After watching in aloof silence for 11 days as his closest lieutenants were involved in a bitter quarrel, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has once again intervened to establish a truce between them.
How long the truce will last is uncertain, but the powerful Ayatollah has tried to ensure the two sides would bury the hatchet at least as long as the war with Iraq continues.
In a 10-point statement issued late March 16, he set the guidelines for the truce.
Prominent among these was a temporary ban on public speeches by President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Rajai, Chief Justice Muhammad Beheshti, and Majlis (parliament) speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Ayatollah Khomeini's statement was issued about 12 hours after a meeting with these four and three other top men in the Iranian leadership. At this meeting, the Imam reportedly said nothing. He simply listened to what both sides had to say. He then asked everyone to sum up in writing what they had just told him.
In the meeting President Bani-Sadr appeared to be somewhat outnumbered, with four Islamic fundamentalists opposing him. Backing him was former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, who, like Mr. Bani-Sadr, is an Islamic moderate with growing support among Iranian secularists.
Also among the seven leaders in the meeting was Prosecutor General Ayatollah Abdul Karim Ardebili, who had played the difficult role of moderator between the two sides and who proved his impartiality in a judicial inquiry he recently conducted.
The inquiry began after the March 5 incident at Tehran's university after a number of "club-wielders" were beaten up by a crowd of Bani-Sadr supporters attending a speech by him. Indentity cards found on the club-wielders indicated that they belonged to several of Iran's revolutionary organizations.
The fundamentalists charged that the revolutionary organization had been "insulted." In a television address March 15, Ayatollah Ardebili said that after evidence from 910 witnesses had been recorded, he had arrived at the conclusion that there were a number of individuals in the revolutionary organization who acted without authority in disrupting demonstrations and speeches of people they considered to be counterrevolutionary.
These individuals, he said, believed they were acting "to protect the revolution." Some were "acceptable people," he said, while others were not "well-versed in religious law." In general, they had acquired the nickname of "club-wielders," though in the March 5 incident they had been beaten by the crowd and had not done any beating themselves.
There were similar club-wielders, he said, among opposition groups.
However, documents in Ardebili's possession indicated that the plans to disrupt Bani-Sadr's speech March 5 had been drawn up to two months ealier.
Ardebili's remarks appeared to justify what Bani-Sadr had been saying all along and pulled the rug from under those who had been calling for the Iranian President's trial.
It is also enabled Ayatollah Khomeini to reestablish Mr. Bani-Sadr's authority in the 10-point guidelines he issued March 16, though the ban on public speeches may hurt Bani- Sadr more than his opponents. He has no other means of communicating with his supporters except for his newspaper, Inqilab-i Islami.
His fundamentalist opponents still control the state radio and television stations and are free to have their political views expressed in the Muslim sermons each Friday throughout the country.
But a surprising ally for President Bani-Sadr has emerged in the person of the Imam's outspoken grandson, Sayed Hussein Khomeini. A young clergyman himself, he said in an interview in Inqilab-i Islami March 16 that "90 percent of Iran's clergy support Bani-Sadr" though they make up a kind of silent majority.
"A minority from among the clergy have gained a position of dominance and have introduced themselves as speaking for the entire clergy," he said.
Sayed Hussein added that the way things were going, "I think the Islamic Republic of Iran is heading for collapse." It was passing through a "very critical point," he said, both externally and internally.
Bani-Sadr's enemies, he went on, were so determined to bring him down that Prime Minister Rajai had once said it was better for Iran to achieve victory six months later in the war with Iraq than to win a victory now so that Bani-Sadr could benefit for it.
Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson also said there was a lot of falsification of documents going on and that "false files are being built up against even me and my uncle [Khomeini's son Sayed Ahmed]."