The Iranian revolution is well into its third year. It has been difficult from the outside to follow the complex course of recent political developments there, but it is clear that Iran’s future will be determined for years or decades ahead by the balance of political forces that comes out of the intensifying struggle. With this issue we have tried to provide several glimpses of the situation there, relying as much as possible on accounts of persons who have observed it close at hand.
Taken together, the articles, interviews and documents In this issue point up a number of critical features of the current period. First, the post-revolutionary political struggle has seriously fragmented the state itself. The Islamic Republican Party (IRP) has secured its leverage over much of the state apparatus, but the simultaneous decline in the material conditions of masses of the Iranian people has undermined the IRP’s social base. Political opposition from forces which participated extensively In the revolution — the Kurds and other national minorities, the Mojahedin and other left forces, for instance — is growing.
Second, the “anti-imperialism” of the clerical forces has been essentially diversionary, doing little to harm US interests but dividing, paralyzing, potentially even exhausting the constructive energies of the masses. “Anti-imperialism” has been appropriated by the Islamic Republicans as a weapon to be wielded primarily against Iranian progressive forces.
Third, it is abundantly clear that the United States ls prepared to move quickly to support counterrevolutionary forces if the internal political and economic situation deteriorates to a “promising” level. The lessons learned by the Reagan administration, to judge by the output of writers and research institutes closely affiliated with it, point to a direction of renewed and vigorous intervention. Several of this issue’s contributors independently underline this danger.
Naim Khadar was one of the editors of and contributors to “Debate on Palestine” and “Toward a Socialist Republic of Palestine,” featured in MERIP Reports 96 (May 1981). On June 1, in Brussels, Naim was murdered by a professional assassin. He had represented the Palestine Liberation Organization in Brussels since 1974. Perhaps more than any other Palestinian, he was responsible for the years of patient diplomacy and persuasion that produced the statement issued in June 1980 by the heads of state of the European Economic Community meeting in Venice. This “Venice declaration” specified that in any solution to the Palestine problem “the Palestinian people…must be placed in a position…to exercise fully its right to self-determination,” and that “the Palestine Liberation Organization…will have to be associated with the negotiations.”
As we go to press, Naim’s killer has not been apprehended. The PLO, and Naim’s family, are convinced that the Israeli secret service pulled the trigger. Israeli spokespersons have retorted that “extremist” Palestinian elements opposed to his diplomatic activities were responsible. Fouzi el-Asmar, a close friend who had known and collaborated with Naim since 1973, told us that before Naim was appointed to Brussels he had been close to the left organizations in the PLO, though not a member of any. “I was struck from the very beginning by Naim’s open-minded approach to the problem of Palestine. He was intellectually very sharp and very articulate, a particularly effective spokesperson dealing with European governments and audiences. He maintained good relations with the progressive Palestinian organizations and was respected by them all. He was incredibly committed and active, working quietly but effectively out of the limelight.” Fouzi bitterly dismissed the Israeli denial of responsibility for this murder. “Look at the pattern of Israeli assassinations over the past ten years,” he said. “In almost every case where they have targeted individuals, those have been influential intellectuals, writers and poets engaged with the movement. Against the guerrillas with Kalashnikovs, they use tanks and bombs. Against ideas, they use silencers.”
Among the Iranian militants arrested recently In Tehran is Said Sultanpour, a poet and activist who had been an important personality In the struggle against the Pahlavi regime. The government has so far refused to release any information concerning Sultanpour’s condition or the reasons for his confinement, according to the Fedayi newspaper, Kar. The organization’s supporters here are asking that letters and telegrams be addressed to President Bani-Sadr and Prime Minister Raja’i In Tehran demanding Sultanpour’s release.
Closer to home, we are approaching the second anniversary of the arrest and detention of Ziad Abu-Ein. Ziad, now 22, was arrested on August 21, 1979 on the basis of an extradition request from Israel charging him in a bombing in Tiberias the previous May. The only evidence introduced in US court proceedings has been a statement from a third party obtained by Israel security forces and since retracted. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Palestine Congress of North America are planning a series of activities to raise publicly the issue of Ziad’s continued detention without bail, and to demand that he be immediately freed.