New stirrings in Iran about US hostages, Shah's status
The wheels are turning in Iran -- although Abolhassan- Bani-Sadr has been installed in the presidency of the new Islamic Republic only a few days. First, President Bani-Sadr is deftly using his very Persian skill as a maneuverer to assert his authority in two fields hitherto dominated by the fundamentalist clergy: the Council of the Revolution and state raio and television.
Second, there are stirrings -- perhaps deprately confusing -- in an area correlative on the release of the 50 American hostages who now have been held for more than three months in the US Embassy in Tehran.
This area embraces the possibility of an international tribunal to hear grievances against the ousted Shah and the status in Panama at the moment of the Shah himself.
It has been apparent ever since Mr. Banisadr's resounding victory in the presidential election Jan. 25 that he saw as his most urgent task an assertion of the authority that his 75 percent share of the poll gave him. This was necessary to prevent a rearguard action by the two principal forces trounced by him in the elections -- religious fundamentalism and the extreme left, whether of the Islamic or Marxist stripe.
The bigger immediate threat was from the fundamentalists, who have had privileged positions since the revolution a year ago on both the council of the Revolution and the radio and television authority.
Significantly, Mr. Bani-Sadr managed to get himself accepted as acting head of the Council of the Revolution Feb. 5 Within 24 hours, Information Minister Nasser Minachi was arrested and the cleric who had been Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini' representative for radio and television had resigned.
There was pointed comment Feb. 4 on the way in which state television had covered the swearing-in that day in Ayatollah Khomeini's hospital room of Mr. Bani-Sadr. The picture had jumped, and defective sound had made parts of the speeches almost inaudible.
Just who is getting at whom is not clear. Mr. Bani-Sadr immediately criticized the revolutionary guards who had arrested Mr. Minachi, a move apparently made without his authority. The guards are in league with the hostage-holders at the US embassy, and thus with the forces lining up against the new President.
These may have moved against Mr. Minachi to preempt the "purge" at radio and television headquarters that Mr. Bani-Sadr told the Paris newspaper Le Monde after his election was urgent and indispensable.Of the students, the new President said to the Tehran daily Kayhan Feb. 6:
"How can one rule a country when a group called "Students following the Path of the Imam' acts in a self-centered way and behave like a government within a government?"
As for the Council of the Revolution, Mr. Bani-Sadr told Le Monde that it would be dissolved after the formation of his government. When that will be remains to be seen.
A tug of war is likely between the new President and the fundamentalists: The former will almost certainly want to appoint a cabinet and get it working as soon as possible, but the fundamentalists can be expected to try to hang on to the power they have in the council as long as they can.
As for the proposed tribunal to hear charges against the Shah, Mr. Bani-Sadr announced that the Council of the Revolution would meet Feb. 6, apparently with himself presiding, to discuss arrangements for the tribunal's proposed inquiry. (Although the new President has resisted the idea of linkage, such an inquiry is thought to be the minimum needed to secure release of the 50 US hostages.)
Simultaneously, Iranian governmental lawyers are claiming that the Shah, in exile in Panama, has been arrested by that Country's authorities and released on bail pending the presentation of charges against him to support his extradition.
Whether or not that is factually correct, it could be part of the procedure needed to make palatable in Iran any release of the US hostages without the Shah being handed back in return (as originally demanded) to stand trial in his native land.