In an illustration of the guerrilla tactics undermining Iran's economy, the sprawling Tehran bazaar reopened Monday after a 16-day protest strike, then slammed down its iron curtain storefronts once again Wednesday.
Wisely the military government, whose formation the first strike was called to protest, had refrained from claiming victory Monday although the renewed hustle and bustle in the sprawling premises represented a step toward its goal of returning the country to normality.
The decision of the that bulwark of the religious opposition to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had nothing to do with the generals' threats or cajoing.
Rather in the words of an old bazaar tailor, it was orders from "he who is the one everyone follows." And these days, especially in teeming south Tehran - and indeed all over the country - that means Ayatollah Ruthollah Khomeini, the Shiite Moslem leader who from his Paris exile has vowed the shah's downfall.
The renewed shutdown was decided when tank-supported government troops were reported to have resorted to arms to break up an antigovernment demonstration in the bazaar area.
Even on Monday, the tailor, a deeply religious, unshaven man, summed up the mood in the high ceilinged alleys of the bazaar when he said, "We've been closed for more than a month since early September and we may close again."
In a cluttered home appliances shop, another merchant sucked tea through a lump of sugar in his mouth and said, "the leaflets we received saying to reopen said it would be only temporarily - to let people buy goods again."
saying to reopen said it would be only nomically. Still, fellow wholesalers were receiving bank credits, although they were having difficulty getting their retailers to pay back the usual 15- to 16-day loans because of the strike.
"No this is not the end of the struggle," he said.
Near the bazaar, a line of perhaps 300 Iranians lined up at the National Bank to transfer money abroad under the new exchange contlrol regulations which ended Iran's pretensions of becoming a middle East money market center.
With between $2 nillion and $3 billion sent abroad already in the past 10 months of escalating crisis, as against a normal outflow of $1.5 billion annually, the central bank was taking long overdue steps to protect its still impressure foreign exchange reserves of about $10 billion.
Indicative of the Iranian rial's declining fortunes is the free market rate of as high as 85 to the dollar - compared to the rate of 70 to the dollar.
Even the military government's relative success in boosting oil production, the lifeblood which normally provides about $22 billion in annual foreign exchange earnings, has yet to spread optimism throughout the rest of the economy or the country's 35 million citizens.
For the first time in a month, production this week topped 4 million barrels a day, or roughly two-thirds of normal, and helped to halve the foreign exchange losses which had been running at $60 million daily at one point. The increased production, however had been accomplished at the price of arresting strike leaders, which could touch off further work stoppages.
Moreover, in the rest of the economy, key factories are shut down because of a strike along the gas pipeline that supplies the Soviet Union and many Iranian industrial users.
"We cannot get cement, we cannot get window frames for a big construction project," a foreign businessman lamented. "We're facing strangulation."
Bearing witness to the continuing politically motivated disruptions and dislocations are continuing newspapers and telecommunications strikes as well as intermittent power cuts in Tehran.
Merchants report that no sizable orders have been placed since mid-October, reflecting, both the general mood of uncertainty and the government's reluctant, but drastic cutbacks on public sector imports.
With customers and Finance Ministry employes on strike for the past few weeks, such restraint is probably wise, to avoid port bottlenecks. Economists, however, fear the inflationary effects of dried up imports when present stock are exhausted around the end of the year. Even without that added problem, next year's inflation is expected to exceed 30 percent in the wake of the fall's generous pay settlements.
The military government's failure to "pacify" the economy has finally scared off Western bankers who long disregarded the 10-month-old political crisis.
Although big direct investment stopped as long as two years ago, it was only last month that Iran was forced to cancel a Euromarket loan of $80 million.
"Never seen anyting like it in my banking career," a financier said, "such a fall from top of the first league credit risk tables to plain unlendable.
"For most of the year lenders were not even discounting because of the trouble, lending as if Iran were a European country, and a sound one at that," he said.
Still, Iranians are learning to laugh at their own misfortunes as the following story illustates. When Chinese Communist Party Hua-Kuo-feng visisted the shah this fall, his host asked if there were any discontended Chinese and if so, how many.
"Not many than 1 percent," his visitor replied.
"How many people does that make?" asked the shah.
Told "about 35 million," the shah brightened and said, "Oh, so we both have the same problem." The population of Iran is about 35 million.
Whether such humor is appreciated by foreigners working here is doubtful. Head of households can send families out, but they themselves are stuck, since striking Finance Ministry officials refuse to process the tax payment receipts required to departing residents.