Shah’s heir Reza Pahlavi is ready for Iran’s next revolution

By David Charter

Source: The Times (London)


The man who would have been shah is preparing for the next Iranian revolution 40 years after the tumultuous overthrow of his father.

Reza Pahlavi, who was in Texas as an 18-year-old air cadet when his family lost its grip on power, says the mood of the country is as unhappy now as it was in the months leading to the Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s former crown prince, who lives comfortably in exile with his wife and three daughters in suburban Maryland, has revealed that he is helping to create a “coalition of the willing” among opposition groups that will soon present a plan to manage the transition if — he believes when — the mullahs lose power.

The last shah with his wife, Farah, and the crown prince, Reza Pahlavi
The last shah with his wife, Farah, and the crown prince, Reza Pahlavi LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY

Iran has been experiencing increasingly bold street protests over corruption and rising prices as the economy deteriorates after the reimposition of US sanctions. There is added uncertainty over whether a power struggle will ensue when the reign of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 79, who has ruled for 30 years, ends.

As he held private meetings with US representatives on Capitol Hill last week, Mr Pahlavi claimed that publishing a step-by-step plan for replacing the regime would also encourage ordinary Iranians to hasten its demise.

“To fill the vacuum left by the regime disappearing and in order to avoid anarchy there has to be a clear, concrete alternative,” said Mr Pahlavi, who was speaking to The Times in the office of a congressman. “That manifests itself in the form of a coalition of the willing to work together on a common platform to produce two elements: an interim government that will be in charge during the transition and the election of a constituent assembly that will have to figure out a constitution and ultimately put it to a referendum.”

Why should anyone listen to the son of a widely detested monarch whose regime fell after huge demonstrations against botched reforms and the brutal actions of the feared secret police? Mr Pahlavi has vowed to learn from the mistakes of the past and to facilitate a transition to democracy. “I think the status of where people are today in terms of mood and attitude is not dissimilar to where Iran was in 1978 a few months before the revolution,” he said. “People can’t take it any more.”

Mr Pahlavi, 58, watched the events of 1979 unfold on television from the US airbase where he was training as a fighter pilot. He has spent his life in western democracies and says he wants to bring these values to Iran.

The nature of Iran’s future democracy would be decided in a referendum, he said. “The people will choose whether they have a monarchy or a republic. My role is to help this coalition [of opposition groups] to be formed. Some are monarchists, some are republicans, leftists, conservatives, federalists, ethnic and so on. In order to do that I have to remain totally neutral. . . because this common agenda is the only way we can provide the alternative and fill the void,” he said.

Mr Pahlavi said he did not have high-level contacts with the US government but praised President Trump’s tough approach to the Iranian regime. He denied that his close association with the US made it difficult for him to appear credible inside Iran, and took issue with the view that America was widely mistrusted by Iranians. “On the contrary, if there is any country that Iranians are most enamoured with it is America.”

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