Grim challenge to Iran

Both sides in Iran's power struggle continue to blame the United States in one way or another for the situation that has once more brought shocking tragedy to Tehran. But, whatever Washington's errors of commission or omission in the past, the present turmoil is the violent child of a revolutionary leadership that cannot escape responsibility for it in the eyes of the world.

The Iranians are on their own, and should be left on their own, to demonstrate a return to the revolutionary goal of freedom from oppression, internal or external. As it is, they forefeit any benefit of the doubt previously gained by moving more swiftly to the establishment of a parliament, constitution, including America's. These valuable forms have been undermined by the Muslim fundamentalism prevailing in the government and rousing increasingly intense secular opposition.

At this writing no group had claimed responsibility for the bombing that took the lives of President Rajai and Prime Minister Bahonar this week. Nor had any stepped forward about the June bombing that killed more than seventy, including Ayatollah Beheshti, leader of the ruling party and close associate of Ayatollah Khomeini. But the decimation of the clerical leadership obviously serves the purposes of the Muhajideen guerrillas and exiled former President Bani-Sadr, who have been working to overthrow the fundamentalist regime. To Bani-Sadr the latest two murdered leaders brought it on themselves. To the Paris headquarters of the guerrillas, the bombing was "a very natural response of the Iranian people to the crimes of Khomeini and the executions of the Mujahideen."

Certainly the government has given every impression of draconian response to dissenters.Thousands of leftists have reportedly been arrested, and several hundred "counter-revolutionaries" executed in the past two months. The cycles of violence feed on themselves.

Mr. Bani-Sadr, for all his earlier reputation as a moderate in the Iranian spectrum, seems to have lapsed into the inflammatory mode. The names of Rajai and Bahonar were on a list of five whose assassination would bring down the government, said Bani-Sadr shortly before the recent bombing. Do such invitations to violence recommend a leader to the Iranian people, whose very rebellion was against violence suffered in the past? Do the people genuinely support the violence wreaked by their present leaders?

Such questions jostle others, such as which leaders have the potential to extricate Iran from the lingering war with Iraq or to solve the economic problems that overshadow the Iranian scene. Subjects of authoritarian rule do not have the options of action available in a free society. But the influence of a people's evolving minds and hearts cannot be dismissed even under tyranny's heel.

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.