3 THE HOSTAGE CRISIS

Because the state of the revolution prior to 4 November 1979 is as significant to the understanding of the reasons for the assault on the US embassy as are the composition and the leadership of the assailants, its chief characteristics should be reviewed. This should be done in reference to events since June, when the draft of the controversial constitution was completed.

(1) The proposed constitution at once became a divisive factor which
finally broke up the broad coalition of the revolutionary forces respon-
sible for the Shah’s overthrow. It did so because it sought to institu-
tionalize the monopolization of power by that faction of the Shia
clergy which enjoyed Khomeini’s unconditional support and was
represented by the Islamic Republican Party.

(2) In the process of the gradual disintegration of that coalition, the
following groups either completely defected from the regime or
assumed an attitude of ‘wait-and-see’, pending further evidence of
Khomeini’s determination to realize his vision of a purely Shia theo-
cracy:

(a) The People’s Fedayeen, which had an impeccable record of
struggle against the Shah. It had waged urban guerrilla warfare, at least
since the early 1970s and most significantly, had played a critical role
in the transformation of a non-violent power seizure into a bloody
insurrection between 20 January and 11 February 1979;

(b) The People’s Mojahedin, whose revolutionary credentials were
equally impressive and who represent, even to date, a political orienta-
tion best described as non-communist Marxist-Islamic. The chief reason
for the defection of these guerrilla groups, apart from forcible exclusion
from power, was their different perceptions of the new political system;

(c) secular groups such as the National Front, the National Demo-
cratic Front, the Pan-Iranist Party, and the Radical Party representing
the Western-educated middle and lower middle classes. Their desertion
from the pro-Khomeini forces during the summer stemmed from similar
reasons to the above;

(d) perhaps the most critical defection from Khomeini occurred
when several prominent Shia leaders, to some of whom Khomeini
owed his life, turned against him. Notable among these was Mohammad

-42-

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Iran since the Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Why and How Khomeini Succeeded 1
  • 2 - The Dynamics of Power 21
  • 3 - The Hostage Crisis 42
  • 4 - The Presidency and the Majlis 62
  • 5 - The Resurgence of Opposition 76
  • 6 - The Left and the Islamic Republic 97
  • 7 - The Demise of Banisadr 121
  • 8 - Armed Struggle against the Regime 138
  • 9 - The Islamic Republic and the World 160
  • 10 - A Prognosis 196
  • Postscript 215
  • Selected Bibliography 236
  • Index 242
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