Iran’s Reza Pahlavi
The omnipresent neo-conservative kingmakers are at it again, this time with the eloquent and dashing Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, eldest son of the former enigmatic Iranian King of Kings, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, who ruled Iran from 1941 until his exile in 1979. The rest, as the cliche goes, is a history well known to the world. That painful past for Americans, Iranians, and Iraqis includes the Ayatollah Khomeini’s authoritarian rule, former President Jimmy Carter’s debilitating US Embassy Hostage crisis, former President Ronald Reagan’s damaging Iran-Contra Affair, the horribly futile Iran-Iraq War in which the US supported Iraq, and, now, as history continues to weave its ugly tapestry, Iran finds itself a bona-fide member of current President George Bush II’s Axis-of-Evil.
Thanks to the flesh and blood versions of Mattel Toy Company’s line of pull-string Chatty Cathy dolls–which utter the same statements over and over and over again–the US seems destined to continue that notorious relationship with Iran. The formulaic logic used to justify the destruction of Iraq has now been set in motion for Iran by Richard Perle, Jim Woolsey, Mike Leeden, Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld, affectionately known as "neo-cons". And, as another cliche goes, the world is subjected to their "broken record" comments that are repeated ad nauseum each news cycle.
What journalist hasn’t tired of mentioning them?
Pull the string on any of them, let’s say the Chatty Cathy Leeden version, and this is what one gets: "There is now a clear recognition that we must defend ourselves against them [Iran and Syria]. They are an integral part of the terror network that produced September 11. Left undisturbed, they will kill us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and mount new attacks on our homelands. We will see the day when not one turban rules these countries."
These ideological cousins of right-wing Israeli strategists such as Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon are prepping the world with more pronouncements of regime change for the double-barreled purposes of American Empire and a Greater Israel. Today it’s Iran; tomorrow it’s Syria. Smart money is on Iran due to their oil. On the other hand, Syria would be easier to crush given their antiquated military. Then again, both the USA and Israel have got Reza Pahlavi dancing on strings.
So what’s a cool guy like Pahlavi, a USC graduate and US Air Force trained fighter pilot with a wonderful family here in the USA, doing mixing it up with guys like Leeden? Why not take it easy and stay out of the messy and brutal business that being a king involves? The answer, it seems, is the irresistible pull of genetics and, perhaps, the quest to build a stable and "free" society and not end up, or in his case continue, in exile like his father and grandfather before him. A visit to Pahlavi’s excellent website features noted "peace" author Gene Sharp’s work Dictatorship to Democracy and The Politics of NonViolent Action, plus assorted other works on removing totalitarian regimes through peaceful means. It’s a family site too and one is invited to view photo albums of the family and a host of other documentation including speeches and articles.
Based on the message presented on his website, Pahlavi seems the reincarnation of Cyrus the Great whose Freedom Charter, circa 540BCE, stated:
"Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Iran I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them. I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it, and if any one of them rejects it, I never resolve on war to reign. I will never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs, I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor. I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor. Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other’s rights. No one can be penalized for his or her relatives’ faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a tradition should be exterminated the world over."
What Iranian, or for that matter American, wouldn’t want such an idyllic state of affairs?
But some of the statements attributed to Pahlavi suggest that there’s a dangerous streak of kingly greed that fuels his motives and that he merely covets the throne for personal reasons and, in order to get it, is willing to sell out the Iranian people in the process. Is Pahlavi the equivalent of the dashing and dynamic character Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street? That Gekko who proclaimed that "the point is, ladies and gentleman, greed is good. Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit." Or is Pahlavi a modern day Cyrus the Great who truly wants what’s best for Iran but finds himself making Faustian bargains with the ruthless Pro-Israeli militarists of the American Empire?
Grandfather Reza Khan was a respected warfighter in the Cossack Brigade in the late 1800’s, and ultimately led a coup to rid the country of a government that allowed British, Russian and Ottoman troops to occupy Iran during World War I. Khan became Prime Minister of the new government and four years later in 1925, ascended to the throne replacing the weakly Ahmad Mirza Shah. He took the name Reza Shah Pahlavi (Reza Shah Kabir or Reza Shah the Great) and the dynasty was underway.
According to iranchamber.com, "Reza Shah introduced many great reforms, reorganizing the army, government administration, and finances. He abolished all special rights granted to foreigners, thus gaining real independence for Iran. Under Reza Shah’s 16 years of rule, roads and Trans-Iranian Railway were built, modern education was introduced and the University of Tehran was established, and for the first time, a systematic dispatch of Iranian students to Europe was started. Industrialization of the country was stepped-up, and achievements were great. By the mid 1930’s Reza Shah’s dictatorial style of rule caused dissatisfaction in Iran. In World War II the Allies protested his rapprochement with the Germans, and in 1941 British and Russian forces invaded and occupied Iran. Forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, he died in exile in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1944."
Like father like son, so yet another cliche has it, and Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was also forced to abdicate and subsequently died in 1980, exiled in Egypt. This Shah of Iran was embroiled in the CIA coup that ousted quixotic Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and was a pawn of successive American administrations during the Cold War, which pitted the USSR against the USA. His popular legacy is the current theocratic regime in Iran and SAVAK–the brutal intelligence arm of the Shah. For a short time, though, he waived the flag of democratic reform and Iranians had high hopes for democracy. He instituted the White Revolution, according to the above mentioned website, a 1963 program that included land reform, the extension of voting rights to women, and the elimination of illiteracy. But the trappings of power, fear of opposition groups, and insensitivity towards Islam (Arab Muslims conquered Iran in roughly 650 BCE and Islam remians a powerful force)led him, like his father, into an insular dictatorship and all the wretched practices that method entails.
Will the Real Reza Pahlavi Please Stand Up?
During a recent meeting with US Congressional Representatives and staffers on Capitol Hill, Pahlavi–called "Your Majesty" by the representatives and staffers -seemed embittered at the slow pace of non-violent change taking place in Iran so beautifully articulated on his website. According to sources, several times he blasted the Europeans and those who wish to have contact with Iran and said that they should not "throw a rope to a sinking ship."
As if to echo the neo-conservatives, Pahlavi argued for the political and economic boycott of Iran using the Iraqi model, in order to undercut the Iranian regime while seemingly ignoring the dastardly effects that action would have on the people he wants to "liberate". He also indicated that he was in close contact with Iranian students and that they are asking for a political and economic boycott. That claim, according to many insiders, has been refuted by the students who are smart enough to know what pain and suffering it would cause. Oddly, he maintained that Bush II is someone who cares for Iranians and indicated that "Iranians were heartened by the Axis of Evil comment".
He went on to articulate his view that Iran is the key country in the region and that Iran must change before the entire region can rest easy. As if a neo-con Chatty Cathy himself, Pahlavi stated that Iran is a grave threat to world peace, that they harbor and support Al-Qaeda, they threaten US economic interests and, as if to take the words right out of the mouth of Curt "suitcase nuke" Weldon, US representative from Pennsylvania, Pahlavi indicated "the Iranians do not need delivery systems to send nukes to the US, they can send one lone terrorist to blow off a nuclear device in Lake Michigan."
Iran has been working for generations to acquire nuclear energy generation capability (no doubt some of the weapons grade by-products of that capability too). That effort began in 1967 initiated by Pahlavi’s father with the purchase of a five-megawatt research reactor from the United States. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran was established in 1974 and the Shah had intended to build nuclear power plants throughout Iran by 1994. The Iranian nuclear program was supported by the United States, France, Germany and, of course, now Russia.
Yet, during the same meeting with Representatives in the US Congress, the younger Pahlavi stated that Iran does not need nuclear technology. That runs contrary to the belief on the ground in Iran, some report, pointing out that the populace feels the country is in need of nuclear technology in order to develop. But Pahlavi categorically said that Iran has enough energy through gas and oil, and has no need for nuclear power. He said that he would like to see a "reversal of Iran’s nuclear program," which only will occur if Iran is democratized.
That, of course, is music to the oily ears of Bush II and Cheney.
Pahlavi also cut a backroom deal by garnering political support and funding from the US Congress for private Iranian-American satellite companies in California and US government sponsored external radio programs such as Radio FARDA, geared to reprogramming Iranians under 30 years of age. He was very careful to mention that there should be "one degree of separation"–no royal hand involved so to speak–and that American taxpayer’s funds should be given to foundations that in turn can give the money to the satellite broadcasters. Not surprisingly, Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, introduced an amendment on April 8, 2003, that would provide $50 million (US) to an Iran Democracy Foundation, the purpose of which is to broadcast "democracy" into Iran. According to reports, the language in Brownback’s amendment has its origins in the Pentagon and is almost the same as that used in the Iraqi Liberation Act that the US Congress approved in 1998.
"Don’t appease the dictators. They only understand the language of power." That according to the Pahlavi who would be the next Shah of Iran. Yet if history offers valid insights, and in light of his recent comments, this next King–should the US and Israel install him–seems destined to repeat the mistakes of his ancestors.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
JOHN STANTON is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org