The incompetence and undemocratic nature of the exiled opposition has significantly contributed to the survival of the dictatorial theocracy in Tehran. The most extreme example is the Mujahedin Khalq, who has alienated the Iranian people through its terrorist activities and its dependence on Saddam Hussein.
What is less publicly know, however, is that Reza Pahlavi seems to be repeating Rajavi's pattern of behavior. For the last twenty years, pundits have repeatedly predicted the fall of the mullacracy within two to five years. Every time, they have been proven wrong as the Islamic Republic has shown a surprising resilience and ability to survive.
Mindful of the impopularity of the regime, its horrible human rights record, its disastrous economic track record, and its failure to regain a respectable position for Iran in the international community, it is indeed surprising that the regime has survived. Some of the causes of this misjudgment, as well as the regime's resilience, lie in the arrogance of its adversaries.
The belief that the regime is inflexible vis-a-vis a changing surrounding, the belief that the regime's ideological orientation takes precedence over pragmatic necessities for survival and that the people's tendency to romanticize past eras would cause them to be uncreative and restricted in their way to define their options and their future, are all examples of this self-impairing arrogance.
For the well-being of Iran and its people, this has been disastrous. The un-democratic and power hungry nature of the opposition has made it difficult to distinguish between them and the regime itself. And it has caused the opposition to lose focus on what the interest of the regime is, and what the national interest of Iran is, and whether these may coincide at times.
The prime example is the MKO's pact with the devil in 1981. Masoud Rajavi struck a deal with Saddam Hussein amid the Iraq-Iran war in which Saddam would grant the MKO power in Iran. In return, Rajavi promised Saddam Khuzestan, Iran's oil rich region in the south. Here we can clearly see how Rajavi's willingness to put himself before the nation causes him to attack Iran's national interest rather than the regime, with the treacherous act of selling the heartland of Iran for personal gain.
Few would agree with the contention that it was worth sacrificing Khuzestan and its population in order to get rid of the mullahs. Iran's national interest is not restricted to the current population of Iran, but goes beyond that to include the plethora of generations of Iranians to come. For them, and for the future of Iran, the loss of Khuzestan and its people would be unbearable. Unfortunately, alliances between the enemies of Iran and power-hungry Iranian politicians are not rare.
Iran's history is plagued with examples of such treacherous acts and today, history seems to be repeating itself. It is common knowledge that September 11 gave life to Reza Pahlavi's waning political campaign. To many Iranians, Pahlavi had come to symbolize the incompetence of the Iranian resistance due to his undedicated and erratic activities.
To run a country is a full time job, to be in opposition requires even more effort. Giving an occasional speech can only make you qualify as an actor in the field of politics when everyone else's participation is even more inconsistent. September 11 gave Pahlavi an opportunity to become more active.
What is less known, however, is that he did so by striking a deal with another state in the Middle East and its neo-conservative allies in Washington [Photos
]. The neo-conservative camp in Washington believes in one basic law of politics: Power.
This group, which predominantly consists of right-wing Jewish-American intellectuals, strongly opposes the strengthening of international norms and institutions and advocate that the US should translate its military power into political influence. This means that the US should not hesitate to impose its will on other nations, since the outcome must ultimately reflect the distribution of power in the world in order to be “just”.
Their philosophy has striking similarities with that of Ariel Sharon and the Likud party in Israel. According to this group, the international system is guided by one law and one law only: “Might Makes Right”. They also combine the power-focused ideology of Realism with the Idealist's dedication to the notion of a “democratic peace”.
In Iraq, this has resulted in a campaign to oust Saddam Hussein and impose a pro-Western and pro-Israeli “democracy”. Once the living standard of Iraqis rise, their “democratic” model will spread to the rest of the Middle East with the fall of the House of Saud, Mubarak, Assad and, eventually, the mullahs in Iran.
This ideology provides an opportunity for Iranian opposition groups who hardly would be able to come to power without outside intervention. The only demands they will have to accept is to give guarantees that you will conduct a policy that supports Israel's position against the Palestinians and abide by the US's energy needs.
Furthermore, and most importantly, the opposition group must accept that Israel will be the leading state in the hierarchy of the regional system, a position that many states in the Middle East covet. Needless to say, this creates a contradiction in the neo-conservative philosophy since tiny Israel hardly has the potential to dominate populous and powerful countries such as Iran in the long term.
But that is the key benefit to Israel — by using its resources in Washington to help put a pro-American and pro-Israeli puppet regime in Iran, it will be able to influence and dominate Iran for years to come. Since Iran is the nation in the region with the greatest potential to achieve the role of regional super power and challenge Israel's hegemony, Tel Aviv is basically neutralizing Iran by masterminding the installment of Iran's next puppet regime.
While this has many benefits for Israel and for whatever Iranian opposition group willing to strike a deal with the neo-cons, it has no benefits for Iran or the Iranian people. True, the Iranian people will be better off once the theocracy has fallen, but this is a historic inevitability that does not require the treacherous act of trading away Iran's rightful role in the region or its national interest.
Indeed, sacrificing Iran's national interest is not part of the solution; it is part of the very same problem that put Iran in this precarious situation in the first place. Do note that Israel is not doing anything wrong. On the contrary, Israel is aptly pursuing its national interest. It is the opposition groups that are at fault here, since they are allowing Iran to be subjugated by a foreign power.
As mentioned before, Iran's national interest transcends generations and governments. Putting Iran under Israeli domination (or any other foreign domination) is not a justified price to pay, especially since the lion part of that price will be paid by future and not current generations of Iranians.
It is essential to understand that the long-term power relation between Iran and Israel is independent of the regimes that rule these countries — within the system, a democratic Iran that recognizes Israel's right to exist would still find itself in a competitive relationship with Israel and the other leading states in the region.
Yet, while Rajavi turned to Saddam in 1981 in an effort to gain power in Iran at the cost of Iran?s national interest, Pahlavi is today turning to Sharon to reach the very same goal while paying the very same price. While the neo-cons were toying with the idea of supporting Pahlavi well before 9/11, the idea was not put to a test until directly after the terrorist attacks.
They recruited two prominent PR-firms in Washington to polish Pahlavi's appearance and message to better appeal to the American people. They also helped Pahlavi access leading US news outlets, with frequent appearances on Fox News, ABS, CNN and NBC as a result. Pahlavi met with right-wing think tanks in Washington, who in turn helped arrange meetings with leading lawmakers and political figures.
On Capitol Hill, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conducted a low-key campaign to have key Congressmen recognize Pahlavi as the leader of the Iranian Diaspora. Influential lawmakers such as Tom Lantos helped introduce resolutions whose language was drafted by AIPAC, but whose official supporters were the Iranian opposition, i.e. Pahlavi.
In reality, AIPAC continued to conduct its policy of isolating Iran indefinitely while giving it a facade of Iranian public support. neo-conservative columnists, such as Michael Rubin and Michael Ledeen, both active at the neo-conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, have also helped boost Pahlavi's campaign through their writings, briefings and speaking engagements. It is worth noting that Ledeen together with Pahlavi's childhood friend and advisor, Rob Sobhani, are the foremost proponent of a US military campaign against Iran.
For the pro-Israeli camp and the Pahlavi clan, this is a win-win situation. To get the Administration on board, the Pahlavis have promised to cultivate an American Muslim constituency that would support the Bush Administration's policy in the Middle East. They have so far failed to deliver on this promise, although a few Pahlavi front-groups have been formed.
In the meantime, human rights continue to be violated in Iran, its natural resources continue to be exploited by a corrupt regime, and the opposition groups continue to prolong the reign of the mullahs through their incompetence. If Pahlavi gets his way, this situation will not change dramatically, the only difference will be that his clan will take over to reap the benefits through its alliance with Israel and the American neo-cons.
The neo-cons are right on one point though: The misery of the Middle East is rooted in the incompetence and corruption of its rulers. Pahlavi, Rajavi, Khamenei, Arafat, Mubarak and Assad are the rule rather than the exception. They all follow the dictum of sacrificing the nation in order to save themselves.
The final pages of this sad episode in Iran's history are yet to be written. By failing his bid, Rajavi immediately fell in disgrace and will go down as a traitor in history. If he had succeeded, he would most likely have fallen in disgrace shortly after his death. By keeping his alliance with Israel secret, Pahlavi is hoping to avoid Rajavi's fate, but the question is how long he will be able to postpone the revelation of his Israeli gambit. As his wheeling and dealing becomes public, he risks sharing Rajavi's fate as a traitor in the pages of our nation's long and proud history.
Dr. Iraj Pakravan is a political scientist residing in France. He has no political affiliation. This article was originally written in French.