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Reagan's post-hostage view of Iran: conciliation possible

Even as outgoing US officials negotiate what appears to be final details for a hostage release, the incoming Reagan administration is holding the door open to an eventual reconciliation with Iran.

Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher reported Jan. 13 from Algiers that "progress continues to be made" on several aspects of the highly complex legal an financial issues under discussion with the Iranians.

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But, according to State Department spokesman John Trattner, Mr. Christopher also cautioned against optimism because the Iranians have yet to provide official word that they agree to the major points contained in the latest American offer to Iran.

In Paris, the newspaper Le Monde reported it had been informed by Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of the Iranian Majlis, or parliament, that the emerging accord between the United States and Iran will be endorsed by the Majlis. The parliament had postponed, because of a partial boycott, debate on emergency legislation aimed at speeding agreement on a hostage release.

President-elect Reagan has never had anything good to say about the current leadership of Iran. He has always had much that is positive to say about the late Shah. He has more than once publicly regretted the overthrow of the Shah. But Reagan foreign policy advisers apparently have taken a careful look at the strategic importance of Iran and concluded that it is still a "strategic prize," which should, if possible, be dealt with on a basis of friendship.

This was a conclusion which Carter administration analysts came to with renewed conviction after Iraq's attack on Iran faltered. Those who thought Iraq was destined to become the dominant power in the Gulf had second thoughts about the wisdom of the Iraq's leader, President Saddam Hussein. Overtures to the Iraqis, which apparently had the encouragement of President Carter's national security assistant, Zbigniew Brzezinski, were reported to have been dropped.

According to Carter administration analysts, the longer the Iraq-Iran war continues, the greater is the chance that the influence of the American-trained military officers of Iran will grow. From the US point of view, this would mean strengthening of the voices of reason and a diminishing of the power of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After some debate, foreign affairs specialists joining the incoming administration apparently have come to share this view.

President-elect Reagan himself gave a positive answer when asked by the editors of the magazine U.S. News & World Report if he felt, once the hostage issue was out of the way, it would be feasible or desirable to try to establish close relations with the government in Iran.

Reagan said, in part: ". . . I think there was a legitimate reason for us being allied with Iran to begin with, and that reason still exists." He implied that he would favor a stabilizing of the situation in Iran.

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The President-elect declared that "the great threat to all of us is from the left. The Tudeh Party over there is waiting for this chaos to reach a point where it might be able to move in."

On specialist not associated with either the Carter or the Reagan administration, Ruhollah Ramazani, believes that the US and Iran share an identity of strategic interest in preventing the fragmentation of Iran and the possible growth of Soviet influence there. An Iranian-born American citizen, Prof. Ramazani is chairman of the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.He says that while high- ranking officials in Arab states situated along the lower Gulf are officially supporting Iraq in its war against Iran, they would be "as worried as anyone else" if the Iraqis actually defeated the Iranians.

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