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IRAN: Steady Infiltration

3 minute read

All week, excitement mounted in Teheran. Police and troops patrolled and watched the teeming streets and alleys; in the bazaar, the secret agents were everywhere. Beneath the great plane and pine trees in the Majlis gardens, long-robed deputies bargained and pledged their support. At issue: Who should sit in the speaker’s chair of the Majlis? Should it be evil old Mullah Kashani, the incumbent, who would deal with anybody, including the Communists, to get power? Or should it be Premier Mossadegh’s choice, a popular lawyer named Abdullah Moazzami?

The stakes were large. Said the pro-Kashani newspaper Oghab-i-Shargh: “The blood of Mossadegh, Moazzami and other enemies of freedom is now legal.” The pro-Mossadegh Jebheh Azadi spat back: “Only traitors will vote for Mr. Kashani.” And Kashani himself attacked Mossadegh in characteristic terms: “Such men should be hanged by the people.”

On election day in the Majlis, police cordoned off the Parliament building, searched spectators for guns and knives. Servants hefted two large bronze vases into the chamber, into either of which deputies dropped their ballots. The result: Moazzami, 41; Kashani, 31.

The vote was a setback for Kashani, but the power of the aged little fanatic has always been in the streets, rather than the Majlis. And though Mossadegh had won one more parliamentary triumph, his power is steadily being undermined by 1) the unpopularity of his attempt to oust the Shah, win control of the army and set up an unopposed dictatorship; 2) his failure to break the British blockade and sell crude oil to the outside world; 3) the attrition of the currency (the rial was 118 to the dollar last week, against 74 a year ago, 47 two years ago); 4) the infiltration of government ministries by the outlawed Communist Tudeh Party.

Mossadegh himself scoffs at charges that his ineffective regime is leading Iran towards Communism. He leans back in his pink-painted iron cot and points to his two air conditioners, one British, one American. “Could anyone with a car and air coolers and a good bed like mine be a Communist?” he asks.

Yet the Tudeh infiltration of Mossadegh’s government is now so deep that Communist agents can, in some cases, set government policy. Said a Westerner: “We aren’t going to have a Communist coup d’état here. There will be nothing violent about it. We are just going to wake up one morning and say to ourselves: ‘Good Lord! We have a pro-Tudeh government!’ Then we are going to ask ourselves when did it happen—last night? Yesterday? Last week? A month ago? And we are not going to be able to answer.”

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