Champagne and wine will flow no more at the Iranian embassy where lavish parties under Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi became a Washington legend, according to the top ranking diplomat now representing the country.
"Iranians have been tea drinkers for centuries, so who cares about the wine?" said Dr. Jafar Faghih, the former political section head who has been designated charge d'affaires under the new regime. Speaking for the embassy, Faghih said, "We drink tea."
But whether to use the hundreds of tea cups and silver spoons bearing the imperial coat of arms of the deposed shah is a matter of some dispute between two group now sharing the embassy the antishah career foreign service officers represented by Faghih and the revolutionary followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
"We will take these things away," said a student follower of Khomeini who showed the marked cups to a reporter. "We can use them," diplomat Faghih said a short time later. "We shouldn't be that concerned with emblems."
The tempest over the tea cups is symbolic of the differences between the diplomatic and revolutionary factions within the embassy. The diplomats report through the traditional foreign service channels to the foreign ministry in Iran; the revolutionaries to the ayatollah.
"We oversee them," said Shahriar Rouhani, a 29-year-old Yale doctoral student and member of the revolutionary faction who has emerged as Khomeini's emissary to the Washington press corps.
"They are doing their own things and we are doing our own things," said diplomat Faghih. "They don't create any problems for us. It is a revolutionary situation at the embassy right now."
Appearances offer some clues as to who is running the revolution at the embassy. The information desk in the front lobby, for example, is manned by Iranian student followers of Khomeini. There are about a dozen students, divided between the main embassy, the ambassador's residence next door and the military mission in back.
How the phone is answered provides another clue. For a time, a voice announced, "The Embassy of the Provisional Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Then, there was no identification at all. The other day, it was simply "Embassy of Iran," at diplomat Faghih's direction.
But on Wednesday, it was revolutionary Rouhani, Khomeini's man, and not Faghih, who met with a dozen Jewish-American leaders to assuage their concerns.
It is the ayatollah's people who occupy Zahedi's office, at one end of the first floor. A picture of Khomeini is propped up behind the desk. Diplomat Faghih's office -- at the other end of the hall -- is much smaller and contains volumes about Watergate, but no Khomeini portrait.
"I'll get one today," Faghih said. "Ayatollah is in my heart."
The revolution is still unfolding for the embassy staff of 100. Forty-eight have "been instructed," Faghih said, to stay away until further notice.
"Some have been identified as very close to Zahedi," he said. "The rest are people whose files and connections the representatives of the ayatollah want to check to judge their continuation in their jobs," he said.
"One has to be realistic when things change," said Jarley Yadan Panah, Zahedi's social secretary and an embassy employe for 24 years who is facing an uncertain future. "It's the same here, when the Republicans go or the Democrats go. Isn't that true?"
On Wednesday, the ayatollah's people convened the embassy staff to outline a process in which each will be "interviewed" before any decision is made about his or her future.
But the changes promised are more than political. The image of an oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom flaunting wealth and favors around the Washington social scene will go too, Faghih said.
Under Zahedi, Faghih said, "there were sometimes three parties a day. He usually spent two or three times his budget and usually asked for more. He never recognized any limit to anything -- parties, generous gifts -- no limit. This embassy was a miniature of what was happening in Iran."
From now on, Faghih said, "Parties will be modest. We'll invite respectable people with good reputations in this country instead of representatives of multinational corporations and special interests."
Elspeth Swain, Zahedi's personal secretary, said yesterday she has talked to Zahedi since he left the United States and "he is very upset." Swain, told not to report for work until further notice, said Zahedi "enjoyed entertaining and saw it as being part of the job." "It is the duty of every ambassador to entertain," said Yazdan-Panah, "and Zahedi had a special flair."
The Zahedi flair was also reflected in the large number of servants on the embassy payroll. The six chauffeurs and eight to ten maids may be cut by half, Faghih said.
Zahedi's Rolls Royce, a 1973 Silver Shadow costing an estimated $55,000, is still parked in the embassy garage. According to Faghih, the Rolls will be "confiscated by the government." Since Zahedi's departure for Europe Feb. 3, Augusto Osorio, his Chilean chauffeur, has become a "regular driver" with little to do.
Similarly, Lina Fulchi, the Italian live in maid at the ambassador's residence, reported she is "waiting what to do next." For 23 years, she said, she served "eight or nine" ambassadors. "Now, I don't do anything."
In the three-story brick residence, the second floor breakfast room has not been used. Neither have Zahedi's bedroom, dressing room, massage room and sauna. On the first floor, two glass cabinets in the larger of two living rooms have been stripped of Zahedi's medals.
The mood inside the embassy compound was subdued this week. The military mission was closed. The halfempty embassy was quiet, except for the Iranian music piped into the lobby.
Poor telephone and telex communications with Tehran were supplemented by shortwave radio. Whatever shreds of information could be gleaned were put on paper in Farsi, the Persian language, and copies were distributed throughout the building.
In back of the embassy, the large ballroom was empty. Only weeks before, the walls were filled with pictues of the royal family and of Zahedi shaking hands with American politicians. Now, the only pictures were those of Khomeini and a martyred Iranian psychologist the revolutionaries say the CIA killed.
A dozen or so portraits of the shah and his family were relegated to a basement storage room, otherwise filled with office supplies, jars of instant coffee and packages of American tea. The only picutre of the shah in evidence was in a stamp display case down the hall in the press office.