Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 1, 2006

A New Shah for Iran?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:54 pm

Human Events has a fascinating interview with Reza Pahlavi, son of the late (and deposed) Shah of Iran. The Shah was deposed in 1979, in a revolution that brought the current Islamic/totalitarian regime to power. Here’s what he has to say:

Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran, told the editors of Human Events last week that in the next two to three months he hopes to finalize the organization of a movement aimed at overthrowing the Islamic regime in Tehran and replacing it with a democratic government.

He believes the cause is urgent because of the prospect that Iran may soon develop a nuclear weapon or the U.S. may use military force to preempt that. He hopes to offer a way out of this dilemma: a revolution sparked by massive civil disobedience in which the masses in the streets are backed by elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the United States, said he has been in contact with elements of the Revolutionary Guard that would be willing to play such a role, and activists who could help spark the civil disobedience.

If this is true, I don’t know why he’s saying it in public — but if it’s not true, I don’t know what he could possibly gain by saying it.

Under any circumstances, would you support U.S. military action against Iran?

As a matter of principle there’s no way that I can support any kind of military intervention regardless of the crisis because as a matter of principle, and as a nationalist, I cannot even imagine the fact that my country could be attacked, and today it’s a very different scenario from, let’s say, the Second World War where you are occupied by Nazi forces and there’s a liberating force coming in. This is a strike against Iranian installations that are part of our national assets. That it’s used wrongly by the wrong people is beside the point. So there’s no justification as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not sure I see the difference he does.

You would be willing to renounce that idea that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon?

I’m against developing any weapons of mass destruction. I work to see the world develop a process of disarmament because otherwise it will be madness. If we build it, tomorrow the Turks will build it, then the Saudis want to build it, then the Egyptians want to build it. Believe me, in that part of the world, there’s some track record how stable the world will feel having a whole bunch of nuclear warheads in the hands of all these people. Forget it. I’d be the first one proposing a plan to reverse the cycle of proliferation.

He’s right about the track record, and that’s why people who support having the U.S. and certain other countries having nuclear weapons, but opposed allowing those other regimes to have them are not actually hypocrites.

I’ll pick one nit though — the Saudis will not build a nuclear weapon. They might buy one, but they will not build one. They don’t build anything.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting:

You don’t believe Iran needs a nuclear weapon to balance Israel’s nuclear weapon?


You would not demand that Israel disarm?

Since when has Israel been a threat to anyone? Israel just wants to be left alone and live in peace side by side with its neighbors. As far as I’m concerned, Israel never had any ambition to territorially go and invade, I don’t know, Spain or Morocco or anywhere else. And let me tell something else about Iran: Unlike the rest of the Islamic or Arab world, the relationship between Persia and the Jews goes back to the days of Cyrus the Great. We take pride as Iranians of having a history where Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah, as a liberator of Jewish slaves, who went to Babylon and gave them true freedom for them to worship and in fact helped them build a temple. We have a biblical relation with Jews, and we have no problem with modern day Israel. As far as regional politics, I believe, I think many Iranians believe so, that as much as Israel has a right to exist, so should the Palestinians. They have to work the problem between each other. And we have no business interfering, and we need to help get as much stability in the region.

A democratic regime in Iran would be doing that, but a clerical regime in Tehran that sends money to Hamas and to Hizballah and to all the terrorists around the globe obviously is not promoting stability and peace, it is doing the reverse.

Since when do Islamic leaders acknowledge that Israel just wants to be left alone?

That’s pretty amazing. And you know what? Based on every conversation I’ve had with Iranian emigres in the U.S., I believe he really thinks that. Because nearly all the Iranians I’ve met in the U.S. think the same thing, and they are all here for the same reason he is — because the previous government was overthrown.

Obviously there is some selection bias here — anyone who supports the current regime would not have left — but that doesn’t mean they take a concilliatory line on Israel. Most Arab emigres I’ve known despise the regimes they left, but despise Israel more. (N.B. Iranians are not Arabs. If you don’t believe me, ask any Iranian — and stand back!)

While you’re doing this, how concerned are you about your own security here in the United States?

Look it’s beyond concern. I put faith in the Almighty and I said whatever it takes. You know, what can you do? You cannot live in a shell.

In your Iran, Mahmoud Abdullah, the Afghan who converted to Christianity, would have every right to do that and the state would protect him from retaliation by radical clerics?

God, I hope so. I hope so. Because if we are basing our constitution on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that’s one of the most fundamental rights that any human being should have. I’m sick and tired of hypocrisy and all this dubious attitude that is so typical of our region. If you believe in something you say it, you don’t fool around. I mean, that’s where I’m coming from. I haven’t lived 45 years of my life to fool around with these things. If I’m willing to lose my life for it, hell I’m going to fight for these rights, otherwise it’s not worth it. Frankly it’s not worth it! I might as well forget about Iran and become a citizen and live my life in this country. No. I want to have the same rights you have over here over there. That’s what I’m fighting for! Otherwise why bother?

Do you think the Iranian population as a whole agrees with you today or do you feel you have to convert them to your point of view?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find out that the minute you criticize any aspect of this regime you are going to be at the very least incarcerated, possibly tortured, and at the very worst, executed. Last week, there were six bodies of women found in South of Tehran, because of the new edict by Ahmadinejad—and I’m not saying “edict” as a cleric because he’s not, but the new law—to further strengthen the strict code of how you dress! People can be fined if they happen to have a dog on a leash because dogs are supposed to be bad in Islam. You cannot even walk your dog on the street and not be fined. Imagine if you were to criticize the regime! Don’t you think people get that? They do.

Would you rather participate in a democratic parliamentary election like Iraq or simply come back as a constitutional monarch?

I appreciate the question. I know what my function is today, and my function today is to be a catalyst that promotes unity as opposed to being an element that brings polarity. My role today is not institutional, it’s political. My role today is not someone who will be a symbolic leader under that institution, but a national leader that is fighting for freedom. … My job today is to be a liberator, as opposed to representing an institution. However, as an option, certainly the Iranian people should consider that beyond the content of the future, which I described to you—secular, democratic, based on human rights—what should the ultimate form be? Do we want to have a parliamentary monarchy like we do Sweden, or Japan, or Holland, or Belgium? Or do we want to have a republican system like you have in this United States or France or elsewhere? That debate is not today’s debate. That is the debate that will be the responsibility of the next constitutional assembly that will have to bring in a new constitution and draft a new one.

At that time, there probably will be a lot of debates between those who are advocates of a monarchic system and those who are advocates of a republican system.

But you don’t rule it out?

I think it is, in my personal opinion, I think that that institution will better serve the purpose of the institutionalization of the democracy in Iran rather than the republican form. I can, case in point, use the example, of a post-Franco [Spain] with King Juan Carlos.

You’re not renouncing the throne, in other words? You’ll take it, if—

Look, it’s not a matter what I choose to do. I think that if monarchy has to be decided it should be based on people wanting it, not me arguing it. I have faith that this is an appropriate institution. It’s not a coincidence it survived more than 25 centuries. It is very much imbedded in Iranian culture and tradition and identity. In modern days, it can play just as effective a role. And I think that one of the things that I often find, thinking of the way Americans look at monarchy, which is immediately George III in your mind, is that you should at least liberate yourself from that aspect and see that the name “republic” doesn’t mean anything. Most of your enemies are republics. Saddam Hussein is one. Syria is one. “Republic” doesn’t automatically mean democratic. The Soviet Union was a republic. Most of your allies in Europe and NATO, half of them were monarchies. … I think it’s not the form of the regime, it’s the content that matters. I think a monarchy is just as compatible to be committed to be democratic as a republic is. In some countries, a monarchy works better than a republic. Usually, history has shown us, in countries that are heterogeneous, in other words that have a lot of different groups, ethnicities and religion, the gelling factor, the unifying factor, has been the institutional mind, with the difference that this institution has to remain above the fray and not be engaged in the politics. That’s the big difference. Because the only time it can maintain neutrality and be for all is by not being engaged. Because the minute you become political then you have to take sides and that defeats the purpose, which is pretty much the problem we had under the previous regime, because the person of the king was directly involved in making policy, which is the last thing you want to do.
Having said that, yes, I’m fully committed to that. I’m ready to serve in that capacity. If the people so choose, it would be my greatest honor. But at the end of the day, what I tell them is, first and foremost, I’m an Iranian and I’d be just as happy to serve my country in whatever capacity. But if you give me that choice, that opportunity, I think I could do a good job for you.

BTW: To pick one other very small nit. It is close, but not precisely correct, to say that “Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah.” Cyrus is the most quoted non-Jewish king in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible, which consists of the “Torah,” the “Prophets,” and the “Writings”). He is also the only non-Jewish king to whom God is said to have spoken. And he is portrayed very favorably in the Books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Chroncles.

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