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Another potential outcome is a takeover, swift or gradual, by younger clergymen in alliance with such Western-educated leaders as Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh. A government composed of those forces would be less fanatical than the Ayatullah but still very hard-line anti-U.S. Another possibility, considered by some analysts to be the most likely, would be an eventual confrontation between Khomeini's religious establishment and members of the urban upper and middle classes, who applaud the nationalistic goals of the revolution but chafe under rigid enforcement of Islamic law—and have the brains to mount an effective opposition.
A leftist takeover is the most worrisome prospect to Washington policymakers. The Mujahedin (Islamic socialist) and Fedayan (Marxist) movements maintain guerrilla forces armed with weapons seized from the Shah's garrisons during the revolution. Both groups disclaim any ties with the U.S.S.R., and some Iranian exiles believe a dialogue between them and moderate forces would be possible. However, they are very antiWestern. A third contender is the Tudeh (Communist) Party, which has a reputation for loyally following Moscow's line. It is currently voicing all-out support of Khomeini because, its leaders disingenuously explain, any foe of America's imperialism is a friend of theirs. In gratitude, the Ayatullah has peralism is a friend of theirs. In gratitude, the Ayatullah has permitted them to operate openly.
Any of these potential scenarios might draw support from Iran's ethnic minorities, whose demands for cultural and political autonomy — local languages in schools, local governing councils — have been rebuffed so brusquely by Khomeini's government as to trigger armed rebellion. Iran, a country three times the size of France, was officially designated an empire by the Shah, and in one sense it is: its 35.2 million people are divided into many ethnic strains and speak as many as 20 languages, not counting the dialects of remote tribes. The 4 million Kurds, superb guerrilla fighters who live in the western mountains, have at times dreamed of an independent Kurdistan, and today have set up what amounts to an autonomous region. The Baluchis, a nomadic tribe of Sunni Muslims, boycotted the referendum on the Iranian constitution, which they viewed as an attempt to impose Shi'ism on them. The 13 million Azerbaijanis, a Turkic people, also boycotted the constitutional referendum and in recent weeks have come close to an open revolt that could tear Iran apart.
Some Washington policy planners have toyed with the idea of encouraging separatism, seeing the breakup of Iran as a kind of ultimate sanction against Khomeini. But the hazards of doing this far outweigh the advantages; true civil war in Iran would be the quickest way of destroying whatever stability remains in the Middle East. The lands of the Azerbaijanis stretch into Turkey and the Soviet Union, those of the Kurds into Turkey and Iraq, those of the Baluchis