Some signs of practicality among Iran's rulers

Moving vans loaded with furniture can be seen leaving the United States Embassy here. Taking advantage of the "no compensation claims" provisions of the hostage release agreement, Iran is stripping the buildings of the US compound down to the bare walls.

However, in what may be a significant shift toward greater practicality in government affairs. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has reversed his previous instruction that the embassy should be turned into a hostel for the families of victims of the revolution and the war with Iraq.

Instead, he has told the martyr's organization that the families must not move in, since negotiations about the buildings are proceeding with the Swiss, who represent American interests here.

Diplomats see Ayatollah Khomeini's change of mind as evidence of a growing pragmatism that is beginning to affect even the most obscurantist of Iran's clerical rulers.

These diplomats point to a number of recently perceptible changes. For example, purges of "un-Islamic" officials in government offices have virtually come to a standstill, and it has officially announced that those who think they have been unfairly dismissed can appeal.

New judicial regulations have been drawn up that have virtually ended the notorious reign of terror under which summary executions were carried out at the whim of local Islamic judges. All capital sentences now have to be referred to the Supreme Courth in Tehran for review, and the qualifications of all judges are being investigated by a committee of the Supreme Court.

However, executions for so-called moral offenses, drug trafficking, and brothel-keeping continue, albeit on a much reduced scale.

Practical experience in administration has brought with it a growing awareness of what is possible and what is not, and lack of direction has been replaced by firmness of purpose.

The regime is having second thoughts, for instance, about the redistribution of land to peasant farmers, in accordance with the revolutionary slogan of "land to the tiller." There is no problem about redistributing unused land. However, Ayatollah Khomeini has halted the implementation of a law permitting the redistribution of large estates, giving as his reason the present "critical situation" in Iran.

These modifications are being forced on Iran's leaders by events and circumstances.

They appear to be taking place irrespective of Iran's political power struggle between the fundamentalist Islamic Republican Party, which has gained a firm grip on the organs of state, an the supporters of President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the so-called moderates.

This struggle is, if anything, becoming more intense with IRP attacks being extended from MR. Bani-Sadr himself to a group of progressive clergymen who support him and whom the IRP considers to be traitorous to the clerical cause.

While President Bani-Sadr does not have his own party as such, the Iranian Liberation Movement, headed by former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan and former foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi, is emerging as an embryo opposition in support of the President. In the Majlis (parliament), it now can muster around 40 votes against the IRP's 140, consisting of around 70 committed members and an equal number of sympathizers.

The fact that such political pluralism is beginning to develop within the Majlis may explain the increasing vigor with which Mr. Bani-Sadr and his cohorts are being attacked.

This group recently has been singled out not only for vilification but also for physical attack by "stick wielders," groups of thugs owing allegiance to the IRP but perhaps not directly sponsored by it.

One of the leading figures, Hojatolislam Lahouti, was attacked by stick wielders at two meetings and ended up in a hospital. Among others who have been criticized are Hojatolislam Golzadeh Ghaffuri, who lived in Canada before the revolution and explained the separation of powers between the judiciary and executive in the US during the Majlis debate on the US hostages. A third leading figure is Ayatollah Eshraghi, Khomeini's son-in-law, a go-between for Khomeini and Bani-Sa dr has so far been protected from abuse.

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