Behind the imposing walls of Cairo's Kubbeh Palace, the family and some friends of the late Shah of Iran secretly have been mapping the revival of the Peacock Throne, the monitor has learned.
But these exiled Iranians face mounting obstacles on all sides, not the least of which is Iraq's invasion of Iran, sources close to the Shah's family report.
First indication of how serious these problems are could come Oct. 31. That is when one-time Crown Prince Reza, the Shah's oldest surviving son and now a student at American University of Cairo, turns 20 year old. that would make him of age to rule Iran under the 1906 Constitution torn up with the February 1979 revolutionary triumph of Ayatollah Khoneini.
The deposed royal household has confirmed that Prince Reza will be proclaimed the new Shah of Iran on Friday, in succession to his late father. He will send a message to the people of Iran at that time.
But there were behind-the-scenes reports of sharp differences of opinion within the household.empress Farah, widow of the Shah, and Princess Ashraf, the Shah's sister, were said to have disagreed about the succession proclamtion.
Meanwhile ceremony would be held on the Prince's birthday on Friday.
Not many months ago, many iranian dissidents were understood to view Prince Reza's birthday as the proper occasion to declare publicly a government-in-exile around him and to launch a full-scale drive to unseat the Ayatollah.
But if the idea still stands, Prince Reza surely isn't showing it. Classmates at the American University told this reporter earlier in October he was acting instead like a young man who would just as soon be a student as a king of kings.
His relatives and other would-be Iranians allies, meanwhile, seem beset by internal disputes, by a shortage of practical international backing, by the revolutionary regime's defeat of an apparent coup bid in early July, and by Iraq's September invasion of Iran.
The Iraqi attack was seen here as reuniting many Iranians around the Ayatollah and undercutting the dissident exiles, many of whom had been happily playing up their backing from Iraq in the weeks and months before the war.
Egyptian officials also note that the Gulf war may have trimmed the enthusiasm of Egypt's President Sadat -- who defiantly offered the Shah a haven when others would not -- for immediate backing of a coup attempt against the Ayatollah's regime. It was Mr. Sadat who tenderly addressed Prince Reza as "my son" at the former Shah's funeral, and who has made no secret in the past of his appetite for unseating Tehran's "lunatic" Ayatollah.
Now equally concerned over the prospect of a strenghtened (anti-Egyptian) regime in Iraq, however, Egyptian officials say Mr. Sadat seems to have decided it is time to take a step back from the Iranian power dispute and from the Gulf war. He is seen as hoping instead the Ayatollah and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein end up weakening each other, while Egypt, the US, and moderate Arab oil regimes such as Saudi Arabia are drawn closer together.
The lack so far of any outright victor in the Gulf war, analyst here argue, has also called into question how much help Iraq either can or will provide in any serious attempt by Iranian exiles to topple the current Tehran regime.
Meanwhile, the story of the exiles' moves to restore the Iranian monarchy reads something like a dime-store political thriller. AMong the protagonists mentioned by Egyptian officials, diplomats, and Kubbeh Palace sources are the Empress Farah; Princess Ashraf; Ardeshir Zahedi, one-time iranian ambassador to the US, and son-in-law of the late monarch; former Iranian Army commander Gen. Gholam Oveissi; 1960s Premier Ali Amini; and the monarchy's last prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar.
As various sources tell the story, Empress Farah has long been meeting with prominent Iranian dissidents behind the walls of the Kubbeh Palace in a bid to drum up support for some kind of restored monarchy under her son. She is said at one point to have approached Ali Amini with the request that he put together a cabinet- in-exile in conjunction with Prince Reza. The reportedly reply: "No."
Palace sources report that both before and since the Shah passed away here in July, the Empress has also met at Kubbeh with a number of other anti-Khomeini Iranians. Included among these, the reports said, were General Oveissi (earlier reported to be raising an Iranian rebel army inside Iraq) and close relatives of Mr. Bakhtiar. Mr. Bakhtiar's wife and son are said to have flown to Egypt in late July for the Shah' funeral.
The secret palace discussions intensified in the days before the Ayatollah's regime announced the foiling of a nascent coup attempt in early July, sources there said. Dissidents reportedly were flown to Cairo both from Iran and from various havens in Western Europe. Immediately after the alleged coup flop, dissident sources say dozens of potential execution victims were smuggled out of Iran to Egypt and then to Western Europe.