Reza Pahalavi: "No War Is Needed - We Will Topple This Regime Ourselves"
Nadezhda Popova, Izvestia:
There seems to be no way to settle the “Iranian nuclear crisis”, despite all efforts by the international intermediaries. Tehran and Washington keep exchanging bellicose statements, increasingly more threatening. Is there a way out of the impasse? Will the U.S. use force against Iran and if it does, what will it lead to? How long will the present regime in Tehran be able to cling to power? Answers to these and other questions were supplied by the man who, under certain circumstances, could be heading Iran today (as arguably he will soon). This conversation with Mr. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah of Iran deposed in 1979, was held by Nadezhda Popova.
Izvestia: Just recently, you stated that by July-August you will have formed a movement with the purpose to overthrow the current regime in Tehran. How are you planning to accomplish this revolution? READ MORE
Reza Pahlavi: We are calling on Iranians for mass actions of civil disobedience. Meantime, we demand of the international community that it should apply sanctions in a way that would punish the regime but not harm the people. For example, members Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government may be declared personae non grata. When the regime has been debunked, we will arrange a nation-wide referendum to have the Iranian people decide on their own the political future it wants for itself. We will conduct a democratic election. The parliament will draft a new constitution.
Izvestia: Who is going to participate in these acts of civil disobedience?
Reza Pahlavi: There are numerous opposition groups in Iran, bringing together workers, intellectuals and other social strata. Almost 50 million of the country’s 70 million population are young people under 30 years. They have access to information about what is going on in the world. They understand just how bad are the things now occurring in Iran. I think soon my countrymen will realize that the present regime does not care about ordinary people but cares exclusively for itself. Besides, we have opposition cells throughout the world, since many Iranians left their homeland after the revolution. With them, as well as with the opposition inside the country, we are in close contact.
Izvestia: Can the West, in your view, strike a military blow on Iran?
Reza Pahlavi: I do not rule this out. But the war would have horrendous consequences. What we now see in Afghanistan and Iraq must teach us a lesson. The Iranian problem has a peaceful solution to it.
Izvestia: How will Iran’s Kurdish and Azerbaijani communities respond in the case of a war conflict? Can they declare their will to secede?
Reza Pahlavi: Sure. The current regime is trumping the Shiite-Sunni card, pitting national minorities at each other’s throat. However Iran is a country which for centuries accorded welcome to people of different nationalities and faiths. So when we come to power, national minorities will have their rights guaranteed. The present regime creates too many complexities like terrorism, economic instability, nuclear menace, extremism. When it clears the stage, 90 percent of world problems will be resolved.
Izvestia: What is your personal stake in this?
Reza Pahlavi: We want the West to help us build democracy. To a certain extent, it is even more important than battling the nuclear weapons in Iran.
Izvestia: Which countries are you talking with?
Reza Pahlavi: The U.S. and Europeans. With all those who believe in the Iranian people’s ability to resolve the problem. Since all other methods will be more risky, more dangerous and, simply speaking, more expensive than what I am suggesting.
Izvestia: Could Americans wager on you as the future head of state if they decide to support the Iranian opposition?
Reza Pahlavi: I talk with the republicans as well as the democrats. People in the US understand that by bolstering democracy in Iran they invest in the bright future for the whole region. I think only of how to help my motherland. My role is modest indeed. And it does not matter whether we will have a monarchy or a republic and who will head the state. We will decide these later.
Izvestia: Did you have contacts with the Russian government?
Reza Pahlavi: No, regrettably. But I am ready to call on the Russians to try and dissuade Ahmadinejad from having a nuclear program, and pay attention to our people. After the end of the cold war Iranians’ attitude to your country was completely changed. While the USSR threatened our national interests, Russia is a friend.
The last Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was enthroned in September of 1941. He restored the authority of parliament and carried out liberal reforms. Everything changed, however, after the February 4, 1949 attempt on the Shah’s life. Mohammad Reza declared the state of emergency and switched to an authoritarian regime. Since January of 1978 when the Shah’s troops shot at participants of a protest action in Qum, the country was swept over by a wave of demonstrations against the monarch, organized by the clergy. On January 4, 1979, Mohammad Reza authorized opposition leader Shapour Bakhtiyar to form a new government. But very soon power passed on to the clerics headed by Ayatollah Khomeini who promulgated the Islamic Republic. On
January 16, 1979, the shah with his family left the country. By that time Reza, the eldest of the monarch’s three sons, had already lived abroad. He went to America in 1978. After completing the course at the Air Force Academy, he entered the department of political sciences at Williams College. Then he graduated from the University of California. Now Reza Pahlavi lives with his wife and three daughters in Maryland.