In an interview with the Figaro newspaper, the heir to the Iranian Imperial throne calls upon western countries to support the establishment of democracy in Iran. The 45-year-old Prince Reza Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the United States, is the eldest son of the last Shah of Iran. He hopes to unite the democratic and secular opposition to the regime that sized power in Iran following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Passing through Paris, he met yesterday with around 40 MPs at the Palais Bourbon (French National Assembly) to speak about the Iranian nuclear crisis. For him, neither diplomacy nor military action but only a popular uprising in Iran can bring an end to the conflict.
Figaro: Does Iran have a right to the nuclear weapons?
Reza PAHLAVI .- The problem is not technology. Before the revolution of 1979, Western countries sold nuclear technology to Iran. Today we are face to face with a totalitarian regime that supports terrorism and promotes a radical vision of Islam. Access to the nuclear weapons would enable this regime to fortify its position in the region and to establish control on both banks of the Persian Gulf, as well as over the flow of oil. In this way the regime would be able to achieve what the Soviet Union never succeeded in accomplishing: controlling of the world economy. The nuclear weapons would guarantee the survival of the regime.
Can the offers made by the great powers help to defuse the crisis?
No, because the regime has everything to lose by such an offer and nothing to gain. To stay in power, the regime needs to maintain its radical stance. A retreat on the nuclear question would mean an endangering of its cohesion. On the other hand, turning down the offer would lead to international sanctions, which would worsen the already bad economic conditions. It would also lead to suffering. Most foreign governments are wrong in assuming that they are dealing with a conventional state. For Iranian leaders, national interest does not mean anything, and accordingly the economic incentives would be ineffective. From their point of view, Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Palestine are much more important than the interests of the Sunnite or other minorities in Iran.
Therefore you do not see the reaching of any possible compromise?
It is very difficult for me to imagine that the regime would go back on its word; especially concerning the enrichment of uranium. It has been a war cry, especially since Ahmadinejad came to power. It would be political suicide for him to give in.
Do you think that with the present leaders, negotiations are only in vain?
Yes, for three years, the European troika has been involved in endless negotiations, without any result. I cannot see any possible carrot that would bring this regime out of irrationality. It is only biding its time to get closer to the possibility of making WMDs. The world is wasting its time.
However, the Bush administration says it is willing to dialogue with Tehran.
Yes, but by imposing certain clear cut conditions. In my opinion, the United States wants to show the world that it is not trying to solve the problem unilaterally, and at the same time is forcing Iran to choose an option. It’s a kind of ultimatum, with the aim of disarming those who are opposed to sanctions.
The international community should therefore impose sanctions?
I would go even further than that: everything depends on regime change in Iran. This regime is the key problem for our society, for the region and for the world. The best solution would be to put an end to it and invest in democracy. As long as this regime will exist, none of the main world problems, peace between Israelis and Palestinians, religious fanaticism, terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs will be able to be solved. It is a race against the clock. Will Iran become democratized before the regime gets the nuclear weapon? That’s where the crux of the matter is. The West must support democratic movements like it did in South Africa, in Eastern Europe or in Latin America.
However, in Iraq, the imposition of democracy by force resulted in something near civil war.
Comparing Iran and Iraq is like mistaking an apple for an orange! In any case, we are not asking for foreign intervention, which would be counter-productive. When after September 11, America discovered that they had a problem with Saddam Hussein, they forgot who was the main guilty party for fanaticism and radicalism. For the past 27 years the whole world has been sending fire fighters to put out the blazes. Some day or other, someone will have to take on the person who has the tinderbox: the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Do you see any links between Iran and Al-Qaida ?
Al-Qaida has even had training camps in Iran. And lots of Al-Qaida elements pass through Iran.
Should the problem with Iran have been fixed before that with Iraq?
I do not want to minimize the responsibilities of Saddam Hussein. But it must be seen that the majority of problems that the world is faced with today – the price of oil, terrorism, proliferation, and radicalism – are linked in one way or another to the Islamic Republic.
The regime change you are calling for – should it come from inside Iran or outside?
From the inside exclusively. The real power is inside. Thousands of groups in Iran are doing their best to begin a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. They need a lot more means in order to succeed. That is why they need assistance and help from outside. We hope, as Iranians, that the world will finally choose its side: guaranteeing the survival of this regime or helping to bring about a democratic secular regime.
Is it fair to say that France is one of those countries that support the status quo?
I do not know if it is by design or not, but France, like Germany is one of those countries. Having said that, I note a beginning of a change of course. France too is faced with a choice: democracy or theocracy in Iran. There have always been links between my country and France. Today France can play an extremely important role and put back on the agenda an aspect unfortunately eclipsed: the moral aspect.
Can the Iranian opposition that seems to be very divided, get organized?
The Iranian opposition is united today. There has been a complete sea change in that direction recently. Last week a conference in London brought together representatives from very different political groups, in order to reach the same goal.
Apart from the People’s Mujaheddin Organization, all the other groups now talk to each other.
What role do you play?
That of a catalyst and a unifying element, because ‘Unity brings about strength’, as they say in France. I hope for a secular regime, with a clear separation between clergy and State, founded on human rights. As for the final form of the regime, parliamentary monarchy or republic, it is for the Iranian people to decide. For me, I think a modern monarch could help to institutionalize democracy in a country like Iran, on the same model as the role of King Juan Carlos of Spain after Franco.
My aim is to serve my nation.
(Translated from French)