Radio Farda correspondent Morad Veissi has had a chat with Prince Reza Pahlavi, the next in line in Iran’s monarchical succession before the 1979 Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah. Pahlavi and his supporters have been more vocal in their criticism of the Islamic ruling establishment in recent months. This time last year, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Iran to voice anger at their leaders and frustration at the economic hardships they face. Some of them even called for the return of the monarchy. Below are some excerpts from the interview.
On recent meetings with U.S. officials
Those I met in America were mainly congressmen. I have also held meetings with some European legislators. Meetings with the [U.S. presidential] administration should be held at the right time, when there are specific demands [by the opposition]. The time for such a meeting is when the opposition can speak with one voice and provide a secular, democratic, national alternative to the current system. This scenario is now taking shape as there are renewed dynamics among the opposition groups.
On what the U.S. wants
The aim is to change Iran's behavior. The foreign policy that the West has had for forty years, including the sanctions aimed at changing the behavior of the regime, has been based on a flawed assumption. The Islamic Republic is a religious, ideological regime that wants to export its ideology. It is not like the cold war era when there were two well-defined blocs that could rationally coexist. The Islamic Republic cannot co-exist with another world that has its own values and principles. In the best-case scenario for the Islamic Republic is to change its behavior, but then it is no longer the Islamic Republic.
On Europe and Iran
If Europe's policy is "let's not exert pressure on Iran because we want to have economic benefits," they should see that Iran has always destabilized the region. Syria is an example. The influx of refugees has created instability in Europe. Does any commercial benefit justify the cost? There should be a solution that works for the world, for the people and the Islamic Republic. Not one that works only to the benefit of Islamic Republic.
On his role
I don't see myself as someone who creates an organization or a political party. The best thing to do at the current stage is to foster solidarity among various forces that can agree on a common platform to seek a way out of the crisis.
On the opposition's inability to work together
Things are changing. Things have changed during the past two years. The protest slogans such as "reformists, conservatives, that is the end for you," and "death to dictator,” show that Iranian society has lost hope that their leaders will work for the benefit of the people. The people are taking to the streets protesting against the miserable economic situation.
On reaching out to the opposition
I have obviously reached out. I have been doing this for years now. I have been in contact with all political groups, Marxists, socialists, nationalists, constitutionalists, ethnic groups, and others on the left or right of the political spectrum except the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) and those who represent the regime. Today, the situation has changed, and many can see the regime's fate is to come to an end. But the important question is what will replace it.
On the possibility of a war
I have always opposed any scenario involving war and aggression. I believe Iran is ready for a transition to democracy after the regime's downfall without any need for war or aggression. Non-violent civil disobedience will be more effective. The military forces and the police should have a chance to join the people without fearing reprisal. Otherwise there will be a vicious circle of vengeance.
On whether the military will resort to violence
The Islamic Republic wants everybody to believe that if the regime falls Iran will become another Syria. But they have caused what happened in Syria. Today, the members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basij militia who talk to me say they want to get rid of the current ruling establishment. They no longer believe in the system and do not want to confront the people. We should leave the doors open for them to return to society.
On why military commanders should trust him
Because we are different. This [the Islamic Republic] is a regime that rules with violence, censorship, torture, and execution. We are exactly the opposite. We want the military to defend the country rather than being used as a tool for suppression.
On how close regime change is
I think we are very close to that. The current situation is similar to the last months before [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini's arrival in Tehran or when my father left the country. The ignition point is near. What is lacking, aside from a political formula, and what should be created by the intellectuals and the middle class, is a guiding mechanism that can pave the way for the regime’s replacement. We should know the alternative. They are in Iran, but it is too early for them to emerge as the regime might try to annihilate them. What will happen is inevitable and will happen within the next one year or two. I will do my share in making sure that there will be a controlled change rather than anarchy. And the result should be what the people want.
Full interview in Persian