October 3, 2022

'Iran will seek economic, cultural ties with Israel' - Iranian prince - opinion

The Jerusalem Post

Emily Schrader

I interviewed Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last Iranian shah, to understand more about what Iran may look like should there be a successful revolution.

 PRINCE REZA Pahlavi sits in his office in Washington.  (photo credit: Courtesy/Secretariat of Reza Pahlavi)

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 saw the ousting of the Shah of Iran and the implementation of an oppressive, theocratic regime which imposed draconian, barbaric laws on the people of Iran that have only intensified in their cruelty over the last 40 years.

Today, the people of Iran are fighting back with a massive wave of ongoing popular protests against the Islamic regime following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by Iran’s notorious morality police. Unlike previous uprisings in Iran, the protesters have been very clear about their message and demands: they want regime change.

I interviewed Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last Iranian shah, to understand more about what Iran may look like should there be a successful revolution. Our discussion took place online.

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ES: Prince Pahlavi, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. To start off, Iran is obviously in a tumultuous time once again. What do you see as the goal of the popular uprisings in Iran and do you support the protesters in their initiatives? What do the protesters need to do to ensure meaningful change and do you believe the army will eventually side with the people? Why or why not?

Pahlavi: It is my pleasure. We are indeed in more than tumultuous times in my country. We are in revolutionary times. The popular uprisings we are seeing in hundreds of cities and towns across Iran have a very clear goal: the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the establishment of a secular democracy based on human rights. I appreciate the way you phrased the question, my brave compatriots on the ground are leading this struggle. Of course I support them with every fiber of my being and will do everything in my power to support them and help them be victorious.

 DEMONSTRATORS NEAR THE Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, on Wednesday, hold placards during a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. (credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

DEMONSTRATORS NEAR THE Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, on Wednesday, hold placards during a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. (credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

One of the ways I believe I can do that is by speaking, publicly and privately, to the army and armed forces. As a soldier myself, I am telling them that their duty is to defend our country, our borders, and our people from foreign enemies but now they face a domestic enemy: the Islamic Republic, and they must defend the people against it.

The Islamic regime in Iran has ruled over the Iranian people for decades with an iron fist, despite not having popular support from the public. How has this regime maintained its power?

The regime has sustained power by brute force and attempting to divide and atomize our nation. It has attempted to fracture our people along exaggerated or even nonexistent lines of gender, religion, tribe, race, sexuality, or ideology. But the regime is failing. The Iranian people are showing right now that just as we have remained a united people for thousands of years, we continue to be one in the face of this domestic enemy. The young generation is bravely standing up against this regime’s violence and they aren’t afraid. They stand ready, shoulder to shoulder, to reclaim Iran from this medieval and divisive regime.”

ES: Many Westerners are wary of revolutions as a result of what happened in the Arab Spring and the subsequent instability. What is different about these protests? Hypothetically, the day after a successful revolution, what does Iran need to do to succeed and restore its position as a peace-loving nation in the world?

Pahlavi: “Westerners should be more concerned about the Islamic Republic staying in power than my compatriots establishing a free, secular, democratic Iran. The Islamic Republic has destroyed the Middle East, caused massive migration waves to Europe, and sown terror around the world. Yet, some are afraid of a democratic revolution against the regime that caused all of this? I find it a very sophomoric and unimaginative viewpoint.

These protests are being led by a new generation in Iran and as they chant in their slogans they want to “reclaim Iran” and rebuild it as a member of the international community. They want to live lives of peace and prosperity as so many nations of the Abraham Accords do. The day after this revolution succeeds, a national government dedicated to the well-being of the people will come to power and a constituent assembly begin the process of drafting a new constitution before heading to the first free elections. The process has been completed elsewhere, we do not need to reinvent the wheel.”

Moving on to the West, what is the role of the West (if any) in resolving the chaos in Iran? Do you think the US and other Western nations are doing their part? Finally, do you think that the US and allies should arm the protesters in Iran?

The West must move on from supporting this revolution in words to supporting it in actions. My compatriots need Internet access and they need support for their growing strikes. These countries spend millions of dollars annually on Internet freedom. What better investment could they make than providing Iranians with technology like Starlink? What better investment could be made than a strike fund to support laborers who are willing to take the risk to go on strike? As to the United States, it is finally time for [US] President [Joe] Biden to forcefully and unequivocally announce his support for the Iranian protesters taking valiantly to the streets. As a moral imperative, he should support this freedom movement as boldly as he supported the anti-apartheid movement.

However, under no circumstances do I think that any foreign nation should arm protesters. Our people have been proceeding wisely, thoughtfully, and largely through civil disobedience. They do not need foreign powers to arm them and we will not, under any circumstances, tolerate foreign powers attempting to arm or back certain factions against others. We are a united nation.”

The Iranian people and the Israeli people have a long and rich history and enjoyed mutually beneficial relations for years before the Islamic revolution. In the future, what are your hopes for the Israel-Iran relationship?

You are right. The history of the Iranian and Jewish people is an ancient one, from the times of Queen Esther and Cyrus the Great facilitating the rebuilding of the temple. Even more recently, our countries had excellent and productive relations in the 1960s and 1970s. Once this regime falls, its antisemitism and hatred for the state of Israel will also fall. Iran will seek economic, cultural and other ties with Israel as we will with all nations who seek relations with us based on goodwill and mutual interest.”

You are widely considered to be the favorite to rule Iran should the Islamic regime fall. What would Iran look up under your leadership? What would you do with the Iranian nuclear program? Do you support normalization with Israel? Do you support normalization with other Arab states?

I have never sought to free Iran for myself, I have sought to free Iran for my compatriots. For the youth who deserve the right to live like youth anywhere! I am not doing this for a title or a position. I am doing it for my country. My vision, however, is one far different from what one sees today. A free Iran would never seek nuclear weapons, as we would not need them. Of course we support normalization with Israel and Arab nations in the Persian Gulf region and broader Middle East. The future, free Iran will look to normalize relations with all based on mutual interest and mutual respect. Our region can, if we work together, be a global powerhouse.”

What is your message to the Jewish people and the people of Israel that you wish the public would understand more of when it comes to Israel and Iran?

Today protesters chant: “Women, life, freedom!” I believe our Jewish friends will empathize with this slogan and as we are in the middle of the Jewish holidays I say to them, “L’chaim!” To life! The Iranian people seek freedom for themselves and coexistence with others. We hope the people of Israel and the people of all nations will stand with us in that process.”

The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative and a human rights activist.

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