Iran has new leaders ... to cope with its old problems
Iran has at last installed a new leadership, two months after its previous president and prime minister were killed in a bomb blast. The new team - President Hojatolislam Ali Khamenei and Prime Minister Mir Hussein Musavi - are both Turkish-speaking and are expected to get on well together.
But they will be working under enormous pressures from both within and without that could tear the ruling group apart and threaten the existence of the Islamic Republic itself.
The difficulties they face include:
* A split within the ruling fundamentalists between the Turkish-speaking and Persian-speaking mullahs. For the time being the Turkish-speaking hard-liners, headed by President Khameini, are on top. But there is evidence that the Persian-speakers may be getting together to regain some of their lost position. Persian-speaking Ayatollah Muhammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani, the outgoing prime minister, has been elected chief of the Tehran Militant Clergymen's Association, which in the past has taken an independent line from the Islamic Republican Party.
* The split within the IRP itself, where a right-wing group calling itself the Mujahideen of the Islamic Revolution have been demanding that the clergy play a less prominent role in the administrative affairs of the country.
The group, which has such stalwarts as Executive Affairs Minister Behzad Nabavi and Oil Minister Muhammad Gharazi among its members, has been threatening to split from the IRP to form a separate party.
President Khamenei, who is now IRP chief, would have liked to discipline them , but the group is too powerful. It has a large following among the Revolutionary Guards.
Already weakened by the campaign against the left-wing Mujahideen-e Khalq guerrillas, the mullahs in the IRP may have decided it would be too much to take on the right-wing Mujahideen of the Islamic Revolution as well.
So instead of purging them, Khamenei found himself making a compromise, offering them a generous share of Cabinet posts in return for some harmony in the Majlis (parliament) and the government.
The right-wing Mujahideen were thus able to capture all the important economic posts in the Cabinet, including the Oil Ministry, the Economics and Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Industry, not to mention the Interior Ministry. But hard-liners Khamenei and Musavi still have the foreign and defense ministries, and the drift toward the Soviet bloc and left-wing Arab states may continue.
* The Islamic leftist Mujahideen-e Khalq guerrillas.
The struggle between the ruling mullahs and the leftists has dominated the news from Iran over the past 41/2 months. Majlis speaker Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani recently said that 90 percent of the Mujahideen-e Khalq and their supporters have been liquidated. He said they were either in prison or had been shot by firing squad.
The urban guerrillas are still attacking the Hizbollahis (supporters of the regime) in Tehran and in the provinces. But the number of successful attacks appears to have diminished in recent weeks, either because the Hizbollahis have learned to duck, or because the guerrillas really have been decimated.
The regime, meanwhile, continues to make arrests, apparently because of detailed information gathered about the guerrilla organization through prisoner interrogation.
* The Kurds. With the approach of winter, the Kurdish insurgents in the northwest of the country have begun attacking many government outposts. The Kurdish uprising has followed a distinct pattern over the last 2 1/2 years. In the summer months when the roads and skies are clear enough for air and ground attacks on the rebels, the insurgents have had to retreat into hilly areas. When winter weather makes it difficult for the government forces to move about, the insurgents retake lost territory.
* The economy. Iran's economy is still in shambles, and neither Musavi nor the mullahs backing him seem to have any clear idea of what to do about it. This may be one reason problem of economic recovery has been handed to the right-wing Mujahideen of the Islamic Revolution - and perhaps to get the blame if the public becomes still impatient with continued economic hardship.