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December 11, 1979 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-12-11

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Page 4--Tuesday, December 11, 1979-The Michigan Daily

Method in Khomeini's madness

Ninety Years of Editorial Freedom

Vol. LXXXX, No. 79

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

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By Wiliam Beeman

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Teddy's sh
B ACKING incumbent presidents
during national crises is a
traditional stumbling block in
presidential politics, and when Teddy
Kennedy wasn't looking, he tripped
over it and fell with some ill-timed
remarks about the Shah of Iran.
Whether Kennedy will be able to pick
himself up, dust off the damage of ad-
verse publicity, and get back in the
race before losing too much ground is
speculation better left for the political,
pundits.
What the Kennedy case does is un-
derscore the precariousness of
America's position in Iran, the dangers
of divisiveness at home, and the need
for caution in these delicate
negotiations.
Kennedy, like all the other 15
declared presidential candidates, has
been placed in an unfair position. The
man they are challenging has virtually
silenced them while himself comman-
ding constant media attention as
the Iranian crisis continues. The key
questions of what to do about the Shah
of Iran and when to take military ac-
tion are questions that belong in the
public forum for debate. But to debate'
these questions openly now puts the
United States squarely at a disadvan-
tage in its quest for a negotiated set-
tlement.
The Iranian students illegally
holding the U.S. embassy in Tehran
have constantly attempted to rally
American public opinion to their side,
to lend legitimacy to their actions By
allowing dissent at home, from our
leading politicians, we are sending the
signal that their P.R. is succeeding,
,and that only strengthens their
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ah remarks
resolve.
Kennnedy's points are well-
taken-the Shah is indeed a vile and
sleazy despot who plundered billions of
dollars from his own country. Kennedy
is right, but his timing was definitely
wrong.
Only days after Kennedy made his
remarks about the Shah, he was being
quoted on the front page of two Tehran
newspapers-fueling the anti-Shah
rhetoric of the students holding the
embassy. Kennedy's words were taken
out of context and printed in such a
way as to give the Iranians the im-
pression that he supported their ac-
tions against the embassy because he,
like they, hated the Shah.
This is obviously not the impression
that Kennedy wanted to display, and it
is not his fault that his words were
taken out of context. And no doubt the
least thing that Kennedy wanted to do
was prolong the situation by giving the
students the impression that they are
right and have his sympathy.
Since Kennedy did not want to do
these things, the best thing he could
have done was to keep his mouth shut,
at least until the hostage crisis is
resolved.
When this crisis is over, Jimmy Car-
ter will have to answer a lot of
questions-why did he let the Shah into
this country, why did he not take steps
to secure the embassy beforehand, etc.
But those questions must wait until the
current situation is resolved, since the
primary task at hand is to rescue the
hostages safely, not to call Jimmy Car-
ter on the carpet. There'll be plenty of
time for that later.

While U.S. leaders are expressing support
for President Carter's handling of the hostage
crisis in Iran, few have recognized the ex-
traordinary skill with which the Ayatollah
Khomeini and the Revolutionary Council in
Iran have handled the situation. The
Ayatollah has been able to take a situation of
potential crisis proportions and, with a series
of masterful strokes, turn it into an event
which leaves his rule much stronger and
more influential than it was before the crisis
began.
The Ayatollah faced several problems when
the crisis broke. First, he needed to gain con-
trol of a situation which was not being layed
out under his direction. Second, he had to do
so while avoiding the appearance of
repudiation and discouraging his principal
supporters. Third, he had to turn the event in-
to something that would be viewed as a
positive move rather than a disaster.
KHOMEIN I CHOSE TO gain control over
the group of revolutionaries occupying the
embassy by slow, step-by-ste encroachment
on their decision-making prerogatives. Star-
ting at the beginning of the occupation, he
bagan to make small requests of the students
while congratulating them on their
revolutionary action.
First, he asked them not to speak of killing
anyone. The students promptly complied.
Second, he requested that the hostages not
be blindfolded. This also was acceded to.
Third, by giving crowds an implicit mandate
to occupy the British embassy and then get-
ting them to leave, he demonstrated his
ability to get people to give up an occupied
compound.
Finally, he sent his son Ahamd into the U.S.
embassy grounds with the students.
Khomeini's son provided the essential com-
munications link that would be necessary if
the occupiers were to come under the direct
control of Khomeini and the Revolutionary
Council.
In the days following, it bacame clear that
the way to control the situation in the em-
bassy was to demonstrate that every move
taken was a proper revolutionary action. To
show the West and the people of Iran that he"
was, in fact, now in control of events, a plan
was needed to ensure that if the release of
hostages became necessary, it could be ac-
complished in a way which the embassy oc-
cupiers would not view as capitulation.
THE RELEASING of women and blacks in
the embassy, coupled with the threat to try
the rest of the hostages as spies, was a
brilliantly conceived way to accomplish this
aim. Although they initially resisted the plan,
the occupiers were lead to feel that they were
dealing an important ideological blow both to
those who criticized Islam for its treatment of
women and to the United States for its treat-
ment of blacks. At the same time, by raising
the possibility of trials, it seems that the oc-

cupation would take on additional
revolutionary significance. '
Binding the American hostages over to trial
will accomplish two important goals. First, it
takes the hostages out of the hands of oc-
cupiers of the embassy and place them firmly
under the control of the Revolutionary Coun-
cil. Second, it will make the action of handling
over the prisoners by the occupiers seem to be
a proper revolutionary action. Taken in this
light, it can be seen that Khomeini has been
steadily working toward an imporovement of
a difficult situation, and in fact working quite
clearly toward the release of the hostages
while demonstrating to Iranians that he con-
tinues to maintain a hard revolutionary line
throughout.
Members of the Iranian government,
prompted by the deliberations of the
Revolutionary Council, have urged the United
States to brand the Shah a criminal, or at
least to agree in principle that he could be
tried as a criminal as a way of ending the
present crisis.
FAR FROM BEING a capricious action
designed to humiliate the United States, this
move is undoubtedly designed to defuse the
principle fear still driving the Iranian people
to act against the U.S.-the fear that the U.S.
intends to restore the Shah to power by a
military plot. Although most Americans
would find this inconceivable, the majority of
Iranians still believe it to be possible, based
on the 1953 restoration of the Shah through the
efforts of the CIA.
If the U.S. were to publicly declare that the
Shah is a criminal or would be able to stand
trial, this would be proof that such a plot is not
in progress and would make negotiations
much easier.
For Khomeini and the Revolutionary Coun-
cil, maintaining internal solidarity within
Iran must take the highest priority even in the
present struggle with the United States.
Despite the extraordinary sense of hope and
optimism set loose last February with the fall
of the Bahktiar regime, the revolution has
largely been unable to achieve its goals or to
establish the order necessary to move the
country forward. Technical and medical per-
sonnel have left the country in droves, and
difficulties with obtaining basic necessities,
while not acute, are foreshadowing worse
times to come.
In addition, popular resentment against the
repression of centrist and leftist political
groups, the reimposition of press censorship,
and the inability of the government to provide
work for thousands of the unemployed was
beginning to frighten the new regime. The
fragile authority structure in the country was
beginning to disintegrate.
KHOMEINI' SUCCESSFUL co-optation of
the U.S. embassy seizure buys him time as he
grapples with several immediate dilemmas
inside Iran.
The first is a continuing debate over the
legal and religious justification for allowing
the secular state to be headed by a religious
authority. A Committee of Experts assigned
to review the draft of Iran's new constitution
added a provision assigning the position of
head of state to the chief acknowledged

AP Photo
religious leader of the nation. This provision,
which gives the leader Shah-like powers, was
hotly contested by the members od Mehdi
Bazargan's secular government. It was
reported just a few days before the takeover
of the U.S. embassy that Bazargan's cabinet
had tried unsuccessfully to dissolve the
Committee of Experts. Indeed, it may have
been this action which finally convinced
Khomeine to accept Bazargan's frequently
offered resignation.
More importantly, opposition on this
question came from Ayatollah Kazem
Shariat-Madari, generally acknowledged as
Iran's principal religious authority after
Khomeini.
Yet another source of opposition to a formal
legitimization to Khomeini's rule as a feature
of the new constitution came from the leftist
and middle classes who have watched him
lose popular support since summer and who
have doubted openly his ability to sustain all
elements of Iran's diverse society.
A public referendum will be held in early
December to approve the draft constitution. A
month ago, the future of this referendum
might have been in doubt. Now, however,
Khomeini's stand in the embassy takeover
practically assures that there will be no op-
position whatever.
KHOMEINI'S SECOND and most serious
dilemma concerns the reconstitution of the
armed forces and the police. Discouraged,
without leaders, and riffled with desertions
and discipline problems, all areas of the ar-
med forces are in serious disarray. Main-
taining simple law and order was thus begin-
ning to become an extremely serious
problem. In the weeks following the fall of the
Bahktiar government, arms were available
everywhere. Machine guns and. other
weapons were finding their way across the
Iraqi borders and were selling in Kurdistan
for under $100. 'the criminal classes in the
cities found it easy to obtain guns, and armed
robberies, almost unheard of in the last 20
years, began to become a reality.
Still, there was continual pres$ure from the
clergy, and particularly the clergy sitting on
the Revolutionary Council, not to allow the
armed forces to be reorganized. The reason
was simple: they were in mortal fear of a
military counter-coup.
The remedy for such a possibility is to
develop a new army-one loyal to the
Ayatollah, committed to establishing an.
Islamic Republic and inafraid to face the
superior military forces of the West even if it
means certain death. This has not been
possible so far. But with the takeover of the
U.S. ambassy, it has been possible for
Khomeini to revive the hope, spirit and
commitment of the original revolution. And
now his new army seems a lot closer to reality
than it did a month ago.
William Beeman, a teacher of an-
thropology at Brown University, has
spent the last 12 years studying and living
in all parts of Iran. He is currently at
work on a book about Iran. This article
was written for Pacific News Service.

Spacey Jane

By Tom Stevens

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