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Iran's clergy, faced with violence, not turning other cheek

Iran's fundamentalist religious leaders, faced with what seems to be a systematic campaign to annihilate them, have apparently opted for repression and revenge against their armed opponents.

Diplomats in Tehran were buoyed last week by what were interpreted as calls for restraint by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But their hopes for an end to bloodshed in Iran have since been dashed by:

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* The appointment of Sayed Hussein Mossavi as revolutionary prosecutor. Mr. Mossavi, a feared religious judge from the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan, is known for his merciless attitude toward the regime's opponents. He replaces Hojatolislam Ali Qodoussi, who was killed in a bomb explosion Sept. 5.

* Calls for revenge by religious leaders during the Sept. 6 funerals of Ali Qodoussi and Houshang Vahid Dastgerdi, the chief of Iran's police force. The day marked the second occasion in less than a week that Iran buried two of its prominent leaders. Tehran residents quoted speakers at the ceremony as urging true mourners to leave the cemetery -- and seek retribution. "One should not mourn but be decisive and revenge the blood of the martyrs," one prominent clergyman reportedly told the crowds.

* Since the Aug. 30 killing of President Muhammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Muhammad Javad Bahonar, more than 200 people have been executed by firing squads. Almost 900 executions have been officially announced since dismissal more than two months ago of former President Abolhasan Bani-Sadr.

Iran's armed resistance, meanwhile, appears to have broadened the scope of its action. Tehran residents heard three huge explosions on the night of Sept. 5, which were believed to be Soviet-made rocket-propelled grenades fired at a Revolutinary Guard headquarters.

An explosion also ripped through the revolutionary prosecutor's office in downtown Tehran on Sept. 5. And on that same day, armed guerrilas riding in a taxi opened fire on the country's parliament building.

Political analysts further believe that the resistance is no longer concentrating on only the more militant members of the clergy. As one analyst says, "anyone wearing a turban," is now a target -- meaning any person wearing the traditional headdress of the clergy could be in jeopardy. Two of the three clergymen killed in the Iranian capital last week, for example, were not known as political activists.

Iran's newly-appointed prime minister, Muhammad Reza Mahadavi-Kani, appeared to be trying to stifle dissatisfaction Sept. 7 by emphasizing the importance of resolving Iran's economic problems. "We are ashamed in front of the people that until now we have done nothing about the economy," the prime minister said.

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Just the same, "There is a distinct feeling of desperate nervousness," says one diplomat in the Iranian capital. A couple of more spectacular bombings, the diplomat adds, "and repression will not save the regime from collapse."

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