The release this past weekend of American hostage Richard Queen has coincided , ironically, with a moment when fellings against the United States are particularly high.
Hours before the young American diplomat flew out aboard a Swiss jet, President Bani-Sadr and other Iranian authorities described on the state radio and television details of what they said was an "American plot" to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran.
He alleged that the plotters intended to assassinate Ayatollah khomeini by bombing his residence, and wipe out the top leadership of the Republic.
The official version was made public only after the conspiracy was smashed and a large number of those involved in it arrested -- including two retired generals. Piecing together the mass of details put out over the weekend, the story appears to be as follows.
The plotters planned to set up a military junta in Iran after overthrowing the present regime. They would then have installed former Premier Shapour Bahktiar as president.
One of the first acts of the new junta was to have been to release the 53 American hostages (now reduced to 52 with the departure of Mr. Queen to Switzerland and then West Germany for special medical care). They were then to have rounded up about 70 of the top leaders, put them up against walls wherever they were found, and shot them.
Details of the plot are said to be based on confessions made by those who have been arrested -- a total of about 300 so far. The whole operation was to have begun with the capture of the Hur Air base near Hamadan, some 200 miles southwest of Tehran. With the capture of this base, about 30 American-made Phantom aircraft were to have taken off to bomb various sensitive targets inside Iran.
The most important of these was the home of Ayatollah Khomeini in the northern part of the capital. About 15 Phantoms were given the job of bombing this target, which one Iranian clergyman has revealed is surrounded by a large number of anti-Aircraft guns.
Another target was President bani-Sadr's office in central Tehran, apparently considered an easy target. Only five Phantoms were detailed for this job.
Ten of the phantoms were to have headed for Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran. They were to have bombed the Faizieh school and important institutions of religious learning.
The Faizieh school is the seat of Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, considered by observers as the man being groomed to succeed Ayatollah Khomeini as the top clergyman supervising Iranian affairs.
The Phantoms were also to have bombed and totally destroyed the Park Hotel in Tehran and a teacher's club where most of the deputies in Iran's new parliament are staying, thus wiping out in a stroke the majority of the members.
Simultaneously, others involved in the plot were to have taken over Tehran's airport and made the runways there inoperative so that Phantoms there could not be ordered into the air to knock out the planes that had taken off from Hamadan.
The night the coup was to have been staged, Iraqi aircraft were to have entered Iran to bomb a number of unimportant targets. This, say the Iranian authorities, was the excuse the plotters were to have had to take off from Hamadan.
In fact, Iraqi aircraft did violate Iranian air space on the night the coup was to have been staged. They overflew three border towns, but the power supply in the area was cut, and the Iraqis reportedly missed their targets.
Mr. Bani-Sadr and other top Iranian authorities insist that the plot was "hatched by the United States hand in hand with Israel and abbetted by Iraq." Lower-ranking officials, however, say that according to some of the confessions made by the plotters, the man responsible for drawing up the operational plans was the Ret. Lt. Gen. Said Mehdivan, the former commander in chief of the Air Force.