Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr has been busy turning the screws on the students in the US Embassy in Tehran to ensure that, when a decision is taken to release the 50 American hostages, the student captors will abide by it.
Bit by bit since taking office, the new President has isolated the students as well as verbally confronting them head-on. As a result, the crowds that used to cheer the students outside the embassy gates have melted away. And not a single member of the powerful Revolutionary Council now is reported to be backing them.
This is important because one council member happens to be Ayatollah Muhammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani, who is in charge of the pasdars (revolutionary guards).
At the start of the crisis, the pasdars backed and protected the students. Today they would make sure the students carried out any order from the Revolutionary Council to release the hostages.
At the start of the crisis, also, the students were able to outmaneuver former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan by going over his head and appealing to the Iranian public for support. They did so largely through the National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT) system (then headed by the present foreign minister, Sadeq Ghotbzadeh). The NIRT whipped up support for them by publicizing practically every word they said.
President Bani-Sadr has taken steps to bring the radio and television network into line. Recently ousted from NIRT's council of supervisors was Hojatolislam Musavi Khoeyni. He was the clergyman who won Ayatollah Khomeini's support for the students at the outset, stayed with the students in the US Embassy for several weeks, and then moved into a controlling job at NIRT. Before his ouster , he saw to it that the students got all the publicity they wanted.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes efforts to resolve the hostage crisis appeared to inch forward Feb. 14. At the UN a spokesman for Kurt Waldheim said only a few more details were needed to complete the Secretary-General's plan for gaining the hostages' release. In Tehran, President Bani-Sadr said that the hostages could be freed in 48 hours if President Carter accepted a proposal approved by Ayatollah Khomeini -- but added that any snags could extend this to two months.