Former premier Bakhtiar plots post-Khomeini future for Iran
Iran's former prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar, now in exile here has charged the United States with systematically discouraging initiatives by a number of countries aimed at unseating Ayatollah Khomeini, IRan's most influential leader.
Mr. Bakhtiar refused to name the countries concerned, beyond saying that they were "from the region, some of our neighbors."
"Washington feared that to touch Khomeini might have meant endangering the hostages," he said. "In so doing, President Carter forgot 36 million other hostages -- the Iranian people -- and contributed to the disaster that my country is today."
Mr. Bakhtiar, who was the last prime minister under the Shah and is the present Tehran regime's foremost enemy, stated in an interview that the US, by trying to compromise from the beginning with Ayatollah Khomeini, helped to destabilize the whole region.
President Carter, he said, was assisted in this task by the French, West German, and British Broadcasting Corporation doing a particularly good job in building up the Ayatollah.
Mr. Bakhtiar, who lives in a villa outside Paris guarded by permanent units of riot police, feels that Khomeini's rise to power was inevitable in the circumstances prevailing in Iran a year and a half ago -- but that his remaining in power for so long was not inevitable.
"When I was prime minister, the Americans at first supported my government, but after two or three weeks they began flirting with Khomeini. They were undecided about what to do, they changed opinions and tactics repeatedly, and in moments like those, hesitation is disastrous."
One US decision that was damaging was to insist that the Iranian Army stay neutral, Mr. Bakhtiar believes.
This decision has led to the Army's collapse and disintegration. Had the Army remained intact, Khomeini would have been forced to compromise," he said.
The exiled Iranian leader feels that President Carter was right in trying at first to free the hostages by all legal means, but once this proved futile, he believes the President should have ordered a rescue misson at once. To have done so six months later was a waste.
"It was then too late," he said, "and the whole thing was badly organized. I know what went on in Iran. One day I shall tell the whole story, but the moment has not yet come."
In his struggle to get rid of Ayatollah Khomeini, Mr. Bakhtiar said he is ready to wever. He worked hand in hand with the Iraqis, and a radio station he controls still broadcasts from Iraqi soil. But he is not ready to yield a square inch of Iranian soil to a foreign power.
Iraq, he feels, took advantage of the anarchy and chaos prevailing in Iran to go to war. If Khomeini had respected the Army, allowed the economy to develop, and resisted the temptation of exporting his "revolution" abroad, Baghdad would not have dared to attack.
"The law of the jungle is over: Iraq will have to go," he said.
stated that a main task of a new provisional government in Iran will be to convene a constituent assembly to revise the present Constitution. He put it this way:
"The people will have to decide whether they want a republic or a monarchy, but, moswhat kind of monarchy.
"We have no use for a republc of the kind that exists in some Latin American countries nor for an absolute monarchy such as Iran knew under the late Shah.
Personally, I am not against the monarchy, provided it is like in Great Britain -- above politics and respected. A monarchy like in Sweden or Belguim? Why not? But it will do no good for the royal family to return to Iran before a long time, if ever."
Mr. Bakhtiar views the late Shah's twin sister, Princess Ashraf, as merely a publicity seeker. And her daughter, Princess Azadeh Chafik, as an Egyptian citizen who has no right to meddle in Iranian affairs. But he considers the Shah's widow, Empress Farah, as more intelligent and balanced -- and as quite happy to accept a constitutional monarchy for Iran.
Politically, Mr. Bakhtiar believes that because of its culture and traditions the Iran of the future will be oriented toward the West. Its foreign relations, however, will be inspired by the strictest nonalignent.
"We shall ask the United States," he said, "no longer to meddle in our internal affairs. We propose to be friendly to, but equally distant from, the two superpowers."
The task of rebuilding Iran after the fall of "that satanic, ignoble individual named Khomeini and hateful mullahs" will be immense and require all the energies and determination of a provisional government.
The economy, he said, is in shambles. The Army has virtually disintegrated. Many of the people who a year and a half ago believed in Khomeini as a savior from the tyrannical regime of the Shah have lost their illusions. The elite Iranians either have been silenced or have escaped abroad, many going to France and 300,000 to the United States, he asserted.