You are said to be a leader of the Iranian exile groups working to overthrow the regime whose clerics and mullahs overthrew your father exactly 30 years ago in the Islamic Revolution and forced your family out of the country. What do you do on a day-by-day basis, exactly?
I am in contact with all sorts of groups that are committed to a secular, democratic alternative to the current regime. We believe in a democratic parliamentary system, where there’s a clear separation between church and state, or in this case, mosque and state.
Has the American government aided you?
No, no. I don’t rely on any sources other than my own compatriots.
But presumably you’re working with American agents in the C.I.A. or elsewhere who have been trying to destabilize the Iranian regime for years.
Your presumption is absolutely and unequivocally false.
How did you end up settling in Bethesda, Md., with your wife and children?
It happens to be circumstantial. To me, it’s a temporary place to live.
Why would you call your decades of living near Washington “temporary”?
Because my desire has always been to permanently return to my homeland.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory over Mir Hussein Moussavi in an election that was widely condemned as fraudulent. What do you make of him?
The cry for freedom you hear in the streets of Iran right now is well beyond the fact of whether it’s one candidate versus the other. It’s about the fact that for 30 years they have been denied their most basic rights.
Many people believe that Moussavi would be more a more moderate president than Ahmadinejad.
The same argument was made during the Soviet era, where one would argue that one person would be supposedly more moderate than the other. But at the end, they all represented a Communist, totalitarian system. I think that anyone the Iranian regime prescreens would not be a true representative of the nation.
What do you make of Ahmadinejad’s rants against Israel?
Of course it’s troubling, and it’s connected again to the viral, violent message embedded in the ideology that was brought about by Khomeini himself at the time of the revolution.
Did you see the speculation from Iran that Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots? Do you think the claim is true?
Look, we hear a lot of things, but the big picture here should not be forgotten. If we say Jewish roots, aren’t we all the children of Abraham if you come to think of it?
What religion are you?
That’s a private matter; but if you must know, I am, of course, by education and by conviction, a Shiite Muslim. I am very much a man of faith.
What do you say to those who associate your father’s rule with the violation of civil rights? He ran a brutal secret police.
I leave this judgment to history. My focus is the future.
Some say the media clampdown in Iran and censorship of the foreign press are tactics Ahmadinejad learned from your father. You don’t feel obligated to acknowledge your dad’s misdeeds?
The current regime is, by any measure, the standard-bearer and global poster child for militancy, brute autocracy and corruption. If they are in fact students of my father, his ultimate act of refusing suppressive bloodshed in favor of exile should be their test.
When your father fled Tehran and went into exile, he reportedly took a lot of money with him. Would you describe yourself today as a billionaire?
Those are the recycling of 30-year-old propaganda by the clerical militants of the time. If you were to learn of my net worth, you would be more than surprised.
Do you feel bitter about not getting to be shah?
This is not a personal matter. This is not about me.
INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.