PERHAPS ONE of the most dangerous elements in the U.S.-Iranian crisis is the conceit -- the delusion, really -- of this week's Iranian foreign minister, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, that he understands the political anthropology of this country. Western-garbed and-coiffed, English-speaking, TV-minded Mr. Ghotbzadeh yesterday delivered himself of some more of those Uriah Heep-like thoughts on ABC's "Issues and Answers," and the magnitude of his misreading of the American response to the acts of cowardice and criminality he and his friends pass off as Iranian government "policy" was staggering. Throughout the broadcast, Mr. Ghotbzadeh kept alluding to some sinister and out-of-touch powers in this country who were forcing the discussion away from the "real" issues and making it seem that the only issue is that of the hostages.
There is something Mr. Ghotbzadeh needs desperately to know: the hostages are the only issue, and there is no disposition in this country to view things otherwise. The shah; the relationship of this country to Iran before, during and after the shah's dictatorship; the fine points of whether centuries-long practices of cruelty within Iran were better, worse or no different under the shah (and now, under the bloody new dictatorship that has replaced him) -- all these are subjects that can be discussed by the Iranians whenever and with whomever they want. They have nothing to do with the seizure and prolonged abuse of the American hostages in Iran. The American government's purpose, for which it has near-unanimous American popular support, is simple. It is to get those hostages back alive and now and to avenge them if they are subjected to further acts of terror. Period.
There was something particularly disgusting about Mr. Ghotbzadeh's talk of what the Iranians plan to do for the hostages for Christmas. Priests and presents and gifts -- everything but turkey and plum pudding and old Bing Crosby records. Are we supposed to cheer? Do Mr. Ghotbzadeh and his mentor, the Ayatollah Khomeini, believe that by now we are all reduced to that pitiful condition the psychologists and other geographers of terror tell us about that kind of childlike dependence on the good or bad will of those holding us hostage that produces great bursts of gratitude for favors and rewards and continued life?
Mr. Ghotbzadeh, at his most unctuous, commended the United States for what he admiringly called its "retreat" in sending the shah to another country. He allowed as how that was a nice beginning. He would have no truck with the weekend's other large event, the unanimous order of the World Court that the hostages be released and the embassy returned to its rightful proprietors. He seemed settled and comfortable and happy in the arrangement and prepared to enjoy the events that were causing others so much anguish. Does he really believe the American government will let the thing just string out like that? Mr. Ghotbzadeh should be set straight. anifesto, thirty young avant-garde painters, who had taken to the street