Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi: After 39 Years of Suffering and Terror the West Must Embrace Regime Change in Iran
Written by Banafsheh Zand and Sophie Baron
Reza Pahlavi at the Washington Institute
On Friday, December 14th, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy presented a long overdue forum with Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi.
The discussion was moderated by Mehdi Khalaji, an Iranian fellow at the institute, himself a Qom-trained Shia seminarian and son of Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Khalaji. He opened the event with a short statement, where he pointed out that the Khomeiniist Regime’s 40th anniversary is approaching (February 11th), and erroneously claimed that, until now, no opposition movement has seriously threatened the regime’s viability.
Pahlavi, who in recent months has finally adopted a more dynamic ‘pitch,’ then followed with his own short opening statement, which touched on key points that deserved to be highlighted on this international platform. He covered topics from the regime’s suppression of Iranian culture since 1979, to the discrimination against women, the destruction of Iran’s economy and environment, the expropriation of businesses and wealth for itself and using that wealth to spread terrorism and aggression, the ethnic and religious minorities, and much more.
He spoke of the wave of strikes and protests by workers from all guilds and vocations, throughout Iran: “In the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and untold risks, the Iranian people have opened a new era of opposition to the regime. In towns and cities across Iran every day, they are confronting it tirelessly and courageously. Through public protests, labor strikes and innumerable acts of civil disobedience, they are expressing their rejection of its every principle, element and faction.”
Prince Pahlavi expounded on the objective of a democratic Iran as a catalyst for change in the Middle East, a new Iran would work well with both Arabs and Israelis, and be economically and culturally linked to the west. He cited the example of videos shot in Iran showing Iranians refusing to step on American and Israeli flags that were painted on the ground, in doorways, and other walkways. These, he pointed out, are subtle but clear signs of people who desire peace with the world, but that this regime’s nature contradicts that, and it is something that they will not reform. Hence, it must be non-violently removed by the Iranian people, who need support from the outside.
Khalaji began his questioning by saying that Khomeini was an “outstanding leader,” and asked what lessons could be learned from Khomeini’s experience. Pahlavi explained that the revolution utilized religion as a transcending factor, and that people did not appreciate the necessity for secularism as they had not yet experienced a religious inquisitorial rule. As such, the 40 years of Islamist rule has helped Iranians understand the need for separation of mosque and state, and the need for change to come through working together – he used the quote “it takes a village” – and not rely on one guiding figure. Khomeini was used as a lightning rod for all those who wanted to be rid of the shah, and didn’t understand what the Islamic republic would be, whereas Iranians today are basing the need for secular democracy as the unifying factor for the opposition, avoiding factional political disputes.
Then Khalaji noted that just as communism was born in Europe but was first realized in Russia, Islamic fundamentalism was born in Egypt (Muslim Brotherhood) but first established in Iran. The Crown Prince answered that, simply, Iran was the best place at that time for Khomeini to achieve his ambitions, but that ultimately no state should be ruled according to one single ideology, and that freedom of religion is necessary. Since 1979 religious minorities such Bahais, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Sunni Muslims are persecuted in Iran.
Pahlavi was then asked why he thinks secularism would work now, when the secularism of the Pahlavi dynasty brought forth a “backlash from society.” Khalaji’s question was biased, in light of the relevant facts, that it was foreign intervention that brought down both Pahlavi kings and enabled the mullahs to rise to power. Pahlavi answered that secularism does not mean being anti-religion, it means not using political power to enforce a particular belief. Traditionalist clerics like ayatollah Sistani oppose Khomeiniism, as true Shi’ism is against political involvement, because only the twelve imams have the right to rule. People in Iran see now that that they could have been a fully advanced country, and not be dragged back into the Dark Ages. Iranians are flourishing in every country, except Iran. Poor people, workers who haven’t been paid, those selling organs to survive, these are the ones who most see the need for change and secularism, and they are chanting support for the Pahlavi shahs.
Khalaji then claimed that the monarchy obtained its legitimacy from Shiite clerical establishment, dismissing the fact that monarchy is a pre-Islamic, uniquely Iranian system of government. He then asked what would Pahlavi base his legitimacy on. Pahlavi answered by saying that you can’t compare today to the past, as there was then no organized secular movement. Now, people admire Reza Shah the Great for being tough on the mullahs. Today though, things must be handled democratically, with a new constitution based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Once again, Khalaji inaccurately claimed, that other members of the Pahlavi family, including the women, were not politically active. The fact is, however, both Empress Farah and Princess Ashraf (the Shah’s twin sister, who passed away in 2016 at age 96) have not only been politically active but were and continue to be pioneers in the Iranian women’s emancipation movement.
In response to why Pahlavi had not formed a political party, he explained that he understands his role as being separate from the political fray, of being a unifying factor that helps bind diverse political groups in the goal of freeing Iran. It’s a moral imperative to work together for Iran’s interest against the regime, and not fall prey to their attempts to divide the opposition. The royal family is not supposed to be running the government, the people will elect their leaders in a future parliament.
Khalaji then boldly asserted that he does not believe that Iran is facing the decisive counter-revolutionary moment, and that the regime is functioning normally and able to suppress the people. “It’s working,” he said. However, Pahlavi pointed out that oppression by definition signifies that the regime is not confident, and that it does not have answers to people’s problems. He elaborated that the next step is to bring military forces to support the people, and that he is having a dialogue about this with various members of the IRGC and regular armed forces.
For his last question, Khalaji asked what the Trump administration could do to help Iranians. Pahlavi replied that, most importantly, they should help with providing communication. The first step is to purge the US government sponsored Persian language media of [Tehran’s] reformist infiltrators. The second step is to seize the assets of the corrupt regime authorities, and redirect sanctions to provide relief to the poorer elements of Iranian society. Iranians want foreign support, people chanting slogans in foreign languages are sending messages to the West, asking for assistance. During the 2009 uprising, people called out “Obama, Obama are you with us or with them.” When Obama said that he wouldn’t interfere in Iran’s internal affairs, the Iranian people understood it as a statement that the US would not help them.
The floor was then opened for a short Q and A session.
Though much of the international media that should have covered this event did not, members of the liberal international media that have always supported and bolstered the regime in Tehran did not miss the opportunity to cover and dismiss it.
Journalists such as Barbara Slavin, Laura Rozen, and Iranian Nahal Toosi who have been long time media apologists for the Khomeiniist regime and it’s DC-based lobby, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), were among those present.
Slavin, who has confessed to going along with Tehran’s agenda in order to obtain visas to visit Iran and gain access to Tehran’s officials, asked Pahlavi if he has met with the Trump administration, and whether he is concerned about the effects of the sanctions. Misunderstanding RP’s comment about seizing the assets of the regime officials and their family members living in the west, she asked what more Islamic Republic assets are there that have not already been blocked. Pahlavi answered succinctly, that he has not met with the administration, but over the years he has talked to various senators and members of congress; he mentioned that America and the entire west has for decades refused to consider talking to the [Iranian] opposition because of their false notion of inducing behavior change in the regime. He wants to talk to western figures, including Trump, about the Iranian people’s desires. He then spoke out against total sanctions, calling instead for targeted sanctions against the regime leadership and the IRGC, loosening restrictions on sending money to poor people in Iran. He then repeated the need for the west to embrace regime change as a policy.
Banafsheh Zand is the managing editor of the Islamic State of Iran Crime Research Center (ISICRC.org)