Iran's rebels getting bolder day by day
Iran's armed resistance is becoming bolder by the day, demonstrating its resolve and capablity to challenge the fundamentalist clergy's authority. Despite repeated quick moves by the clergy to dampen the effects of the guerilla campaign, the regime in Tehran is now forced to admit the degree of infiltration of its ranks.
Analysts point to a qualitative escalation of the confrontation during the past week:
* Tabriz Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Assadollah Madani, a close aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, became Sept. 11 the first clergyman to be killed while performing his religious duties.
* The murder of Ayatollah Madami represents the guerillas' first suicide attack against the regime. The man detonating the hand grenade had no chance to escape.
* Guerillas now regularly stage "armed demonstrations" in various parts of the Iranian capital. Armed men surround the demonstrators and engage, sometimes even provoke, Revolutionary Guards in fierce gun battles.
* Revolutionary Guards are drawn into protracted fighting when attempting to storm guerilla hideouts in the capital.
* municipal transit buses in Tehran are held up in broad daylight, passengers are forced off the bus, and it is then set on fire.
Iran's fundamentalist clergy is adamant in maintaining a semblance of continuity. Radio Tehran simultaneously reported the death of Ayatollah Madani with the announcement of his successor, Qom's Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Mashqani, who left immediately for Tabriz to take up his new post. Iran's Interior Ministry announced that presidential elections will be held Oct. 2 -- well within the constitutionally required 50 days.
Speaking at a press conference Sept. 12 in the remains of the prime minsiter's office -- blasted apart by the Aug. 30 bombing -- government spokesman Behzad Nabavi described the situation in Iran as "almost normal." But as he spoke, Revolutionary Guards were killed in zanjan, Kermanshah, and Isfahan. In Hamadan and Shiraz shops belonging to Hezbollahi -- supporters of the Party of God -- were blown up. That same afternoon, armed demonstrations were held in three places in the Iranian capital. 150 demonstrators were arrested.
The officially announced number of executions has risen to almost 1,100. Tehran newspapers, however, reported Sept. 15 only three political executions. Diplomats in the Iranian capital say it is too early to tell whether this may indicate that the regime has suddenly chosen a more lenient course. But they point out that in the city of Sari, 23 members of the resistance were sentenced Sept. 14 to varying prison terms, among them a girl convicted of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a komitech car. Until now, such an act has been punishable by execution.
Iranian authorities admitted the degree of infiltration of the regime Sept. 14 by announcing that massoud Keshmiri, a close aide to the late President Muhammad Ali Rajai and secretary of the Supreme Security Council, had been responsible for the Aug. 30 bombing of the prime minister's office that killed not only Rajai, but also Prime Minister Muhammad Javad Bahonar.
In an interview on Iranian television, Prosecutor General Rabbani Amalshi could not avoid indicating the extend of the regime's embarrassment: Keshmiri, who died in the explosion, was accorded a martyr's funeral -- the highest honor in revolutionary Iran -- and buried alongside Rajai and Bahonar. Amalshi described Keshmiri -- said to be a member of the left-wing Islamic Mujahideen guerillas -- as "very trusted" and as a person who "was privy to almost everything."
In a leaflet distributed last week in the Iranian capital, Iran's armed opposition claimed its "really big campaign" would begin this week. Tehran residents, often afraid of being caught in the midst of armed clashes while shopping, wonder what will happen next.