Iran: Unholy Alliance

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Progress-minded Iranians—foremost among them the Shah—have long tried to modernize and Westernize Iran. These efforts are resisted by both the Communists and fanatical Moslems. The Shah himself last week described this as "an unholy alliance between two extremist wings, black reactionaries and unpatriotic, destructive Reds."

While there is little evidence of a formal alliance between the two forces, they certainly play into each other's hands. If anything, the Iranian Reds have been quiescent lately, while Moscow was wooing Teheran through diplomacy. But there has been increased activity by Moslem fanatics, who are particularly opposed to the Shah's selling mosque-owned estates to land-hungry peasants and his grants of social and political equality to women.

Raising the war cry "Down with the undemocratic regime of the Shah," Moslem extremists are fighting reforms with terror. In the last 16 years, three Iranian leaders have been murdered and a fourth narrowly escaped. The latest victim: Premier Hassanali Mansur, 41, who died last week after having been shot by a young Moslem terrorist at the gates of the Iranian Parliament.

In his ten months in office, the elegant, Paris-educated Mansur had grappled skillfully with Iran's problems. He came to the Shah's attention in 1961 when he organized a 194-man committee of intellectuals and economic experts to advise on Iran's modernization. The Shah was so impressed with their ideas that he asked Mansur to form a political movement, and Mansur's New Iran Party today has a majority in the Majlis.

To replace the murdered Premier, the Shah appointed Mansur's boyhood friend and chief aide, Finance Minister Amirabass Hoveida, 45. Trained as a political economist and career diplomat, Hoveida also served briefly as chairman of the National Iranian Oil Co. He will probably need all his financial experience; despite mounting oil revenues, Iran faces a growing fiscal squeeze aggravated by the high cost of public works and industrialization projects, last year's drought and declining U.S. aid. New Premier Hoveida took up his complex tasks with the promise that "except for the sad absence of Mansur, nothing is changed: the same men will carry on the same programs."