President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr and his right-wing clerical rivals today traded accusations about alleged U.S.-inspired plans for a coup to topple the revolutionary government.
The acrimonious but undocumented debate, the latest display of increasing public animosity between Iran's secular and religious authorities, centered on the reliability of the Iranian armed forces. The military's dependability has been questioned in public and private since the ill-fated American hostage rescue operation three weeks ago penetrated Iranian air space without detection.
Pursuing a plan to scatter the hostages across Iran to thwart any future rescue attempt, the radical Moslem students occupying the U.S. Embassy here announced that an undisclosed number of their captives have been sent to the city of Hamedan about 220 miles east of Tehran. According to the militants, groups of hostages are now being held in 13 provincial cities as well as the capital.
Escalating Iran's internal debate in the rescue attempt's aftermath was a communique from the hard-line Crusaders of the Islamic Republic group printed in the right-wing clerical Islamic Republic newspaper. It charged that the United States "probably intends to stage an internal coup d'etat by its agents in the Army," who it said had partly infiltrated the top levels of command.
In the newspaper, Bamdad, Bani-Sadr insistently denied any such collusion between the Iranian armed forces and the United States. He said there was no reason to lack confidence in the armed forces.
Reacting for the first time to a flood of rumors concerning an alleged Iranian radar failure along the rescue mission's flight path and the controversial bombing of the abandoned American aircraft by Iranian warplanes, Bani-Sadr said: "We cannot use the existence of these things to arouse suspicions about the Army and say the whole Army is working for foreigners, which is not true."
But Bani-Sadr himself contributed to the mood of suspicion in the interview, originally broadcast last night on radio. He said the Carter administration had infiltrated 96 American and 19 Iranian residents of the United States to carry out sabotage over the next two weeks.
He specifically justified the Air Force bombing of the American rescue operation's aircraft. Rumors have insinuated that the bombing was ordered to destroy incriminating evidence of Air Force or government collusion in the U.S. raid. Bani-Sadr's government insists that the bombing was the only way to prevent the United States from retrieving the helicopters.
Similarly, he said, "negligence" rather than connivance explained why a key Iranian radar was shut off the night of the rescue mission in the city of Kerman in southeastern Iran.
The acerbic exchange constituted the lastest manifestation of ill-will left in the wake of the president's abortive effort to name a prime minister before his rivals of the Islamic Republican Party could exercise power as the new 270-seat parliament's largest single bloc.
Following up on his earlier charges that French Foreign Ministry reports had suggested that an American-backed coup could replace the Islamic Republican Party's "religious fascism," Bani-Sadr today in his newspaper Islamic Revolution wrote: "No single party can boast of having the backing of the entire nation."
Meanwhile, Kurdish guerrillas fighting for autonomy acknowledged for the first time that their forces had withdrawn from the center of the Kurdish city of Sanandaj after a fierce four-week battle.
But forces close to the extreme leftist Koumaleh organization, which has been involved in the fighting there, said the guerrillas were still grouped near the city's outskirts. They reportedly were mounting night operations against government troops who two days ago claimed they controlled the badly damaged city of 140,000 people.
In the fighting, Kurdish guerrillas sources said, some 1,500 civilians and fighters were killed or wounded. Government officials said that casualties among the Army and Revolutionary Guard exceeded 500 men. The guerrillas sources said 400 of their casualties were sustained in the final, three-day government drive.
Fighting began in Sanandaj when the government sought to send troops through the city on their way to seal off the border with neighboring Iraq. Much of Kurdistan has been virtually autonomous since the February 1979 revolution in Tehran loosened central government control.
Hostilities were still reported under way today in the smaller Kurdish cities of Saqqez, Baneh, Marivan and Sardasht.
There was no official Kurdish guerrilla reply to Bani-Sadr's offer last night to accept an "amended" version of the Kurds' six-point autonomy plan, which was worked out during a long fall and winter cease-fire.
However, Kurdish sources said they expect separatism and noted that the government amended words considered unacceptable by all Kurdish autonomist fashion even before the latest round of hostility.
Bani-Sadr's offer was accompanied by an announcement that $286 million in development funds has been placed at the disposal of the provincial government for health, education, small industrial, agricultural and other development projects.