A Soviet portrait of the Ayatollah
Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini dreams of a ``single Islamic state,'' stretching from Morocco to Indonesia, and confronting the two ``satanic'' superpowers, says one of the Soviet Union's top Mideast specialists in last week's edition of Literaturnaya Gazeta. In a ``political portrait'' of the Ayatollah, the writer, Igor Belyaev, depicts a calculating, ascetic and determined leader, for whom the attainment of power in Iran is only the first step.
Ayatollah Khomeini, writes Belyaev, insists on presenting a stern image to the outside world. He cites a ``lightning raid'' once carried out by supporters in Tehran to remove photographs of a smiling Ayatollah. But in his few private moments with his family, ``a smile does not leave his face.''
But the portrayal is predominantly a disturbing one. Khomeini probably survived the Shah of Iran's wrath because of the support of Islamic religious leaders, he writes. By appointing him a Great Ayatollah, Belyaev says, they put him out of the reach of the Shah's revenge. But after his return from French exile, Khomeini became ``the master of the lives of even the great ayatollahs.'' During his subsequent rule ``two of his opponents, Makhmud Teleghani and Shariat-Madari, have left for a better world.''
The main weapon of Khomeini's world Islamic revolution is xenophobia, Belyaev says. The Soviet writer also cites a number of examples of what he clearly considers to be Khomeini's hypocrisy:
When Khomeini carried out the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca in 1937, he observed all the Islamic commands. These included not carrying weapons. But ``on July 31, 1987 at his orders armed Iranian pilgrims - 154,000 out of 2 million people - organized a political demonstration in Mecca.'' In the ensuing violence, 402 people died, Belyaev says. The demonstration's aim was to prove that Saudi Arabia's government was unable to keep order in the holy places. This would pave the way for a call for the overthrow of the Saudi ruling house. Khomeini calls for a ``holy war'' against the United States, but then negotiates with them in secret, Belyaev writes. He is an enemy of Israel ``in words only.'' In fact, he bought $5 billion worth of weapons from Israel. ``Last August the Great Ayatollah's son, Ahmad, carried on negotiations in Geneva with Americans and Israelis over issues of mutual interest.''
Last month, Belyaev says, Khomeini re-wrote his political testament. He confirmed that Hossein Ali Montazeri should be his successor and confirmed his support for a world-wide Islamic revolution. ``Rumors of Khomeini's ill-health have not been confirmed.''
Writing for the weekly last March, he noted Iran's role in hostage-taking in Lebanon. At that time he claimed that the British hostage, Terry Waite, was being held in the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
Soviet commentators frequently complain of Iran's support for Afghan antigovernment guerrillas, and express concern about the spread of fundamentalism into the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.
The writings of Belyaev and others suggest any Soviet-Iranian rapprochement will be at best a cautious affair, determined by the two countries' long border rather than mutual trust.