Reza Pahlavi, the former crown prince of Iran and an outspoken critic of the current regime, continues to advocate for change in his country.
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Pahlavi has been watching recent events between Washington and Tehran, and he's following what’s happening on the streets of Iran's capital. He's using them as a barometer of what’s to come. He supports the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, including sanctions and the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and he agrees with President Trump that war is not the answer. Pahlavi believes the Iranian people have the power to bring down the Islamic Republic, but they need global support to do it.
“The people of Iran today are on the streets by the millions — have already spoken. It's been a street referendum on the regime,” he said. “So rather than saying we want to insist, continuing the same dialogue, hoping a different outcome for the with the same regime that has proven its track record of behavior over 40 years, it’s time that we start helping these people by listening to them and helping them because they are part of the solution.”
When asked whether Islamic leaders will come to the negotiating table, Pahlavi said while you would “hope to see” a logical response “based on rationality,” time has proven that the regime's approach is not “driven by rationale but by a severe sense of survival.”
Pahlavi believes the Iranian regime will act at any cost to retain control of power: the enrichment of uranium for nuclear purposes, the support of terror militias throughout the Middle East, and other strategies to destabilize the region and solidify its power. But taking out the root cause will make an impactful difference, he said.
“The important thing is that when you cut off the supply to these groups ... they'll dry out,” he said. “And in contrast to what this regime has been doing all this time through its proxies, the first thing that the responsible government in Iran will do is cease and desist from any kind of belligerence immediately. It puts an end to terrorism. It stops and halts any threats of nuclear proliferation. It works.”
The big question now: How does this play out?
The Iranians have been taking some cues from protestors in Hong Kong, and other parts of the world, by taking to the streets after Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 572, a passenger flight that crashed just after takeoff from Tehran (Iran claimed to have mistakenly shot down the aircraft), and by refusing to denounce the United States or walk on its flag.
“It boils down to a people-to-people communication,” said Pahlavi. “Protesters in Hong Kong are sending a direct message to protesters in Tehran as they do."
Pahlavi recalled times when it appeared the Iranian people might elicit change, including attempts to protest in 1997 and 2009 that were not entirely successful. However, he believes 2020 is different.
“At the end of the collapse of any totalitarian system, you see a moment in time where there's a peel away factor," he said. "We saw that at the time of the end of the Soviet Union, where the Red Army did not obstruct the path where Boris Yeltsin was addressing the two in front of the Duma. Standing on that tank, we saw the same case in Czechoslovakia where the military stood aside and with the people.”
Pahlavi hopes radical change can come in his country. He doesn’t see himself as the future king, but as an agent of change. He wants democracy for the Iranian people, with parties and elections. He asserted, however, that the answer lies within.
“I've always said we can only rely on ourselves as a nation,” he said. “However, the cost for us to succeed will be far less in terms of human life and others having support than by not having it. It's not going to change what we're going to do. So as long as the world [recognizes] that we are not holding our breath, whether or not you support us or not, all we're telling you is that you want [fewer] deaths, you want less suffering, then be on the right side of history.”