With opposition to Iran's mullahs reaching its height, Iran seems about to have a mullah as prime minister for the first time. Muhammad Javad Bahonar is the mild- mannered, soft-spoken mullah heading the fundamentalist Islamic Republic Party (IRP). He is said to be almost certain to be Iran's next premier. He took over as secretary-general of the IRP after the assassination of Ayatollah Muhammad Beheshti a month ago and is considered a compromise candidate for a post coveted by hard-liners.
Reports are that Iran's President-elect, Muhammad Ali Rajai, will nominate Bahonar soon after he himself is sworn in as president. The presidency has been reduced to a ceremonial position, and Bahonar and the IRP will have the real power in Iran.
Bahonar, Iran's education minister, is one of the five founders of the IRP and has a record of underground struggle against the regime of the former Shah. Like most of Iran's revolutionary leaders, he has been imprisoned and tortured by Savak, the Shah's secret police. He and Rajai played a significant role in uniting the religious and secular forces against the Shah in the five years preceding the revolution of 1978-1979.
He was also a member of Ayatollah Khomeini's Revolutionary Council after the Shah's fall. He served in the Majlis (parliament) before becoming education minister.
If Bahonar does indeed become Iran's first mullah premier, he will take over as opposition to the mullahs reaches a new height.
From his secret hiding place in the Kurdish areas, former President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who apparently still considers himself the legitimate head of Iran, is reported to have appointed Mujahideen-e Khalq guerrilla leader Massoud Rajavi as Iran's prime minister.
The clandestine radio operated by the Mujahideen has reported that Rajavi has promised to overthrow the mullahs.
The Mujahideen have issued a warning that they are planning to destroy the Revolutionary Guards, who are the power base of the mullahs. They have also given notice that they will take action against people acting as spies for the mullahs.
The mullahs, of course, scoff at the prospects of a civil war with the Mujahideen. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the most powerful men in Iran, said at a prayer meeting July 24 as the polling for the presidential election was going on: "You could not even stand against us for one hour. What kind of civil war can you launch against us?" The taunt was a reference to the armed clashes between the Mujahideen and the Revolutionary Guards on June 20, when the guerrillas challenged the guards for the first time in Tehran's streets with guns, but retreated in less than four hours.
The Mujahideen, who say they retreated because unarmed people were endangered by cross fire, have now begun to mount hit- and-run strikes against the Revolutionary Guards in the security centers. The Mujahideen claimed on their clandestine radio that they had killed five guards in a battle July 24 in northern Iran.
That, of course, was not an isolated incident. There have been similar, battles between the two groups in what to many looks like the beginnings of a civil war.
But one sympathizer of the Mujahideen, who fought shoulder to shoulde with them in some of the battles against the Shah's forces in February 1979, believes the summer war has not yet really begun. He said things would start getting hot for the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards the minute a cease-fire is declared in the war with Iraq.
He said a large number of younger officers and others who still support Bani-Sadr would probably join forces with the Mujahideen to eliminate the Revolutionary Guards. "Already at the front, relations between the Guards and the Army are none too good. The Army would simply love to settle scores with the Revolutionary Guards."
One Mujahideen source agreed, and said that about three months ago an Army officer who had deserted to the Kurdish areas had disclosed that some deserters had given some equipment to the Mujahideen.
Other reports meanwhile indicate that a crackdown on dissident Army elements had already begun and this in fact appears to have been the reason why Air Force Maj. Dariush Kherkhah flew his Boening 707 aerial refueling plane to Egypt a few days ago to seek political asylum in Cairo.