Bani-Sadr: back to Paris exile -- this time he's opposing Khomeini

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr's dashing escape to Paris cements a new alliance among Iranian opposition groups. the actors in his flight to exile:

* A colonel from the Iranian Air Force -- many of whose members are suspected by the clergy of opposing the nation's fundamentalist rule.

* The left-wing Islamic Mujahideen-e Khalq guerrillas, who hid Bani-Sadr for weeks in a Tehran home.

* Bani-Sadr, the deposed president, who has promised to help free Iran from "the position it finds itself in."

Bani-Sadr was a fugitive ever seen his ousting June 22 from the presidency to which he still maintains a claim. He survived possible execution with the help of the Mujahideen -- Iran's main armed resistance movement.

Following demonstrations staged by the Mujahideen in protest of Bani-Sadr's ousting, Iran's fundamentalist clergy launched an uninterrupted and relentless campaign against sympathizers and members of the movement. More than 200 were executed.

The alliance between Bani-Sadr and the guerrillas was announced in a July 18 unpublished letter signed by the former president. together with a message to the Iranian people by the leader of the Mujahideen, Massoud Rajavi, who also escaped to Paris July 28, Bani-Sadr's letter was given limited distribution in Tehran last week.

Describing himself as "the elected president and guardian of the Islamic revolution and its constitutional system," Bani-Sadr authorizes Rajavi to:

* Establish a national resistance council, which "will act as the legislative assembly until truly free elections can be held."

* Prepare the formation of an "executive body" approved by Bani-Sadr, which will serve as "a general attempt by the people to rescue the country from the position it finds itself in."

The former president writes that this executive body "shall take up up the responsibility for the defense of the Islamic revolution and of preserving the territorial integrity of the country."

In a message to the Iranian people dated July 21 Rajavi confirms "the formation of the National resistance Council for Independence and Freedom of the Islamic Revolution." The Mujahideen leader promises that "the nation will be kept informed of all resistance activities carried out by the council, other forces, and the different resistance cells from the national, popular, revolutionary, and Islamic movement in every town."

The escape of Bani-Sadr and Rajavi appears to confirm fundamentalist distrust of the Iranian Air Force. Within the armed forces, the Air Force has been the most supportive of the former president and the Mujahideen guerrillas.

Two hundred Air Force members have been arrested in the past six weeks; 50 to 60 of them are pilots. Three members of the Air force are believed to have been executed recently. Iran's fundamentalist clergy, fearful of possible attempts to bomb targets in Iran itself, have kept the Air Force virtually grounded since mid-June.

Iranian opposition sources say that Bani- Sadr and Rajavi will have an easier time capturing the attention of the Iranian people from Paris than from Tehran, where they lived in constant danger of arrest and execution. [However, soon after Bani-Sadr arrived in France, Iran demanded his extradition to stand trial, Reuters reports.]

In Paris, Iran's new opposition leaders will benefit from the Persian-language broadcasts by major international radio stations like the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Voice of Israel -- major sources of information to Iranians now that Iran's domestic press has lost all credibility.

But by basing its leadership in the French capital, Iran's new opposition alliance will have to avoid being identified with the pro- Shah groups of Gen. GHolam Oveisi and former Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, who have been operating from Paris.

Some members of Iran's opposition movement -- taken aback and disappointed by the sudden departure of their leaders -- fear that an opposition-in-exile against the "mullahocracy" will be marginal compared to what can be achieved in Iran itself.

Moreover, contrary to Rajavi, whose Mujahideen guerrillas have firmly established cells in Iran, some opposition sources say that by leaving Tehran, Bani-Sadr has forgone the opportunity of exploiting his potential as a rallying point of resistance.

These sources claim that by escaping to Paris, Bani-Sadr has given credibility to Islamic revolutionary accusations that he is "West-toxicated, un-Islamic, and more at home in Paris than in Tehran." Note to readers In Thursday's editions a story on Iran's former President Bani-Sadr started on Page 1 but, due to a mistake on deadline, was not completed inside the paper. Similarly, a "Pattern of Diplomacy" column by Joseph C. Harsch lost its front-page setion. The Bani-Sadr story is repeated in full here and the Harsch column appears on Page 22. The Monitor regrets the error.m

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.