Shah resumes his long search for Sanctuary
The Shah of IRan has resumed his lonely search for a safe haven. But the former monarch's decision to leave Panama for Egypt is expected to complicate both the delicate effort to extract the American hostages from Iran and the positin of President Sadat at home and in the Arab world.
The exiled Shah, who was toppled from his peacock throne Jan. 16, 1979, has found few nations willing to confront the wrath of IRanians by offering him sanctuary. and the long, 4 1/2 month captivity of the American hostages in Tehran is a constant reminder of the risks involved.
Now, however, embroiled in disputes over medical care and Iran's attempts at extradition, the Shah has ended his three-month Panama exile and taken up President Sadat's long-standing offer of asylum in Egypt.
According to senior US government officials, it was the Shah's own decision to fly to Egypt. President Carter's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, had succeeded in untangling the dispute over the Shah's medical attention. Even before the Shah left, these sources say, the Panamanian government had agreed that the American medical team headed by Dr. Michael DeBakey would be permitted to operate on the Shah and would receive the full cooperation of the Panamanian medical authorities.
What was not clear was whether the Shah's aim in leaving Panama was to stay one jump ahead of extradition proceedings; or whether he is hoping at last to find a permanent home after feeling visibly ill at ease in Panama; or both.
Whatever the reasons, the Shah's year-long goal -- finding a permanent residence -- may prove just as elusive as ever. Everywhere he has looked, with perhaps the one possible exception of Egypt, he has found the doors closed despite his own pressing medical needs.
The Shah would have liked to have had those needs treated in the United States, but Washington wants to keep him as far away as possible for fear that his presence in the US would jeopardize the extremely delicate and uncertain negotiations over the US Embassy hostages in Iran.
Indeed, Washington is concerned that even his move to Egypt may somehow harm those negotiations. And Washington is also worried about the impact of the Shah's presence on Egyptian stability and the country's isolation in the Arab world. Not only is the Shah's presence likely to cause angry denunciations from some of Egypt's Mideast neighbors, but it also sends shivers of concern through some of President Sadat's own associates.
Before the arrangements for American treatment of the Shah had been worked out by Mr. Jordan, there appeared to be urgent medical resons for the Shah's departure from Panama -- particularly the Shah's oft-expressed concern that he be operated on by doctors he can trust.
If he had had his way, of course, the Shah would have liked nothing better than to return to the US for medical treatment. But Washington had made it clear over the weekend that this would not happen. Not only was he refused permission to come to the US, he also was refused lodging in the US Army's Gorgas Hospital in the former Panama Canal Zone.
The Shah reportedly is obsessed with the danger of "medical murder," to quote members of his staff. But, under Panamanian law, only Panamanian doctors can perform operations in Panama. Egypt, however, would allow US doctors to treat the shah there.
Medical needs are not the Shah's only consideration.
Although Panamanian strong man Gen. Omar Torrijos Herrera went out of his way to welcome the Shah last Dec. 15, the deposed Iranian leader had become something of a burden for Panama. The Shah, for his part, was worried that an imminent Iranian government extradition request could cause him serious problems. such a request had been expected to be presented March 24.
However, it appears unlikely Panama would have extradited the Shah to Iran. For one thing, Panama's Constitution prohibits extradition if the individual being extradited would face the death penalty. IRan would have to give assurances that the Shah would not be executed, and IRan has given no evidence it would go along with this requirement.
But, even though extradition appeared remote, Panamanian law required that the Shah be put under some form of house arrest while the formal extradition proceedings were carried on. The exiled Iranian leader clearly wanted to avoid such a happening.
The Shah is understood to have previously resisted the idea of settling even for a time in Egypt because it would take him close to his homeland. But, at the moment, he appears to have little other choice.