Reza Pahlavi (62) experienced the Islamic Revolution and the fall of his father in early 1979 at a US Air Force base in Texas, where he was training to be a fighter pilot. Even if his business card simply reads “Secretariat of Reza Pahlavi. Washington, DC,” monarchists understand him as the Iranian crown prince. The transition to democracy is more important to him than the peacock throne, as he assures in the APA interview in Munich.
“No, that’s not difficult for me,” he said when asked whether he would support a democratic republic despite his claims. “I have always said that if I had to choose between a secular republic and a hereditary monarchy, I would choose the republic.” It is important that the future Iranian government is based “on the will and the decision of the people”. He couldn’t “explain” anything else.
Pahlavi took part in a panel discussion with other regime opponents such as women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad as part of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. They were united in their efforts to overthrow the mullahs’ regime, both of them then stressed to the APA. The differences should be brushed aside and the voters then decide on the future form of government in free elections.
Alinejad reported that she used to believe in reforming the regime. Now she criticizes politicians like the French socialist Ségolène Royal or the EU foreign policy chiefs Catherine Ashton and Federica Mogherini, who went to Tehran for years and there made a commitment to respect Iran’s cultural peculiarities. “What I am telling you is that you respect one of the most barbaric regimes in existence, namely Iran’s religious dictatorship.” All Iranians – secular and religious, those who oppose and support hijab – now agree that they would be better off in a secular republic than in the current regime.
“None of us here is running for office,” said Pahlavi, looking at himself and his fellow campaigners. “I am using my political capital to help with the transition. We are working together as a group to get a process going,” explained the last Shah’s son. A first step should be the resolution of a charter with principles for the future state orientation of Iran, which will be jointly represented by the various groups critical of the regime. Human rights and freedom of religion should be key elements in this.
However, Pahlavi made it clear that he would not be averse to playing his own political role in the new Iran. Indeed, there might be a need for some sort of “patronage” in the form of a monarchy that would not be directly involved in government. “Maybe we could innovate and say we have an elected (monarchy)?” he said, referring to presidents with more representative responsibilities like Israel or India. But he wouldn’t like a purely decorative role based on the English Queen, as he said with a wink. “I always tell people I’m not fighting for their freedom and then being their first victim myself. I want to be free too, and I don’t want to take on a constitutional role where I can’t speak freely from the heart.”
The king’s son sees the current protest movement in Iran with satisfaction. More and more forces that had previously backed a reform of the Islamic Republic are joining the opponents of the regime. Only recently, for example, former presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi made a similar statement. Pahlavi sees Western policy towards Iran as a failure. For years it was based on the “false premise that sanctions turn bad guys into good guys”. “Behaviour change was the wrong expectation, regime change is the solution.”
No coup has been successful without outside support, Pahlavi emphasized, referring to the Solidarnosc trade union movement in Poland or the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. He expressed a number of concrete expectations of the West: technical support such as communication devices to make it easier for opponents of the regime to network in the country, sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and the possibility of Iranian exiles being able to support the opposition directly with money. The financial actions against the mullah regime would also affect the opposition. “We should find a way for the good people to get money without the bad people taking it.”
The sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards are essential because they play a central role in the state and economy. But they also have a symbolic meaning because it would send a signal to parts of the security forces to distance themselves from the regime. They should also be offered an amnesty. “We want as many defectors as possible so that the regime implodes,” Pahlavi outlined. The tacit support of the reform movement by parts of the security forces is also important so that the country does not slide into chaos and anarchy when the regime collapses.
Pahlavi and Alinejad discussed at the Munich Security Conference, among others, with the head of the foreign policy committee in the US Senate, Bob Menendez. After Iranian regime representatives had been regular guests in Munich in recent years, the doors of the Bayerischer Hof remained closed to them this year. It remains to be seen whether Reza Pahlavi and his comrades-in-arms will come to the security conference as Iran’s official representatives. The Shah’s son is used to decades of waiting for political change. When asked when he expects the end of the mullahs’ regime, he jumps up like a stung cat and takes a big step towards the door, accompanied by the mischievous question: “May I get my crystal ball?”
(The interview was conducted by Stefan Vospernik/APA and Konrad Kramar/Kurier)