Reza Pahlavi Is No Ahmed Chalabi

Reza Pahlavi (YouTube)

by Farhang Jahanpour

After a long period of relative silence, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed Iranian Shah who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years, recently made a rare public appearance, calling for a U.S.-backed regime change in Iran. Speaking at the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Friday, December 14, he called for “non-Military actions” in support of Iranians to replace the Islamic Republic with a secular democracy.

Since coming to office and even during the 2016 election campaign, President Donald Trump has adopted a very hostile attitude towards Iran and the landmark nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) negotiated under President Barack Obama. Some of the more hawkish members of his team have received huge fees speaking at the annual meetings of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) that are held outside Paris, and have openly called for regime change in Iran before the end of 2019.

Reza Pahlavi’s speech was in line with the Trump administration’s policies towards Iran, but he went even further and demanded action to bring about regime change. “You cannot come and say we support the Iranian people but we don’t want regime change,” he said. “How the hell do you want us to get to democracy while this regime is still in place?” His appearance has created great excitement among some sections of the Iranian opposition abroad, who see him as a more viable alternative to the clerical regime than the MEK, which is seen as a terrorist organization and hated by most Iranians. Could Reza Pahlavi play a role in ushering in regime change in Iran? What might that role be?

Whether we like it or not, the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah’s government and the establishment of the Islamic Republic was not due to a military coup, as in Egypt, or a foreign coup, such as the 1953 coup against Mohammad Mosaddeq’s popular government. As someone who lived in Iran and witnessed the early stages of the revolution, it was clear to me, as it will be to anyone who has studied the history of the revolution, that it was a mass movement. Millions of people rose up against the government and demanded fundamental change, to such an extent that the Shah’s powerful military collapsed in the face of mainly bloodless nationwide demonstrations, strikes and, some terrorist and paramilitary activities mainly perpetrated by the members of the MEK.

The initial slogans of the Iranian revolution were “Freedom, Independence, Social Justice”. People wanted to put an end to arbitrary rule and lack of political freedom. They wanted to achieve independence from foreign domination and exploitation, which in their eyes had reduced Iran almost to the status of a US colony. They also wished to establish an economic system that distributed the enormous wealth of the country more equitably.

Sadly, none of those goals has been achieved and, instead, people even lost the degree of social freedom that they enjoyed under the Shah. As a result, there is a certain amount of nostalgia for the olden times. In several recent protests, people have chanted slogans in favour of Reza Shah, presumably as a king who opposed and suppressed the clerics.

However, this does not mean that there is any likelihood of the return of the Pahlavis to power. As we say in Persian, “that jug has smashed and the wine has spilt.” Or in more poetic language, “that mighty torrent that has swept down the mountain, its return to the summit is most unlikely.” Nearly 40 years since the fall of the Shah, it is time for U.S. politicians to understand and admit that fact. Any lasting change in Iran will and should come from within, even though U.S. neocons and their Israeli and Saudi backers wish otherwise. Unlike most countries in the region, there has been a measure of public participation in politics in Iran, and elections have had an enormous effect on changing the Iranian government. This is why, for better or worse, most people in Iran believe that they own the system, and it has also given them a measure of independence, completely unlike those regimes that, in the words or President Trump, cannot survive for ten days without U.S. support.

Many educated Iranians once had a very positive outlook towards the United States, but U.S. policies during the past few decades have completely alienated most Iranians. This feeling of hostility has been greatly strengthened as the result of the policies pursued by President Trump and the extremist members of his team. President Trump cannot on the one hand bar Iranians from visiting the United States, prevent Iranian students from studying in US universities, deprive Iranian grandparents from attending the weddings of their grandchildren, impose unilateral sanctions on Iran, and even deprive Iranians from buying medicine abroad due to banking restrictions, and on the other hand still claim that he is on the side of the Iranian people.

Iranians also look at the outcome of U.S. policies in the Middle East and beyond. During the past few decades, rivers of blood have flowed in practically all Middle Eastern countries, particularly in Iran’s neighbours, while despite all this bloodshed and barbarity, the West has not been able to establish freedom and democracy in the Middle East. On the contrary, it has destroyed what had formed the basis of some of the oldest civilizations in the world, leaving behind ruins in ancient Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and many other countries. The US government also supported Saddam Hussein’s brutal invasion of Iran. In the process of militarisation, invasions and massacres, the West has also lost its soul, and its ideals and aspirations have also been diminished.

Both under President Khatami and President Rouhani, Iran extended a hand of friendship to the West. The Iranian government engaged in difficult negotiations andsigned a landmark agreement, not only with the United States, but with all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany. The agreement also received the unanimous endorsement of the Security Council Resolution 2231 and the European Union. That agreement, unique in the history of nuclear negotiations, drastically curtailed Iran’s nuclear activities and blocked all the paths to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. In 12 reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly certified Iran’s full compliance with the terms of the agreement. Yet, against the almost unanimous international support for the JCPOA, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from that deal and imposed extraterritorial sanctions on Iran. Under these circumstances, any U.S. support for any person or opposition group, particularly the hated MEK, would be the kiss of death.

The best thing that Reza Pahlavi can do is to persuade the Trump administration to give up its insane and excessive hostility towards Iran, reverse its violation of the JCPOA, engage in serious multilateral negotiations on other matters of contention, and help the advancement of democracy, human rights and a strong middle class in Iran through greater engagement and economic development. Then, when the time is ripe, Reza Pahlavi can take part in elections in Iran and hopefully be elected to office on the basis of the goodwill that exists towards his father and grandfather.

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Isfahan, and a former Senior Research Scholar at Harvard. For the past 30 years he has been teaching courses on the Middle East at the Department of Continuing Education and is a member of Kellogg College at the University of Oxford.

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  1. Three important facts and then about the Crown Prince.

    The Shahanshah was ill. He should have told the people and received their empathy.

    Prime Minister Bakhtiar decided to let Ayatollah Khomeini into Iran, on the assumption that he can have a debate with him. He wanted to prove that madman was wrong.

    But the crucial time in Iranian history, was when the head of Iranian armed forces, who had sworn to defend Iran, made a truce with Ayatollah Khomeini, for the sake of peace and order, and lay is arms down. Ayatollah Khomeini broke his vow and gave instructions to his own forces (IRGC), to execute all the top rank generals. Thus lay the foundation for the murderous regime in Iran. No one can condone that.

    For forty years, our Crown Prince has been a warrior for human rights against this murderous regime. He believes in Human Rights. He has suffered more humiliation, and been very brave to put up with more unjustified criticism than any Iranian or lover of Iran.

    I know him personally. I have criticized him more than anyone else because I have studied his astrology. He is idealistic. But he was born with Sun conjunct Neptune. He was born with a gift as a visionary. We Iranians needed such a person to steer our future with a peaceful humanitarian attitude enshrined in our ancient heritage. He is not hasty. He does not act spontaneously. He reflects and considers far more than is necessary.

    The Crown Prince, has decided to step in and stop any negotiations with the Ayatollah regime, because they are murderers. It is as simple as that. Having said all that, he has not created a viable Iranian government in exile. How can he expect any government or any US administration act differently, if he cannot create a viable alternative government in exile? We need a proper authority to represent all Iranians in the protection of the western world.

    Finally, and I am saying this over and over again, we come across people here, who would indirectly support Ayatollahs, only because they do not like US policy. That is wrong.

  2. I found this to be an excellent article. Good to hear that Reza Pahlavi is much different from Dr. Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi and his neocon supporters cost our country a lot – 4,489 KIAs, 33,000 WIAs and more than $2 trillion from the US Treasury. The costs to the country of Iraq dwarf our costs.

  3. Thanks. But this man with negative charisma isn’t going to be successful even with much support from the Trump Administration, Israel, Saudi and MEK as his his army! That is because the Iranians very much dislike and oppose all his supporters for one reason or another!
    His dad, the Shah, was terminally ill with lymphoma cancer which had affected his brain, his judgment and the fact he kept it as a secret from the people!
    Additionally the Shah was very much disliked by the Arabs in the region because as a puppet of the US in the ME he got very close to Israel following the 1967 Israel/Arab war. During that war the Shah was encouraging the people to donate their blood to the Israeli hospitals in support of their wounded people! Although the Army was relatively powerful for the region but Iran was pretty weak politically in the region because it had no friends in the region!
    The Shah also goofed up with getting in quarrel with the US Senate over the Senate refusal of approving the sale of F14 fighter planes to Iran in 1970-1971 as requested by Nixon and Kissinger! In an interview he said that he can purchase the fighter planes from other friends meaning France or Russia!
    He made it so easy for President Carter to pull the rug from under him and it only took a few years to achieve it!
    There’s a Persian saying for Reza and his supporters: “Camels only dream of cotton seeds”. Only the Iranians living in Iran have the right to choose their own path and the type of government they wish to have!

  4. “Reza Pahlavi Is No Ahmed Chalabi”

    Mr. Farhang
    To the contrary, there are no differences between Reza Pahlavi and Ahmad Chalabi, they are/were both American puppets living in exile America under protection of CIA ( like Golan) for when the condition permits ( Regime Change has martialized) to be escorted by CIA to become leader of the changed regime. Too bad the world is too aware of this trick. Note to goons at CIA, Maryam Joon will never be accepted by people of Iran, Shirin Abadi unlike the Nobel peace prize baby killer in Myanmar never was worked, and Reza ½ Pahlavi every once in a while, is marched to see if he can pick any traction to no avail. If you guys have so much wet dream of a regime change in Iran, you need to find someone with more traction. Maybe is time for another unannounced road show to Iran with cake and bible. LOL
    Mr. Farhang for better thoughtful write up. if you realy think reza has any chance you should visit inside Iran to better understand.

  5. Yet another traitor that openly conspires with the enemies of Iran to dominate our great nation. Toff too soorat Khaen e Iran TOFF

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