Decoding Prince Reza Pahlavi

By the Apadana Chronicle Editorial Board 

Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s Crown Prince, is hardly a man of few words. In person, he is eloquent, well-spoken, and seems intelligent. He is humble with a sense of humor; at times sarcastic, but never disrespectful. He greets all with a smile and remains quiet and attentive when spoken to. He seems to have a broad knowledge of things and sounds well-read and worldly.

Disillusioned with the regime’s “reformist” faction for its failure to bring about democratic change, many Iranians have turned to the opposition in the diaspora. Prince Reza Pahlavi in particular seems to represent a reminder of better times, when Iran was a respected, prosperous nation with no enemies. Considering more than 50% of Iran’s population were born after the abolishment of monarchy, this is especially intriguing. Iranians were once hopeful that gradual moderation in the Islamic Republic’s rigid principles and narrow social tolerance could eventually lead to a full-fledged liberal democracy, albeit under the shadow of the mullahs. That is no longer the case, as evident by President Hassan Rouhani’s inadequacies and infectiveness. Simply said, people are aware that the sociopolitical atmosphere in Iran will not get any better than what they are currently witnessing and experiencing under Mr. Rouhani, the “moderate” president they presumably elected.

Mr. Pahlavi is aware of this reality. He had chosen to stay relatively silent over the years and like every other Iranian, hesitantly hoped that people’s votes would someday mean something. That day never arrived, and so long as the mullahs are in power in Iran, it will never come. Mr. Pahlavi was probably one of the earliest Iranians to realize that the regime is not amenable to reform; not so much for he despises the mullahs who overthrew his father’s reign and deprived him of the throne; but because he was realistic. No ideological regime ever in modern history has been acquiescent to reform. It is only by regime change that nations victimized by ideological tyranny have attained true democracy.

That is precisely the reason why Iranians who are still fastened to the reform movement comprise the harshest critics of Reza Pahlavi. They obsessively question him about the actions of Mohammad Reza Shah 50 years ago, going so far as expecting the Prince to denounce his own father. Recently, his daughter Princess Noor wrote an article in The Independent Persian showing support for women’s rights in Iran. The young princess was viciously attacked on social media by the usual suspects who are aligned with the “reformists,” many living in the West. They claimed Princess Noor had “no right” or business expressing opinion about the women in Iran because she has never lived there. Their reaction would have been noticeably different, had Linda Sarsour or Ilhan Omar, who have never been to Iran, written that essay.

Regime apologists at the National Iranian American Council have labeled Mr. Pahlavi the “Ahmed Chalabi” of Iran, the same way they disseminate Soviet-style “war scare” and label anyone who disagrees with them a “warmonger” or “neocon.” NIAC members and affiliates are particularly perturbed by Mr. Pahlavi’s growing popularity, and the flippant drivel they display on social media is a manifestation of that disquietude. Those who financially support NIAC are even more intimidated. The climax of their angst was when the Prince met with members of Center for American Progress. Joseph Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares Fund, who financially supports NIAC and essentially any mullah-appeasing entity, took to twitter to disparage and accuse Mr. Pahlavi of calling himself “the King of Kings.” The Prince has never made such comment, and Mr. Cirincione ostensibly lost control of his emotions. The truth is, Mr. Pahlavi has never claimed the throne or is in pursuit of restoring the Pahlavi dynasty. He has repeatedly defined his role and aspirations with regard to Iran’s present and future. He does not take a political position or advocate a specific political ideology. His role, he has stated, is “to be able to have a diverse set of political ideologies understand the priorities that we face today about the commonality interests of a democratic Iranian future.” Mr. Pahlavi has vehemently refuted any ambition to become Iran’s future monarch in numerous past interviews and public statements. Therefore, it seems rage got the best of Mr. Cirincione.

Prince Reza Pahlavi meeting with the team at the Center for American Progress, April 27, 2019

The Prince is self-sufficient; he rarely needs an ostentatious entourage. He has no lobbyists speaking on his behalf, and singlehandedly advocates for the Iranian people, meeting periodically with members of US Congress. He also has never cared much for Nuremberg-style rallies to flaunt or convince people of his relevance. He believes in meetings that have substance, not those brimming with frantic slogans.

Top: Prince Reza at a meeting at the Hudson Institute, May 15, 2019
Bottom: Prince Reza meeting with members of the American Foreign Policy Council, June 10, 2019

He recently organized a cadre of scientists and academicians to convene and formulate sound solutions to improve the lives of the Iranian people. The venture is called Iran Phoenix Project and it just had its inaugural conference in Toronto, Canada, which was very well-received. The Prince regularly meets with members of thinktanks and policy institutes who have a realistic understanding of what is happening in Iran and believe in a brighter future for the Iranian people.

Prince Reza and his wife, Princess Yasmine, at the Phoenix Project Inaugural Symposium in Toronto, Canada, June, 1, 2019

German political analyst Cornelius Adebahr who wrote about his recent trip to Iran in Zeit Online magazine commented: “Paradoxically, some young Iranians have just developed a new sympathy for Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last Shah.” Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, described Mr. Pahlavi asthe most prominent leader of the secular democratic opposition to the Islamic Republic.” Mr. Berman wrote in The National Interest: Today, Pahlavi remains relevant and highly influential in many Iranian expatriate circles, as well as on the Iranian ‘street,’ which is where pro-Pahlavi slogans have figured prominently in the protests that have taken place throughout the country since late 2017.” There is no evidence that any other opposition figure has as much popularity as Prince Reza Pahlavi.

Prince Reza with Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas, Spring 2019

Not too long ago, an Iranian journalist sympathetic to the “reformists” made a comment to the effect of “those who call us ‘regime apologists’ have no sense of reality and have built a microcosmic Pahlavi kingdom inside their minds.” The counter argument to this comment is that one could not possibly be realistic if he or she still believes the criminal cult that rules Iran is open to reform and moderation. Forty years of mullah rule has unequivocally proven that. Those who believe that individuals like Mohammad Khatami or Mir Hossein Mousavi will lead them to the utopia of liberal democracy under the clerical rule are naively building castles in the sky, as the mullah kingdom they erected crumbles inside their minds.

Anti-regime protests in the southwestern city of Dezful, January 12, 2018. Protesters are chanting, “Reza, Reza Pahlavi”

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