Reza Pahlavi: World has realized Tehran is epicenter of global terror and Iranian regime in worst ever shape
The Iranian regime is worse off today than it was any time in the past, as the world has come to realize that the epicenter of global terrorism is Tehran, said Reza Pahlavi, the Crown Prince under the reign of the Shah.
In an exclusive interview with Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper, he said that the recent demonstrations had revealed the major challenges posed before the regime even though it tries to put up a bold face.
The regime fears that the security forces will not respond to its orders to suppress the people. That is why it employs Lebanese, Palestinian and Afghani groups to fight its battles, he said.
Excerpts from the interview:
Do you think that such revolutions will bring change to Iran?
What we see today is the result of accumulated frustrations throughout 40 years of suppression, poor governance, economic deterioration and dictatorship. The Iranian people know well that the economic crisis in Iran is different from that experienced by other countries. The demonstrations were unlike any previous ones in terms of the volume of anger and demands. The current protests are revolutionary in nature although they have economic undertones. The people have come to realize that the current regime cannot compete with the countries of the area or the world, while launching proxy wars in Lebanon and Syria, making use of the Iranian people's money.
As we have seen from the very first day of the protests, the popular slogan was, "Give up Syria and think about us.” This represents a clear change. I think that it is a historic moment that will influence the whole region. It is a rare opportunity for the region to tap, as the Iranian regime would probably not be able to complete its proxy wars, as the whole world sees it as the leading force behind terror operations worldwide.
The Iranian regime says that every Iranian should be proud of the fact that the country’ influence has reached Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. How do you see the feelings of the Iranians towards those so-called victories?
Let's go back to Ahmadinejad, who tried to sway public opinion into thinking that the country’s nuclear program was a matter of national pride. At that time, the people demonstrated and said they don't need “yellowcake,” with reference to the nuclear weapon, but they need bread. This means that the people are not concerned with any kind of foolish adventures.
This also happened when Saddam Hussein occupied parts of Iran. All Iranians, including me, were ready to fight Saddam and defeat his forces on our land, but none of us was ready to fight even an inch outside Iranian territory. The Iranian people respect international borders, sovereignty of states, and international law. We have no expansionist ambitions, as we are not the USSR where people were starving in silence while communism was spreading across the world. Our people are tired of poverty and are in dire need of even basic things.
We consider all inhabitants of the area as our neighbors. We are not concerned with radicalism or extremism. The only reason Iran is associated with terrorism is the regime’s policies, which are nowhere like what we believe in. Iran, with all its potential, expertise, natural wealth, and human resources, would have been a second South Korea, but the regime has turned it into a North Korea.
Are the Iranian people ready and able to adopt a new vision, under a new regime, turning the page of the past?
Political Islam in Iran is a major obstacle, besides the dictatorship of the ruling religious authority. This was one of the main causes of the protests. The reason for the current advancements taking place in Europe is that they gave up the rule of the church. We need that in Iran. We have different sects in Iran and we cannot be ruled by such a religious regime, making distinctions among people.
The regime has claimed that my call to separate religion and state would lead to a decline of our faith. I can only say that this is utter nonsense. Most developed and successful countries are the ones that enjoy freedom of expression and belief; and they didn't lose their religion. I think that system has to be applied to give people their rights, away from sectarianism, which has only resulted in enmity with our neighbors. In such a sensitive period, we should be actually working with our neighbors to confront more crucial regional issues.
Do you expect an armed conflict in Iran in future? If not, how do you think the clerical rule will come to an end?
What is happening in Iran is a peaceful struggle, making use of all peaceful means to express opposition. We believe that violent change would not bring in a democratic alternative, and people would pay dearly for that. An important point to note is that the regime does not use its own security forces to attack its own people. Instead, it uses foreign forces from Lebanon and Palestine, even Afghan refugees, to suppress the people. These foreign forces are also sent to Iraq and Syria to fight in wars which they know nothing about. We received reports that members of the Basij militias refused to use force against the Iranian people.
Yesterday, we delivered a message to the Iranian armed forces asking them to take a historic stand and not use their guns, which are supposed to guard the borders. I believe that the Iranian army will not want to be involved in wider violent operations against the people.
Change has to come through a peaceful transition. That is why I urge the whole world to desist from calling on the Iranians to take revenge. This would work in favor of the regime.
What are the economic factors that aroused such anger in the people?
Poverty, unemployment and bankruptcy of major banks are some of the causes. People have lost their savings because of poor management. Moreover, 30 percent of the Iranian people are under the poverty line. Most people who protested have no hope for any kind of meaningful future, as they saw how matters were getting worse. Scores of young people committed suicide, while others resorted to drugs. The regime has completely overlooked the welfare of the people.