President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr today reviewed naval and air maneuvers off a disputed Iranian-occupied Persian Gulf island in an apparent effort to still rumors of dissension, sabotage and potential coups in the armed forces.
In his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces Bani-Sadr presided from the bridge of a British-built destroyer over what the state radio described as revolutionary Iran's biggest joint maneuvers in the gulf.
An undisclosed number of missile frigates, bovercraft, war planes, patrol and logistics vessels and marine commandos were taking part in the 48-hour maneuvers which the radio said showed "the full combat readiness of the Navy, Air Force and Army."
Ostensibly, the maneuvers were aimed at showing Iranians that American attempts to "frighten" Iran are futile. Maj. Hadi Shadmehr, head of the joint chiefs of staff said.
Before the exercise however, Iran had been rife with rumors of coup plots. Following the ill-fated American mission to rescue the U.S. Embassy hostages April 25, they had become so persistent that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself felt obliged to deny them yesterday.
Khomeini was apparently spurred into action by a clandestine radio broadcast by Gen. Gholam Ali Oveissi the shah's former ground forces commander, who said he was preparing an exile army to invade Iran from seven points.
Oveissi was reported to be in Iraq, with which Iran currently is at loggerheads.
Demonstrating Iranian defiance of Iraq was Bani-Sadr's visit to Abu Musa, an island near the strategic Strait of Hormut. Deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi seized the island from the Arab emirate of Sharjah in 1971.
Since last autumn Iraq has demanded that Abu Musa and two nearby islands seized at the same time from the emirate of Ras al Khaimah be returned to their Arab owners.
Elements of the Iranian armed forces have been suspected of conniving with counterrevolutionary plotters of all stripes since the aborted U.S. rescue mission succeeded in violating Iranian airspace without being detected.
Other incidents of turbulence and dissidence within the armed forces have been reported recently from Kurdistan. In the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, occupied last week by the Army and Revolutionary Guards after a month-long fight with autonomy-seeking guerrillas, 450 locally recruited soldiers reportedly were arrested for treason.