaken to its roots by the explosion and a belief firmly held by the upper echelons of the organization is that the blast was groundwork for a coup d'etat.
The feeling within the IRP apparently is that Israel, aided by Iranian members of the minority Bahai faith, has succeeded in corrupting a large number of revolutionary guards and that the explosion was an inside job engineered by the corrupted guards.
The source said confirmation of the concern in the party ranks about the corruption of some of the guards was seen in the recent dissolution of an entire komiteh (an internal security center) in Tehran. The party feared that all or almost all the revolutionary guards were in the pay of the corrupting agents.
Going just one step further in this line of thought, the party believes that if revolutionary guards can be bought so much more indeed can army officers. The English-language Tehran Times, owned by the IRP, said July 8 in a banner headline that, in fact, a coup was being planned for the "end of July."
Inevitably, of course, it was the Reagan administration that was behind the plan. The official propaganda over the past 10 days has been that the June 28 explosion was the work of "lackeys of American imperialism," a sweeping term that can be used to include the Israelis, the Bahais, corrupted revolutionary guards, dissident Army officers, and (when it suits the party) any other internal political organization that opposes the fundamentalists.
But the shattering discovery about the corruption of a number of the revolutionary guards has also caused party members to begin throwing suspicious glances at one another. An underlying question the party is asking is: Was the explosion part of an inside plot to enable one faction of the party to get control of the organization?
There are, in fact, a number of suspicious circumstances about the blast which party members do not care to discuss in public. One was that Rafsanjani, Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Rajai, and executive Affairs Minister Behzad Nabavi did leave the building only moments before the blast took place.
As another source revealed, only minutes before the explosion Nabavi told those around him at the conference that he was feeling ill. Rajai and Rafsanjani reportedly said that if he was leaving they would go with him. The explosion occurred just after they left.
But there were also a number of other prominent figures who had aroused suspicion simply by having been absent from the meeting. These included one-time presidential candidate Jelaluddin Farsi; Majlis Deputy Assadollah Bayat , who gained some notoriety last year for involvement in a plot to oust then-president Bani-Sadr; and indeed also Ayatollah Muhammad Javad Bahonar, now party secretary-general, succeeding Beheshti.
Whatever the truth about who was involved in the plot that killed Beheshti, the infighting among the fundamentalists now seems to be for the post of Prime Minister. Rajai, analysts say, is to be kicked upstairs to become president. He is not a party member. With Bani-Sadr's ouster the post has been reduced to a ceremonial one.
Henceforth real power is to be wielded by the prime minister. Shortly after Bani-Sadr's ouster Rajai hinted that the job would probably go to Nabavi. But insiders say Farsi is also an ardent aspirant.
Both are hardliners. Bahnoar could be the compromise candidate.