Iran races toward total mullah rule
Iran's mullahs are moving rapidly to consolidate their supremacy over the moderates and wrap up the loose ends of their victory over President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr.
After an initial hesitation, they have gone ahead with moves in the Majlis (parliament) to oust the President from office. The mechanism is suprisingly simple: After obtaining a vote on a bill declaring the President "politically incompetent," they are expected to go ahead this Saturday with impechment proceedings.
The President's functions must then be carried out by a presidential council consisting of the prime minister. The Majlis speaker, and the Supreme Court chief -- all Islamic fundamentalists. The council must, however, hold elections within 50 days. But the presidential candidates will have to be approved by the constitutional "Council of Guardians" now dominated by mullahs.
Unless rioting erupts to prevent the election, Iran may have a fundamentalist president in office within two months and the long process of establishing an Islamic theocracy will have been completed.
The fundamentalists' dream has been to reestablish a theocracy such as that set up nearly 14 centuries ago by Ali, the son-in- law of the prophet Muhammad, in the heart of the Arab world. This regime, however, was so torn by controversy and internal strife that it did not last more than four years. All the signs are that Ayatollah Khomeini's modern-day version will also be torn by internal strife.
In particukar, Iran's moderates fear that Khomeini and the mullahs around him will introduce one obscurantist law after another "based" on Islam and the Koran." They do not expect khomeini and the ruling Islamic Republican Party to have any difficulty in pushing their own interpretation of Koranic law through the rubber-stamp parliament.
Meanwhile, the Victory of of the mullahs is likely to have a number of immediate effects which can be set out as follows:
* Political. Iran will emerge as a one-party state and the Westernized intellectuals, including BAni-Sadr and former Prime Minister Mehdi BAzargan, will be silenced at least for a while. Since both have been referred to as "Islamic" by Khomeini, they will probably be permitted to remain free so long as they make no obvious moves against the fundamentalists.
Nonetheless the threat of arrest and trial before a revolutionary court does hang over their heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Outflanked politically by the fundamentalists, who appear to have gained a monopoly on ayatollah khomeini's crucial backing. the President has been unable, or unwilling, to mobilize the popular support which swept him into office 16 months ago.
Meanwhile, the mullahs are making every effort to have other moderates connected with the President dismissed or arrested. Hence, the process of forcing the moderates underground is going ahead at top speed -- perhaps pushing the moderates into the arms of extremists who believe in armed struggle.
* Economic. Recent events are expected to have an adverse effect on the already tottering economy. The western-educated intellectuals, who set out after the revolution to build a new economic order, have been ousted from the government in three main stages.
First to go were the National Front intellectuals, who came in with the original Mehdi bazargan cabinet. NExt was the bazargan group itself which was forced out after the capture of the American Embassy in November 1979. Third and most recently ousted were the intellectuals in the BAni-Sadr team, including Central Bank governor Ali Reza nobari.
The type of "intellectual" now expected to reconstruct the economy are people of the ilk of Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Rajai whose level of education did not go beyond high school.
"What the regime will probably do," comments one informed observer, "is to continue to use the WEstern intellectuals in secondlevel positions to keep the sophisticated Western machines running. However, they may concentrate on building up a class of technicians and foremen-level workers who will not look for guidance toward the wetern-educated engineers and scientists but will develop a sort of self-sufficiency of their own."
Even his picture may prove altogether too hopeful. In the immediate future the intellectual vacuum at the top is expected to become more acute -- probably meaning that the dependence on war-shattered oil exports for revenues will increase.
* Military. The top military commanders do not at present have any choice but to knuckle under to the supremacy of the mullahS. This will continue to hold true the long as the war with Iraq continues and they are kept busy at the front.
However, there is evidence that lower- level officers are greatly disturbed by the news on Bani-Sadr's step-by-step ouster. This raises the prospects of an attempted low-level military coup of the libyan type just as soon as the war in lover -- if not sooner.
* Legal and social. Iran's women are likely to be the first targets of the expected Islamic legislation. Already they have been forced to wear the "hejab" (Islamic veil) in government offices. The next step may be to enforce the veil on the streets and other public places. Thereafter, women may well be ousted from office jobs. Some iranian women fear the only places that will eventually remain open to them, if the mullahs continue to rule supreme, will be the kitchen and nursery school.
perhaps the most harsh example of the kind of obscurantist legislation feared by the moderates is the new Retribution Bill which harks back to the "eye for an eye" period of Middle Eastern history. Under this proposed law for instance, if a person looses a limb in a car accident he can demand the limb of the person who caused the accident. Murders can be paid for the victim's family taking the life of the murderer.
The punishments for adultery would include stoning to death, lashing, shaving the woman's head, or exile. The punishment for drinking alcohol: 80 lashes for men and women.