Gulf cease-fire poses challenge to Iranians opposed to Khomeini

Safe behind Iraqi lines when the Aug. 20 Iran-Iraq cease-fire began, troops of the anti-Khomeini People's Mojahedin are relatively secure for the moment. But the deployment of UN observers between Iranian and Iraqi troops has cut off the Mojahedin from their underground network inside Iran.

And Western diplomats in Tehran and Baghdad say the organization's fate will depend on the outcome of the Geneva peace talks, where the Iraqis are likely to use them as a bargaining chip.

The diplomats add that the Mojahedin are the victims of their leaders' miscalculation. Indeed, Mojahedin spokesmen have repeatedly explained in past years that they had decided to settle in Baghdad because the Iraqi government had promised them access to Iranian territory. The Mojahedin's theory was that the Iranian Islamic regime, refusing any compromise with Iraq, would crumble as the war continued.

That theory collapsed on July 18, when Iran accepted UN Security Council Resolution 598. The Mojahedin claim that thousands of their supporters have been executed inside Iran since the cease-fire began.

Iranians diplomats say this figure is absurd, but acknowledge that eight members of the organization were recently hung in public.

The Mojahedin launched three offensives inside Iran this year, the most important coming between Iran's acceptance of Resolution 598 and the imposition of the cease-fire. They apparently hoped to establish a powerful stronghold on Iranian territory before the imposition of the cease-fire. But their offensive bogged down and they eventually withdrew inside Iraq.

Mojahedin supporters in Europe contend that their group enjoys widespread support inside Iran.

But Western diplomats in Tehran say popular support for the Mojahedin inside Iran is almost nonexistent. Travelers arriving from Iran, interviewed by this correspondent, said supporters and detractors of the Islamic regime alike had been shocked by the fact that the Mojahedin played the role of ``auxiliaries of the Iraqi Army at a time Iran was in a difficult military position.''

Many Iranians were also outraged by the fact that the Mojahedin never formally condemned the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi Army against residential areas in western Iran.

Claude van England, who visits Iran regularly, writes from Brussels.

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