The Iraqi invasion of Iran seems to have paralyzed the Iranian opposition in exile because of the close ties the main leaders centered in Paris had established with Baghdad.
The most prominent political exile, Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister before the takeover by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has yet to issue a clear condemnation of the Iraqi invasion, although the Iranian royal family has done so from exile in Egypt.
He said in an interview last night that he considers all the money he has received so far from Iraq to be a loan. He admits having made "four or five" trips from Paris to Baghdad.
"It is no shame," he said, "to receive money, provided one commits oneself to pay it back at the right time."
Gholam Ali Oveissi, the most important ex-general in the exile movement, is understood to have returned to Paris today after having sat out the first week of the Iraqi offensive in the United States. Some of his supporters were said to be urging him to return to Iran to attempt a military uprising against Khomeini.
While Oveissi apparently heeded the views circulated by Iranian monarchists that "anyone who returns to Iran in the baggage train of the Iraqi Army will be swept away," he has yet to make any public statement disavowing the Iraqi invasion.
The only major group that has come out clearly against Iraq is the royal family and its supporters. Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi's statement that he would like to "give my life" in battle alongside his Iranian military comrades apparently has rallied a large number of military men abroad in the cause of repelling Iraqis.
An Iranian diplomat in Paris was reported as saying that the embassy has been beseiged with telephone calls from exile volunteers, including four former generals.
The Iranian charge d'affairs issued a communique saying the Iranian Army has all the soldiers it needs. Speaking of Prince Reza, the Iranian charge said, "for us, those people are dead."
There have been several press stories saying large numbers of exile troops are in Iraq and elsewhere. The West German weekly Stern spoke of 45,000 in 20 border camps under the command of Oveissi. Informed sources dismissed such claims as wildly exaggerated. A number of Iranians in Paris are causing members of rival factions of spreading disinformation.
The Iraqi government has strongly denied using any Iranian exiles. There is little doubt that Oveissi has military followers in Iraqi, but a Western diplomat said, "Iraq's Iranians are qabout as useful to it as Hitler's Ukranians were to him." This referred to the largely ineffective Ukrainian "Green army" recruited by the Nazis to fight the Soviets in World War II.
Bakhtiar and Oveissi each have radio stations beamed at Iran from Iraq.
How to react to the Iraq invasion is not the only problem of the highly splintered opposition. A number of unity attempts have foundered, primarily because of personal rivalries. The lack of unity has in turn worked against the buildup of significant grass-roots support inside Iran, according to observers.
Another unity attempt was getting under way here this weekend as a number of exiles converged on Paris for caucuses and a general meeting of the nonmonarchist opposition. The most prominent is former prime minister Ali Amini, 75, a reform-minded leader whom the Kennedy administration urged upon the late shah, only to see the monarch push him out of office and into exile.
Another prominent figure, former admiral Ahmad Madani -- a postrevolutionary defense minister dismissed by Khomeini -- is understood to be in Western Europe after his recent escape from Iran.
Bakhtiar described Amini as a "catayst" who could bring others together. Bakhtiar said he has in mind the formation of a national resistance council along the lines of the French wartime resistance organization in which political parties coordinated their activities but kept their own organizations and programs.
Bakhtiar said he had been at Cairo a week ago at the invitation of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He said his only contact with the Iranian royal family residing there was through an emissary.
Several Iranians here close to the royal family insist that Bakhtiar saw the shah's widow, Farah Diba, to plead that the royal family not condemn Iraq, because it had helped the opposition. Two days before her son's statement, she called on "all the brave Iranian officers and soldiers to redouble their struggle against the usurpers and to defend their homeland and the Iranian nation."
The monarchists are understood to be organizing major effort to publicize the 20th birthday of Prince Reza Oct. 31, when he comes of age to succeed his father as shah.
The monarchists say Bakhtiar was in Baghdad at the outbreak of hostilities. In yesterday's interview, he said he had not been there for six weeks. In a press conference today he said it was about a month ago, and a source close to him said he had been in Baghdad shortly before going to Cairo.
Bakhtiar was interviewed at his new home in the western Paris suburb of Suresnes. He moved there after a killer squad tried to assassinate him this summer at a luxury apartment in the more fashionable suburb of Neuilly. A policeman and one of Bakhtiar's neighbors were killed. The other apartment-dwellers petitioned him to move out.
His new residence is a villa on a narrow, winding street heavily guarded by at least a dozen French riot policemen in battle dress and loaded rifles at the ready.
Bakhtiar said he could not approve of Iraq's unilateral denunciation of the 1975 treaty setting its border differences with Iran and that he does not agree to cede "a single square centimeter" of Iranian soil to anyone. But Iraq's attack was made inevitable by the aggressive way Khomeini "and his clique" acted toward Iraq "and all Moslem countries," he added.
In the interest of ridding Iran of Khomeini and all the mullahs," he said, there are "bitter pills" to swallow. He cited the example of French war-time resistance leader Charles de Gaulle having to accept major affronts to French national honor from Britain, including the British sinking of the French fleet in Algeria in 1940 with the loss of 1,300 French sailors. De Gaulle, Bakhtiar recalled, also had to accept financial help from the British.
Bakhtiar said he had gone to Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraq government. "We have common interests," he said. "We agree on one point -- not to interfere in each other's internal affairs."
By contrast, Hassan Nazih, one of the few prominent opposition figures publicly linked with Bakhtiar, said in an interview today, "No group should accept any foreign financial support. Sooner or later, that leads to moral, political or economic dependence on the foreign power." If the war continues, Nazih said, all patriots should volunteer to fight the invader while also continuing the struggle against Khomeini.
Nazih was named by the Khomeini government to be the first postrevolutionary head of the National Iranian Oil Co. but he went into exile this year.