Soviet-American relations, strained in recent weeks over the Iranian revolt, were jolted anew today by Russian suggestions that the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran yesterday was a CIA-backed plot to trigger American military intervention in Iran.
The suggestion of complicity, printed in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda from official government news agency dispatches, brought a quick, formal protest from the U.S. Embassy here to the Soviet Foreign Ministry.
It came after Acting Secretary of State Warren Christopher called in Soviet Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin in Washington to protest the role of Soviet advisers in the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs yesterday in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Tass Agency dispatch suggested that agents of the Iranian secret police, SAVAK, which Tass described as "the creation of the CIA," had engineered the raid on the Tehran Embassy.Tass alleged that a representative of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini "stated that the incident was provoked by SAVAK... wit is well known that SAVAK and its agents have for a long time been organizing all types of provocations in order to create a pretext for open military intervention by the U.S. in Iran."
An American Embassy spokesman here said a U.S. diplomat denounced the Tass dispatch orally to a Soviet Foreign Ministry representative as "tendentious and very unhelpful... not likely to contribute to improved relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union." Six weeks ago, the embassy protested as "inflammatory" other official Soviet reporting of the Iranian conflict, saying it had anti-American overtones.
The latest sharp public clash between the two governments over events in the strategic Persian Gulf nation comes as MOSCOW AND Washington are in the final stages of negotiating a new strategic arms limitation agreement that stands at the heart of eased relations between the two superpowers. Agreement on the new treaty is expected to lead to a summit this spring between President Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
But the turmoil in Iran, where the Soviets are eager to expand their influence and the United States is seeking to evacuate Americans who were in business, oil and defense operations, has clouded the relationship.
There were signs, however, that neither side wanted the Iran disagreement to escalate. The United States took no further action in Washington after the Christopher protest.
And in Moscow, Soviet television suddenly dropped all reference to U.S. intervention in Iran from a latenight second edition of its foreign affairs program. In the first addition, commentator Alexander Kaverzen had interpreted the Iran embassy incident along the same lines as the Tass dispatch.
The Soviet version of the anti-shah revolt has been consistently anti-American in thrust, although the official media for many weeks hedged on the public Soviet position. But as events in Iran moved beyond the shah's control, Soviet propaganda has hardened into shrill anti-American sloganeering.
Although Carter has repeatedly asserted that the United States has no intention of military intervention in Tehran to preserve or restore the pro-Western government of self-exiled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Soviets have repeatedly published their suspicions that the Americans plan to do just that. Brezhnev bluntly warned the United States in November that any intervention would involve Moscow's "security interests" since the Soviet Union shares a 1,250-mile border with its southern Iranian neighbor.
Pravda made insinuations about the intervention theme again today in a separate Tass dispatch from Washington describing State Department plans to deploy marines and helicopters in Turkey for evacuating Americans from Iran.
"In the words of American officials," the Tass article said, "this step has been taken in response to the alleged necessity in cases of 'extreme circumstance' to 'protect' American citizens remaining in Iran. The State Department representative refused to say in which country the Marines and helicopters were at present, but observers noted they could be used by Washington for direct interference in Iran."
Although the Soviets have recognized the provisional Khomeini government, at the same time there has been virtually no authoritative, top-level comment or analysis of the Iranian revolt. Western diplomats here have interpreted the silence as continuing hesitation by the leadership over all-out endorsement of the ayatollah, whose eventual policies could have sharp anti-Soviet facets.
As evidence of this continued hedging, several sources pointed today to a Tass account of the Iranian Tudeh (Communist) party's message calling the ouster of the shah's last prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar "but a first stage toward achieving a final victory."
Soviet media failed to mention the stiff U.S. protest over the Afghanistan incidents made in Washington. Pravda reported the slaying in a few paragraphs.