Iran's `unique' politics?

It was a distinct satisfaction to read William O. Beeman's very fine two-part analysis on Iran's politics and its leaders [Dec. 11, 12]. I have not seen another account which has captured as well as his the true complexities of the situation. Beeman's two key points were, first, that ideological positions in Iran have both a pragmatic role in terms of that nation's strategic interests and an essential symbolic role, not to be compromised, in a national morality play. And second, that an individual's public symbolic posture must be read as a major ploy in his maneuver for succession to the declining charismatic leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Such factors are also key elements in the position of the United States. The posturing of such figures as Dole, Lugar, Bush, Bird, Baker, and Solarz must be understood against the background of questions of succession to a declining charismatic leadership. The need for an American symbolic response to fundamentalist fervor has bloodied two presidencies and left us in empty-handed disarray. D.W. Murray Natick, Mass.

The Tehran regime described in the second part of William O. Beeman's analysis of Iran, in which power-hungry disciples jostle for favor of a temporizing ayatollah in the name of religious purity, risks being interpreted as something specifically Iranian, Islamic, or Middle Eastern [``Iran's leaders - every man for himself,'' Dec. 12]. As an anthropologist sensitive to the Western stereotype of ``Oriental despotism,'' Professor Beeman might have pointed out that what he is describing is human politics as usual; Western courts analogous to Khomeini's have included those of Elizabeth I and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Gordon B. Chamberlain Corvallis, Ore.

Thank you for your report on Israeli weapons exports [``Israeli government likely to tighten its control over arms sales,'' Dec. 8]. As a Jew, I have been particularly incensed and appalled at Israel's insensitivity in regard to providing weapons and military/police technology to repressive regimes. To cite a couple of examples, outside of the current Iran imbroglio:

In 1977, after the Carter administration cut off military assistance to Guatemala over human rights abuses, Israel stepped in, providing assault jets, STOL aircraft, guns, ammunition, field kitchens, armored vehicles. In 1979, after the US had abandoned Nicaragua's Somoza to his fate, Israel continued to supply arms to that nation. Leonard Milich Santa Cruz, Calif.

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