The mice are taunting the cat in Washington. It might send tremors round the world. The "mice are Iranian students who have camped before the White House for 10 days, who demonstrated July 27, provoking sympathetic riots in London, and who seem desperate to provoke a foreign incident that will help the uncertain rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran.
The "cat" was the American government and its people, who have suffered taunts and provocations from the successors of deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi over its captive diplomatic hostages never before experienced in US history.
There were signs in the tense Washington atmosphere that patience might be reaching its breaking point, that some bottle might be thrown, some pistol fired , that would precipitate the incident the eager young Iranians, camped on the hot sidewalk before the White House with homemade signs and Khomeini T-shirts, ardently seek. They bow reverently five times a day in Islamic prayers.
A Washington resident who could not sleep snapped on his radio at 4 a.m. Aug. 7 and heard an inflammatory "talk show" over a major station, asking citizens, in effect, how long they were going to put up with the Iranians. The radio host-speaker quoted a Washington Post news story charging that a secret $5 million fund" from Iran is supporting the Muslim revolutionary protest. The information is attributed to "law-enforcement sources" here. It singled out Bahram Nahidian, a Georgetown rug merchant, as local disburser of the funds.
The life-and-death character of the struggle is illustrated by the recent murder at his front door of the leader of the anti-Khomeini Iranian faction here. Suspect in the assassination is David Salahuddin, now reportedly in Iran, an associate of Nahidian. A leaflet circulated by Islamic Guerrillas in America (IGA), to which Salahuddin reportedly belonged, advocates destruction of enemies , including the use of "weapons which can be utilized with relatively no noise factor, e.g., daggers, razors, solid steel clubs, etc.c
The White House sat calm and unmoved Aug. 7 aid the atmosphere of improbable melodrama, while police cordoned off about 30 Iranian demonstrators for the 10th day on a section of sidewalk. Muhammed Afshar from Houston, an unmarried university student, and Rohola Ali from Los Angeles, along with his wife, told a reporter that their way had been paid to Washington by the Muslim Students Association and by other groups. They were protesting America's efforts to overthrow Khomeini, they declared.
They already have created world response. In clashes in Washington July 27, rival demonstrators fought each other and the police. About 70 were detained, and the pro-Khomeini faction refused to give names and were taken to prison out of town. Some went on hunger strikes. Khomeini supporters in Iran accused US police of brutality and threatened to put American hostages on trial in retaliation.
Ultimately, the demonstrators were released and returned to Washington, ostensibly to demonstrate again.