Exiled son of Iran’s last shah steps up to lead galvanised diaspora

Reza Pahlavi was for many years on the distant margins of Iranian politics, an exiled crown prince with a spattering of monarchist supporters inside and out of doors the nation.

However Pahlavi, the US-based son of Iran’s final shah who was toppled within the 1979 revolution, has in latest months develop into a figurehead for an more and more bold opposition within the diaspora that believes the time is ripe to foment regime change within the Islamic republic.

The result’s that, 44 years after his father was unseated, Pahlavi has been touring European capitals as a part of a marketing campaign to persuade the west to ramp up help for Iranian protesters who need the theocracy changed by a secular democracy.

Supplementing the sanctions already imposed on the republic with actions to “empower” Iranians who oppose the regime would go a protracted approach to “making them extra able to bringing strain from inside”, Pahlavi stated in an interview with the Monetary Occasions.

Such feedback replicate confidence among the many regime’s opponents overseas that the mass protests final yr that adopted the loss of life of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini have altered the dynamics in Iran. It additionally underlined how they hoped to form western coverage.

Reza Pahlavi: ‘We’re making an attempt to do all of this within the context of non-violent and civil disobedience change with out having to resort to violence or overseas intervention’ © Charlie Bibby/FT

Pahlavi, 62, attended final month’s Munich Safety Convention, whereas Iranian officers weren’t invited. He adopted up by assembly lawmakers in London, Paris and Brussels.

Pahlavi, who has not returned to Iran since 1978 when he left, aged 17, to check within the US, stated that probabilities for “high-level” conferences existed earlier than, however the distinction now was that folks had been partaking. “After 43 years the world is starting to say we’d higher begin speaking to people who find themselves a part of the answer and the choice.”

The protests have diminished, however with Iran below mounting social and financial pressures, the republic’s opponents predict additional cycles of unrest. Buoyed by inner requires regime change, Pahlavi and others within the diaspora are drawing up a constitution to arrange for a “transition” ought to the theocracy collapse.

After many years of deep divisions inside a diaspora that largely displayed little urge for food for political exercise, Pahlavi and different opposition figures overseas have discovered their voices amplified to unprecedented ranges on the worldwide stage.

It’s partly because of the nature and scope of the protests, which offered the regime with its severest risk in years. This coincided with escalating tensions between Iran and the west that had been partly because of Tehran’s crackdown in opposition to the demonstrators, in addition to its choice to promote drones to Russia utilized in its battle in opposition to Ukraine.

A protester holds a picture of Reza Pahlavi
A protester holds an image of Reza Pahlavi at a rally in opposition to the present Iranian regime and in help of Pahlavi © Vuk Valcic/SOPA Photos/Sipa US/Reuters

Pahlavi is the eldest son of the late Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who sought to modernise Iran over 4 many years as shah with the backing of the US. However many Iranians felt alienated by his western-style growth, corruption and autocratic rule, culminating within the tumultuous occasions that overthrew his dynasty.

Right this moment, many Iranians stay sceptical in regards to the abroad opposition and Pahlavi, arguing they lack credible leaders and are faraway from unusual folks and the republic’s pro-democracy activists. There are questions on their stage of help contained in the nation. Some say the diaspora’s actions play into the fingers of a regime eager responsible the unrest on its overseas enemies.

“The [overseas] opposition is extra related than earlier than due to the influence they’re having on home politics within the international locations they reside, however their agenda is just not all the time the identical as inner activists,” stated Ali Vaez, analyst at Disaster Group, a think-tank. “Their very own intolerance and infighting has contributed to issues.”

Analysts say the brand new elevated position of Pahlavi and others within the diaspora additionally uncovered a weak point within the opposition — the dearth of clear management inside or outdoors Iran. “There are such a lot of folks with capability and potential, nevertheless it’s arduous to determine one single individual that may galvanise and rally help, notably inside Iran,” stated Sanam Vakil, an Iran skilled at Chatham Home.

Pahlavi insisted he was involved with activists inside Iran and was reflecting their views. His goal was to persuade the west to do extra to assist Iranians circumvent web restrictions and to boost funds to help hanging staff, believing labour unrest would “paralyse the system”.

“We’re making an attempt to do all of this within the context of non-violent and civil disobedience change with out having to resort to violence or overseas intervention,” he stated. Opposition figures referred to as for common strikes through the protests, a tactic that helped loosen the shah’s grip on energy in 1979, however they went largely unheeded.

In Iran, analysts and diplomats say that among the many activist diaspora, which incorporates actors, journalists and footballers, Pahlavi has a level of stature because the final shah’s son. But his heritage can be seen as a weak point, as many bear in mind the autocratic nature of his father’s regime.

“No one is contesting what occurred in historical past,” Pahlavi stated. “I had no duty within the earlier regime, I had the title of crown prince however no person holds me accountable for that.”

Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, with his third wife, Farah Diba, and their son, Reza, in ceremonial dress in front of throne
Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi together with his mother and father, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi and Farah Diba © Common Historical past Archive/UIG/Shutterstock

Pahlavi, whose supporters nonetheless consult with him as “his majesty”, is ambiguous on whether or not he needs to see a return to monarchy. He stated he would recuse “myself from this debate so I don’t favour one or the opposite”.

His process was to construct a “coalition of political organisations [and] teams” and put together for what occurs ought to the regime fall. Requested if he considered himself as a transitional chief, he replied: “That’s what folks need me to play as a task; monarchists or republicans.”

He added: “My mission in life will finish the day folks go to the polls and elect their future system.”

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