No celebration in Tehran streets
Revolutionary Iran is reacting with remarkable calm to the news of the Shah's passing. Conspicuously absent is the immediate rejoicing similar to that which followed the news in January 1979 that the Shah had left the country.
Headlines had announced: "Shah gone," and people had run wild through the streets, jumping, singing, and raising victory signs. Said one shopkeeper in Tehran, commenting on the low-key reaction to the Shah's July 27 passing: "People have nothing more to worry about."
The news of the Shah's demise in Egypt came as the Iranian parliament was considering the appointment of the country's first prime minister under the Constitution. He had been appointed by President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who sent a letter to the parliament July 26 asking for the approval of the house for the appointment of mostafa Mir-Salim.
However, the Shah's death and the emergence of a new government in Iran introduced two new factors on the political scene that could have some bearing on international affairs.
It may have any immediate bearing on the issue of the hostages, but President Bani-Sadr may attempt to use the Shah's death and the new blood in the government as levers to have the hostages freed from the grip of the militant students holding them.
The militants themselves have refused to comment immediately on the Shah's passing but it is probable they will put it down as another plot of the Central Intelligence Agency. The students have previously (when the Shah was still in Panama) said that the CIA would try to kill him to prevent him from being extradited to Iran for trial.
They have told reporters that the Shah's trial in Iran would reveal too much about US interference in Iranian affairs and the US government certainly will try to prevent this.
But there is a glimmer of hope that all the Iranian leaders are not thinking alike with the student militants. Shortly after the aborted military coup attempt in Iran July 10, Islamic Judge Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali said in the Iranian parliament that the end of the holy month of Ramadan may be a good time to release "our prisoners."
Ayatollah Khalkhali was not talking about a general amnesty. It was clear he was referring to the American hostages. He issued a veiled warning to parliament, of which he is a member, that though the US rescue attempt had failed in April and the coup plot had been foiled 2-1/2 months later this did not mean that all future attempts would also fail.
The import of the message was clear: holding the hostages needlessly heightens the dangers Iran and the Islamic Republic are in. The period of rejoicing at the end of Ramadan should be made use of to get rid of them.
The idea could well have come from Bani-Sadr himself and planted in the parliament through Ayatollah Khalkhali, who is currently on friendly terms with the President. Regardless, one of the first questions to be taken up in parliament after Mir-Salim (or whoever else) has obtained a vote of confidence for his Cabinet will be the US hostages.
Another leader who has raised his voice strongly in favor of the release of the hostages is Rear Adm. aMad Madani, the former Navy chief and runner-up in the presidential race in January.
Admiral Madani said recently with typical military bluntness that the holding of the hostages had swung international opinion against Iran and that it was not in the best interest of the nation to continue to hold them. Admiral Madani unfortunately is not a member of parliament. He quit in a huff when his crdentials were questioned in the house.
Monitor staff corresondent Ned Temko reports from Beirut:
The passing of the Shah of Iran in Egypt has theoretically strengthened the hand of a nearly powerless President Albohassan Bani-Sadr to redeem his wish to free the 52 American hostages.
With the Muslim militants, who hold the hostages captive, thwarted in their attempts to bring the former monarch to trial, President Bani Sadr and other Iranian authorities are free to concentrate on the captors' other demands.
One of these, significantly, was reiterated only hours after the Shah's passing by the pro-Bani-Sadr chief of Iran's central bank -- that the wealth the monarch took with him into exile be returned.
In Washington the Carter administration can now focus on what, besides the Shah's presence before a hangman's jury, it could offer Iran in swap for the hostages.
Among the obvious possibilities: money, and/or some form of acknowledgement of past US "interference" in Iranian affairs.
All this is what the Shah's passing has changed.The problem is what the Shah's death has not changed.
President Carter, particularly in a US election year, may be loath to offer the kind of concessions instrumental to an Iranian hostage release.
President Bani-Sadr, meanwhile, remains President only in name.
The prompt July 27 statement by a presidential aide that the Shah's passing would have no considerable effect on the hostage impasse seemed to reflect Mr. Bani-Sadr's own realization that he remains in no position to force the hand of his powerful, fundamentalists rivals.
Barring what would be, even by Iranian revolutionary standards, a surprise development, Mr. Bani-Sadr may never be in that position.
Yet latest indications from Tehran -- where he has nominated Mostafa Mir-Salim, a member of the fundamentalist Islamic Republican Party as premier -- are that the President is now concentrating on the possibility of a compromise with his rivals.
Such a compromise could be a key in the Iranian side of a hostage-release equation.
To be workable, given Ayatollah Khomeini's recent public boosts for the hard-liners, the deal would probably have to give the IRP an all but undisputed upper hand in government.
Parliament, dominated by the IRP would have to approve the choice of Mr. Mir-Salim, deputy interior minister in the current interim government, as premier. Mr. Bani-Sadr would presumably have to learn to be a figurehead despite his landslide victory at the polls in January.
And Mr. Mir-Salim, if confirmed by parliament, would have to keep two sorts of patrons happy. In that sense, he may have a head start. He is an IRP man but he is also said to be willing, and able, to get along with the President and other relative moderates.