Reza Pahlavi on Growing Showdown With Iran
Paul Gigot, The Wall Street Journal: Read the complete Wall Street Journal Editorial Report here. This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," September 23, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: As world leaders gathered this week at the United Nations, the United States had hoped to move decisively towards political and economic sanctions against Iran after that country missed an August 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
Instead, diplomats discussed a new d eadline and have authorized the European Union's foreign policy chief to meet with Iran's nuclear negotiator any place at any time.
Joining me now from Washington is the son of the late Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi.
Mr. Pahlavi, thanks so much for being with us.
REZA PAHLAVI, SON OF THE LATE SHAH OF IRAN: Good morning, Paul.
GIGOT: You heard, I'm sure, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech. He has also been giving some interviews. What do you think he's trying to accomplish this week with these appearances?
PAHLAVI: Well, unfortunately, I think that the grandstanding of Mr. Ahmadinejad is a carefully planned move to gain more popularity on certain Arab streets, as a champion of the cause of extremists who simply don't look at the world the same way we do.
The truth is that he is losing more and more popularity at home, based on complete dysfunctionality of our economic situation. People are tired, are miserable. They have a lot of economic hardship.
And frankly, in order to compensate for that loss of popularity, he is trying to, once again — as the Islamic Republic leaders have always done the same — deflecting attention from home-grown issues to some international arguments.
GIGOT: OK, now, you know the U.N. Security Council is considering economic and political sanctions. What impact do you think — in response to the missed deadline on Iran's nuclear program, what impact do you think those sanctions would have on the regime and the politic—nuclear program? Do you think they would cause them to slow down? Have any impact at all?
PAHLAVI: Well, first of all, I think that, if there is a sanction package considered, it has to be part of a much more profound strategy and policy.
I have proposed before — and if I may repeat it again today — a three-pronged approach which consists of confrontation, pressure and support.
By confrontation, I mean that everywhere this regime is up to mischief, it has to be dealt with whether it's in Afghanistan or Lebanon or Saudi Arabia or in Iraq.
Number two is pressure. This is where sanctions come in.
I believe that very carefully targeted and calculated sanctions aimed at the political, economic and personal interests of the regime's leadership and structure, as opposed to the entire Iranian nation, could certainly hurt the regime without necessarily hurting the people.
And, of course, support at the end of the day is about helping the Iranian people being changed — fundamental change in Iran by putting an end to this regime.
I think it is in that context that economic sanctions could, in fact, work not just to curtail the regime, but put an end to the entire problem by eliminating the regime once and for all.
GIGOT: Interesting. There is more and more discussion in the United States that President Bush needs to sit down and have direct face-to-face talks with President Ahmadinejad. And people say, look, Ronald Reagan talked to the Soviet leaders during the Cold War. Why can't President Bush talk to the Iranians now?
Do you think that would be a good strategy for the U.S. to pursue?
PAHLAVI: Well, I think this is one of those very rare cases that the world is dealing with an unconventional state in the sense that, at the end of the day, this regime doesn't care about Iran or Iranians. It is using Iran as a launching pad, if you will, to export a very radical twisted version of Islam to the entire world.
They couldn't care less if millions of Iranians could die in the process or if our country could even be attacked. For them, it's a matter of fighting the infidels to the death.
In the Soviet Union, even at the height of the Cold War, whether we agreed or not with Khrushchev and others, it was still an issue of protecting their national interests.
I don't think that this regime is capable of understanding the concept of what is the true meaning of national interest because their behavior in the past several years has proved that. So what is there to negotiate, really? What challenge is there to offer them?
GIGOT: So you're saying that there's nothing that the United States can offer them that they are willing to accept because their goals are different and their goals are to spread revolution? Are you saying that?
PAHLAVI: Clearly. READ MORE
I mean, look at the position of the supreme leader, Mr. Khomeini, and what is the core interests of his regime.
The minute they stand back from their aggressive position on the nuclear issue and what have you, they will instantly lose credibility and support within their own militia, which is really the basic foundation and power base of this regime.
Can the regime afford to do that? Certainly not. So there is no carrot in that sense that will keep them more interested to cut a deal with the outside world at the cost of losing the principle support, whether it's in Iran through revolutionary guards and these foundations or in the region with all the militants, extremist and terrorist groups that have been, if you will, their tentacles operating on their behalf and as proxies in the region and beyond.
GIGOT: Well, briefly, one of the things you also know the president did was he says that he signed off on the invitation to former President Khatami, who spoke at Harvard, because he wants to hear alternative voices.
Do you think that was a mistake for the president to allow Khatami to come to the United States?
PAHLAVI: Well, first of all, Khatami had the chance when he was president for eight years and he didn't do anything when he was in power. What could he possibly do now that he is out of it, number one?
Number two, let's not forget one thing. I think ample opportunities have been given to the Islamic regime to come clean and to behave the way it is expected of them to behave in terms of expectation in the civilized world. They have failed to do that.
Setting further deadlines can only prolong a policy of buying time for the regime until it gets what it wants.
I think the solution today is for the world to say, look, you had your chance, you blew it. We're not going to stand for this rhetoric any longer. We're not going to stand for this terrorism any longer. We have to put an end to this madness.
And the best way we can do that, by the way, is by helping the cause of democracy and investing on the people of Iran themselves. That's what the president should focus on, if I was in his shoes.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you, Mr. Pahlavi. Thanks for being here.