The struggle for control of post-Shah revolutionary Iran has taken a new Byzantine turn. Fundamentalist-backed Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Rajai has managed to get a private parliamentary session to debate criticism of himself and the men he has nominated to his Cabinet.
The most stinging of the public criticsm has come from President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr and outgoing Foreign Minister Sadeq Ghotbzadeh. Both are antifundamentalists.
Till now, President Bani-Sadr has been fighting very much of a rearguard action to prevent the government being taken over by men he described Set. 8 as "a minority group which has extended its control over everything and wishes to control the government by despotism."
Within the past week, he has exercised his constitutional prerogative and has withheld presidential approval from seven of Mr. Rajai's original nominations to ministerial office. The President accepted Mr. Rajai himself as Prime Minister only when the fundamentalist-dominated Majlis (parliament) made it clear it would block confirmation of Mr. Bani-Sadr's preferred candidates for the premiership.
Mr Rajai's maneuver to get, in effect, a secret parliamentary session Sept. 9 may well be a tacit admission that the embattled President's recent courabeous outspokenness has not been falling on unreceptive ears among the Iranian public. That public still is without an effective government 20 months after the flight of the late Shah.
The long, drawn out post-revolutionary struggle between fundamentalists and antifundamentalists, between clericalism and secularism, personified at this stage by Mr. Rajai and Mr. Bani-Sadr respectively, moved outside parliament to the public places Sept. 8.
It was the second anniversary of the violence in Tehran's Martyrs' (formerly Jaleh) Square when many anti-Shah demonstrators fell to the gunfire of the Shah's security forces. That tragic clash marked the opening of the final and triumphant round of revolutionary protest that forced the Shah to leave Iran four months later.
Mr. Bani-Sadr decided to use the anniversary to call a commemorative rally in Martyrs' Square to press his objections to the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists countered with a rally of their own at Behesht Zahra cemetery, where many of those killed in Martyrs' Square are buried.
In his speech, Mr. Bani-Sadr accused unnamed fundamentalists of putting out "provocative, seditious articles . . . aimed at gaggin the President." He singled out particularly those running Iranian radio and television.
"Those who create fictitious monsters," he said, "those who create fear of this or that group in order to frighten people, in fact wish to dominate people. . . . They wish to impose themselves upon society. Such a government is not a government which is Islamic or which is in the Imam's [i.e. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's] line."
Mr. Rajai had taken himself, perhaps pointedly, to the religious center of Qom for the anniversary and so was not present at the fundamentalists' counterrally at the cemetery. The principal speaker there was a Muslim cleric, Hojatolislam Muhammad Ali Khamenei. He named no names but his target was clearly Mr. Bani-Sadr when he told the crowd: "The will of the people is to have a revolutionary, doctrinaire, and united Cabinet.
The crownd shouted back: "We confirm the Cabinet of Rajai. We confirm the revolutionary government."