Iran crown prince to Post: Fall of Tehran regime will change Middle East

DIPLOMATIC AFFAIRS: Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah, says his purpose in life is to usher in an era of democracy in Iran.

Iran crown prince to Post: Fall of Tehran regime will change Middle East

The fall of the Islamic Republic will have positive effects on the entire Middle East, Reza Pahlavi, the crown prince of Iran and founder of the National Council of Iran, said on the sidelines of The Jerusalem Post Annual New York Conference on Monday.

Pahlavi, who spoke at the conference gala the night before, said that he seeks to “share a vision of how different our region can be.

“In the past 44 years, the whole image [of the Middle East] changed. Tension, conflict, radicalism, the nuclear threat, instability are all tied to what happened in Iran,” when his father, shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown and replaced with an Islamist regime in 1979. “At every opportunity I have to address an audience, whether a Jewish one or any other audience, I want them to understand how vital it is for us to have a common vision that, if it comes to fruition, can change the face of the region entirely.”

Pahlavi’s visit to Israel in April was a way “to send a message contrary to the regime that has asked for Israel’s disappearance from the face of the earth... is hostile, antisemitic and denies the Holocaust.”

“Iranians are telling the world, and Israel in particular: We are not the enemy; the regime is. We want to be your friends,” he added.

 PAHLAVI: We have a vision for a secular democratic system with human rights, a road map for how we can implement it... and the human resources to address each area. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
PAHLAVI: We have a vision for a secular democratic system with human rights, a road map for how we can implement it... and the human resources to address each area. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The visit included a trip to the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, to send a message to one of the persecuted minorities in Iran.

“In contrast of a regime that is for only one religion, I am talking about freedom of religion for all religions, for Jews, Christians, Baha’is,” he said.

Pahlavi also visited Israel as part of his mission as head of the National Council of Iran, which is to prepare policy proposals for the day after the Islamic regime.

He met with Israeli experts in water management to learn about possible ways for Iran to deal with its water crisis, in addition to discussing renewable energy and possible economic recovery plans and investments in a future Iranian hi-tech industry from Israel or other countries.

“We have a vision for a secular democratic system with human rights, a road map for how we can implement it... and the human resources to address each area.”

Reza Palhavi

How does the National Council of Iran try to tackle the issues facing the Iranian people?

MORE BROADLY, the National Council of Iran consists of groups planning how to tackle various issues in the country.

“We have a team of legal experts studying all aspects of constitutional law and transitional justice, what will happen to elements of the regime,” Pahlavi said. “We looked at the Nuremberg trials, the prosecution of high officials who committed crimes, as opposed to many who were following orders and were not at the same level of accountability, and how to treat them legally. We also looked at the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. There are precedents of models and how to apply them, and we have legal experts.”

The council also has economists studying what to do in the first 100 days after the collapse of the Islamic regime, and experts on how to prepare for a constitutional assembly. There are also scientists working on solutions for environmental and health issues.

“We have a vision for a secular democratic system with human rights, a road map for how we can implement it... and the human resources to address each area,” Pahlavi said.

At the same time, Pahlavi said “We are not deciding for the people; we are presenting a way to deal with the problems. We want to be ready from the get-go, because we are anticipating that, at some point, the regime will no longer be there.”

Pahlavi said that his “unique mission is to usher in the decision for a democratic future for Iran. When people go to the polls and make a decision, I will have fulfilled my purpose in life.”

He hopes to get Iranians to be as united as possible to favor a secular democracy, and tries to communicate with people in Iran in government, the private sector, academia and civil society, bring them together, and help their voices be heard.

“We have been doing what we can to see how the diaspora can assist and to ensure people on the inside feel supported in different ways,” he said.

Pahlavi and the National Council of Iran communicate with people living under the Islamic Republic’s regime through social media, as well as channels that broadcast in Farsi, such as Iran International, Voice of America Farsi and BBC Farsi.

“Technology has been a great means of communicating,” he said. “We regularly have Zoom calls with people inside and talk to them directly. We have a good exchange.”

Pahlavi was optimistic that the ongoing wave of protests in the Islamic Republic, which began when Mahsa Amini was brutalized and killed by Iranian police in September, days before her 22nd birthday, will bring the regime’s downfall.

The protests are “at a really revolutionary stage,” he said, though they “ebb and flow.”

“People have to realize that [Iranians] are completely unarmed vis-à-vis an extremely repressive regime, and maintaining resistance is not easy.... They make tactical adjustments to circumvent the means of the regime to stop it…. They have been shot at a lot... and despite that, they maintain a momentum,” Pahlavi stated.

The way to make the protests successful is to combine maximum pressure and maximum support, he said.

Maximum pressure means “economic sanctions to limit the regime’s ability to get the cash flow they need to maintain control,” he said. That includes putting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on lists of terrorist organizations around the world.

Pahlavi is also exploring legal options for repurposing the Islamic Republic’s frozen assets to financially aid labor strikers and give medical assistance to protesters shot by the regime, as a form of maximum support. Another example he gave of maximum support is to ensure that Iranians remain connected to the Internet through Starlink and other technology.

He focused specifically on getting funds to workers who want to go on strike: “If you incentivize laborers to be able to afford to go on strike in key industries for months, it will paralyze the system completely. It is the quickest way to bring a collapse without resorting to violence.”

Various well-funded think tanks and organizations claiming to represent Iranian-Americans have spoken in favor of the regime, but Pahlavi said they have not been successful.

“It’s not just how much money you spend, but how much legitimacy you claim to have,” he said. “Regardless of what the regime does, it has completely lost its legitimacy.... The fifth column propaganda apologists for the regime tried for years to persuade people with those kinds of resources.... No matter how much the regime tries to spend money lobbying, no one buys it.”

Even people who once called to support “reformists,” who sought to work within the system in Iran, are now saying otherwise, Pahlavi said.

His goal, he added, “is to come up with a more concrete alternative – if not these people, then what?

“We have to demonstrate that there is a citizenry, a civil society of political forces within Iran in a secular democratic context that can... work towards a goal. There are differences in opinion that will be addressed at the constitutional assembly level, but the main thing is that we agree on the alternative to the regime,” he said.

“We need laws that guarantee human rights and separation of religion and state as a prerequisite for democracy. That is the biggest lesson we learned under a clerical dictatorship,” Pahlavi added.

ISRAEL’S ROLE in this, Pahlavi said, is to serve as an example.

“I think the most important role Israel can play is to demonstrate that it is possible to maintain a democratic system in the Middle East,” he said. “That know-how, the ability to share information and experience and technology, will give a whole different meaning to the relationship. Sharing these experiences and all the expertise that can be shared will tremendously contribute to our progress and advancement.

“The relationship between Iranians and the Israeli people can be very unique and bring in a whole dimension of new experiences that they never had a chance to explore and implement. We are thinking more than state to state; we are thinking people to people – intelligentsia, academia, business, you name it. That is the greatest contribution,” Pahlavi said.