Order on Tehran's tarmac

PEOPLE everywhere surely must be thankful for the resolution of the Tehran airplane hostage situation. By finally moving vigorously to end the hijacking of the Kuwaiti airliner - and freeing the remaining hostages - the government of Iran bowed to legitimate demands for order from the world community.

Many questions remain to be answered about this incident, including the collusion, if any, of Iranian authorities. Exactly who are the hijackers, and which terrorist groups do they represent? Why did Tehran wait so long before finally storming the plane? And about those final moments: Why did the terrorists call for a ''cleaning crew'' - which became the group of Iranian security officers who finally stormed the plane and took the terrorists into custody - when it appeared that the terrorists had rigged the plane with explosives for destruction and had spoken their ''final prayers''? Did the outcome, in other words, also involve some collusion?

Still, one cannot overlook the importance of what the Iranian government finally did in ending this incident, which claimed the lives of two Americans. Iran connected with the world community in finally restoring order and law to a terrorist incident. In doing so, it had to make a particularly difficult choice.

It had to choose between siding with those ideological revolutionary forces who see Iran as the focal point of fundamentalist Islamic revolution, and those pragmatists within the government of Iran as well as the world community in general which sought a sense of justice and accountability in this hijacking incident. At the end, for whatever motives, Iran came down on the side of the latter.

Middle East specialists note that few things are going well for Iran these days. The nation continues to deteriorate: militarily in Iran's war with Iraq, and in economic terms.

For these reasons, Iran needs to become more - not less - interrelated with the world community. The government of Iran still has far to go in fulfilling that minimal standard of regard and respect for other nations and other individuals that is demanded by law-abiding people everywhere. But at the same time, the ending of the hostage situation is a positive step from Tehran that deserves notice - and appreciation.

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