The Iranian revolution's facade of unity has crumbled in little more than a month to reveal seemingly irreconcilable differences foreboding further upheaval and possible violence.
Arguments over women's rights, censorship, federalism for Iran's increasingly restive national minorities and revolutionary justice are but surface symptoms of a profound malaise.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's own enormous prestige and power have sharpened the differences as he bulldozes his way toward his life-long dream: an idealized but ill-defined Islamic republic.
This country is a complicated mosaic of many things -- including Westernization, long viewed as a bulwark against encroaching Arab influence, but now suspect as unclean by Khomeini. "We are half-islamized, half-Westernized," one cynical Iranian remarked, "and often half-baked."
Yet, Iranians in increasing numbers are questioning the wisdom of Khomeini's fundamentalist Islamic republic, which is viewed by its pluralist critics as akin to the radical puritanism that imposed prohibition on the United States.
If Khomeini seems still all-powerful politically, his victory is far from complete. With the departure of the shah, the fear, respect, and balancing mechanisms that long kept rival elements of Iranian society in uneasy line also disappeared.
Restraint evaporated months before the shah actually left in mid-January. Today any considered analysis of the forces at play in postrevolutionary Iran reveals a lay and Islamic right, left and center, so far disinclined to cooperate on any compromise.
Pressed by their respected and armed right- and left-wing extremists, provisional Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and his lay opposition counterparts are literally disarmed -- and at loggerheads. Together, nonetheless, they represent the closest thing to a workable solution for the vast majority of Iranians tired of turmoil and longing for a return to normal.
Khomeini has shown no real signs -- aside from tactical retreats on such issues as women's rights or frozen meat -- of backing down. To succeed, in fact, he appears condemned to become increasingly tougher and uncompromising.
Seen in this light, Bazargan has worked small miracles. He has persuaded Iranians to show up at offices and factories, if not necessarily to work, and AWOL soldiers are reporting back to their barracks in increasing numbers.
Oil workers are pumping 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, not far from the 3 million-barrel goal, or half of previous normal production.
But progress is artificial and tenuous. Even these slim accomplishments could fall apart at any time.
Bazargan is still faced with Khomeini wielding effective power through his omnipresent committees, an almost nonexistent military establishment and an armed, organized and determined Marxist left.
For the time being, the radical left, which at first stormed the U.S. Embassy and threatened Khomeini himself, prefers a low profile to avoid isolation. It bides its time, strong in the knowledge of its arms captured during the uprising and the respectability provided by the drift of liberals and middle-class Iranians frightened by the religious fundamentalists.
Central authority faces any number of potentially explosive challenges. They range from armed showdown between left and right to the economic and social disorders that could be set off by Khomeini's blueprints for an austere Islamic future.
If only for reasons of timing, the first serious test is likely to concern the national minorities, who make up a good half of Iran's total population. Together they box the compass around the central Persian heartland and Iran's borders -- Kurds in the west, the Arabs of Khuzestan, the crucial oil-producing province in the southwest; the Baluchis in the southeast; the Turkomans in the northeast around the Caspian Sea; and the Azerbaijanis in the northwest.
Only the Azerbaijanis, the largest minority, have yet to come out openly with autonomy demands. That is perhaps because of their common border with the Soviet Union and memories of the severe repression more than 30 years ago when they briefly ran a Kremlin-backed autonomous republic.
As heirs of the central Persian ruling tradition, the new revolutionary authorities do not seem inclined to grant the minorities' concrete demands -- increased revenue sharing, local assmeblies to run their own affairs and an upper house in which fairs and an upper house in which they and the Persians would be on an equal, or near equal, footng.
Already the national radio and television monopoly has shut down kurdish-language broadcasts in Kurdistan, where the nationalists effectively control the turf. Baluchi nationalists are furious about what they consider Khomeini's reneging on promises that the Islamic Republic would respect both the Shiite Moselm majority and the Sunni minority.
The national minorities can probably count on support from the two urban guerrilla groups -- the Marxist Fedaye and th Islamic Mudjahideen -- who are setting up units around the country.
Outside help for any eventual uprisings looks limited. The Soviets have kept a low profile in view of the interruption of Iranian natural gas deliveries. Analysts are convinced, however, tht the Kremlin is capable of small, discreet subsidies to the various Iranian nationalities.
Creating such options would allow the Kremlin to encourage the process of collapse in Iran. If cleverly done, it also would aid the Kurds without infuriating the Iraqis or compromising the Soviet position among the Arabs, at a critical time in Middle East politics.
Even if the central authorities handle the minorities problem, they still will be faced with troubling economic difficulties.
By government estimate, 3.5 million of Iran's 12 million-strong work force are unemployed. Inflation is running at an annual rate of perhaps 50 percent. Working class expectations are high and the vital middle class shows increasing signs of wanting to follow its plutocratic betters into exile before it is too late to leave.
After four months of general strike, workers have become more demanding and have grown used to successive governments paying for their cooperation. Yet, one of the prime tenets of Islamic government is austerity, streamlined superstructures and a Moslem equivalent of "small is beautiful" when it comes to the civil service.
Day in and day out, various officials denounce the madness of the shah's economics, noting that 80 percent of industries with some government involvement were operating at a loss thanks to inflated wage bills that priced the products out of international markets.
Agricultural Minister Mohammed Izadi said in an interview that at least two-thirds of his 36,000 employes were superfluous. Ideally, he and the government would like to send these people -- and millions of other urban Iranians -- back to the countryside in a noncoercive version of the Cambodian experience.
But the Islamic authorities, aware of the dangers of leftist inroads with the working class, are competing with their Marxist rivals in making promises. The government has announced that in addition to subsidies for meat, bread and other staples, the poor will get free or cheap electricity, bus transportation and telephone services. Traffic and parking fines will either be abolished or greatly reduced.
Low-cost housing is the other of the day for urban dwellers. Farmers are promised farm-to-market roads instead of the shah's nuclear power plants, luxury apartments and massive arms purchases.
The middle class, which greatly benefited under the shah, is beginning to wonder whether its future still lies in Iran judging by the long lines of managers and professionals in front of Western embassies asking for visas. Their loss could be incalculable since the last thing Iran needs is further brain drain.
Apart from its misgivings about the exclusive nature of an Islamic republic, the middle class sees its vital interests threatened. Islamic desires to level out the enormous disparities of salaries are going to hurt its civil service members. So, too, will graduated income taxes. The general contraction of business in a purposely smaller economy -- fueled by less than half the previous oil exports -- is not going to help the merchant class sell luxury and semiluxury goods.