Eight years and a war later ...Iranian revolution can now turn its attention inward. GULF CEASE-FIRE
For Iran, the formal implementation tomorrow of the United Nations cease-fire is just the first step of a broader strategy to initiate a new phase in its revolution. The goal is to ensure the Islamic revolution's survival, which has become more urgent because of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's failing health. Ending the costly conflict now opens the way for Tehran to address political and economic problems that had begun to undermine the ruling mullahs, and to set a framework for the future before the imam's passing.
The new agenda taking shape involves several significant and related changes:
Finally addressing economic issues, specifically the role of the state in creating what the theocrats refer to as ``social justice'' for Iran's ``oppressed'' or ``disinherited,'' in whose name the 1979 revolution was undertaken.
Improving Iran's international standing, particularly with the West.
Beginning to change the emphasis of Iran's efforts to export its revolution, specifically those actions associated with terrorism.
Many major economic reforms, such as land redistribution and nationalization of trade, have been on hold for eight years. Iraq invaded Iran just 20 months after the revolution, before the mullahs had consolidated their hold on power. Attention and resources were subsequently diverted, and the economy deteriorated.
The future focus was outlined by President Ali Khamenei in a Friday prayer sermon after Iran accepted the UN cease-fire. ``The prophets came so that the bullies of society, the freeloaders, the cruel ones in society, the exploiters, the comfortable ones without any care or trouble would be put in their place and so that the oppressed, the deprived, the barefooted ones would be given their rights. That must be the main goal of the revolution,'' he said.
Agreement to the cease-fire has already had beneficial effects. Black market rates had previously soared, with the American dollar worth 20 times its legal value. Prices for most goods - except the few items rationed, and therefore subsidized, by the government - were pegged to the dollar. IN the past month, however, the black-market rate has been cut by more than half, helping stimulate stagnant domestic trade.
The push to improve Iran's international standing is partly a byproduct of Tehran's interest in reversing the nation's economic decline and in proving that an Islamic state, based on laws and principles formulated 13 centuries ago, can serve in a modern world.
Since June, Tehran has restored diplomatic ties with France and Canada, and negotiations are currently under way with Britain. High-level Iranian delegations have also met recently with their counterparts from industrialized democracies, including Japan, Italy, and France, to discuss increasing trade and oil sales.
In a telling editorial earlier this month, the influential newspaper Resaalat commented: ``Economic relations are part of broader political relations and are usually used as a strong lever to further political objectives.'' Diplomats in Tehran expect the business boom from reconstruction to further stimulate relations with the West.
Shifting away from terrorism is, in turn, essential for more stable diplomatic relations and regular trading partners.
Settling hostage crises, for example, has become an integral part of various packages to upgrade relations, evident in the ``no-deal deal'' Tehran struck with France. The final three French hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon were released in May; relations between the two nations were formally restored in June. A similar formula is reportedly being discussed with Britain.
The focus of these efforts however, has not been limited simply to solving current disputes, according to European envoys. Western parties have also sought informal guarantees that their facilities or nationals will not be future targets.
Key Iranian officials now appear to be aware of the increasing costs of Islamic zealotry. In speeches over the past six weeks, parliamentary speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani has referred to Iran's need to ``stop making enemies'' and to rectify foreign policy mistakes.
The bottom line on the new agenda is that the revolution is beginning to turn inward, back to domestic priorities.
The end goal, however, is still to further the cause of Islamic rule throughout the region. The shift is in the means, which in the past have included the use of violence by allies and surrogates.
There are growing indications that the political faction headed by Mr. Rafsanjani now favors creating a model Islamic government in Iran that will leading other Muslim communities voluntarily - rather than through threats or intimidation - to turn to Islam.
As with the July 18 acceptance of UN Resolution 598, Iran's leaders are not in total agreement on the future course of action, envoys and Iranian analysts say. The divisions go much deeper on other issues, notably the economy.
The next phase of the revolution could be troubled by splits over how ``social justice'' is created - through state control of the economy or through the private sector. The majority in the new parliament, elected this spring, strongly favors state intervention.
The private bazaar or merchant class, however, has been one of the three mainstays of the Islamic government: It was loss of support from this segment that ultimately hurt the government of the Shah.
Thus while the atmosphere in Tehran has distinctly changed, the follow-through on domestic issues may not come swiftly or without major internal opposition. The ruling mullahs are, however, stressing the urgency of revitalizing the revolution.
Earlier this month, the chief justice of Iran's Supreme Court, Abdul Karim Musawi Ardebili, warned: ``Brothers and sisters, beware lest you begin to think that with the breakup of the war we will have leisure time to enjoy ourselves. It would be a catastrophe for the revolution and the state. It is a disaster to assume that the end of the war means welfare and consumption, and that foreign companies will arrive to bring with them things we will enjoy. This would mean an end to the revolution, not the war.''
Robin Wright, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a former Mideast correspondent who was recently in Iran.