WASHINGTON — As Ayatollah Khomeini lashes out at the West and moderates at home over the Salman Rushdie affair, concern is rising about possible Iranian terrorism. Nicholas Veliotes, president of the Association of American Publishers, applauds President Bush's condemnation this week of the death threat on Mr. Rushdie. But he says American publishers ``now look forward to learning of the follow-up steps ... the government will take internationally and those designed to reassure the thousands of Americans that are concerned for their safety.''
US terrorism specialists say concern is justified. ``Iran's leadership may feel it has to hit somebody now to prove that Khomeini's threats are credible,'' one says. ``It has the network in place to blow up a book store or attack a British-related target, if it chooses.''
There is also concern about threats on Rushdie's life issued yesterday in Beiruit by the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, which holds three American hostages.
US and other Western officials are on alert. But a number say much firmer international reaction will probably be required to head off Iranian terrorism. Any Iranian moderates, adds a top official, are ``back in their shells now. Iran is only going to get the message if the international community completely shuns them....''