Reza Pahlavi and the Neoconservatives

Once again, Kadivar is being funny. “What Neocons?” he asks, pretending like there’s never been any relationship between the inexperienced puppet-clown and the US neoconservatives and AIPAC. Below are parts of two articles (among many others) that make this clear. The photo above shows Pahlavi with neocon assets Sohrab Sobhani and Elena Benador. It goes with the first article. Please read carefully.

First article


IPS – June 2003


“The form of government would be a Constitutional Monarchy, with the Head of State being Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed in the 1978-79 Islamic revolution, and Sohrab Sobhani as his Prime Minister”, Mr. Beeman wrote. 

“The Bush Administration apparently has a handpicked American “plumber” ready to go in Iran, much like Ahmed Chalabi (the leader of the Defence Department-backed Iraqi National Congress) in Iraq. This is Sohrab “Rob” Sobhani, an Iranian-American associated with the neoconservatives in Washington. With Reza Pahlavi as Shah, the 40-ish Sobhani would presumably be prime minister or president”, he prognosticated. 

As in his previous article published by the Beirut-based The Daily Star, (see IPS’s “America’s Case Against Iran Is Full Of Holes”), the scholar names Mr. Michael Ledeen, a tough-tongue historian and journalist as the “promoter” of the “Restore Monarchy” project. 

“The promoter of the Administration policy is American Enterprise Institute Freedom Chair Holder Michael Ledeen, who has written and lectured obsessively about regime change in Iran. Ledeen was reported by The Washington Post to be one of four advisers in regular consultation with White House strategist, Karl Rove”, Mr. Beeman said, adding that Ledeen and Sobhani recently established the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI) to promote this regime change. 

Reza Pahlavi had been living quietly in Maryland until 11 September, when he began to address the Iranian community via the internet and satellite television. This prompted the Iranian community to dub him the “Internet Prince.” 

Rob Sobhani, who has known Reza Pahlavi since childhood, was actually born in Kansas. His doctorate, completed in 1987, dealt with Iranian-Israeli relations from 1948-88. He became a specialist in energy policy. He has had his finger in many pies in Washington, including consultation on the construction of an oil and gas pipeline across Afghanistan. 

Well-connected politically, he ran twice for the US Senate from Maryland as a Republican. Although his heritage is Iranian, he is far from being an expert on Iranian society, politics or economics. His move to the Washington area put him in close contact with his old friend, Reza Pahlavi. 

Sobhani’s interests in regime change are very clear and very consonant with American desires. They are largely commercial. Following his graduation from Georgetown, he became head of a Caspian Energy Consulting, a firm dealing with the transport and sale of Caspian oil. 

On March 5, 2001 in an article written with Pennsylvania State business professor Fariborz Ghadar, he advocated a number of the policies that have since been carried out by the US, including containing the Taleban and Saddam Hoseyn. He also notes that supporting a secularisation of Iran would lead to easier transport of Caspian oil through Iranian territory. 

Of equal importance, Sobhani also sees secularisation of Iran as beneficial for Israel. This is not surprising, since Israel and Iran had excellent ties before the 1978-79 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian Jewish community is the oldest continuous Jewish community in the world. The community is as prominent in Diaspora as in Iran, with members in powerful positions in the Israeli government and in American life, particularly in California. Elimination of the clerical regime in Iran would eliminate support for (the Iran-backed Lebanese) Hezbollah. It might even lead to renewed trade between Tehran and Tel Aviv. 

Ledeen, Sobhani and Morris Amitay, former director of the principal Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) joined forces at the American Enterprise Institute in a seminar entitled The Future of Iran, in which they called for regime change. AIPAC has indicated support for the restoration of Reza Pahlavi to the throne, although they wish to remain in the background, as reported by Mark Perelman on 16 May in The New York Jewish Daily Forward. 

Sobhani has pursued a ploy in order to give himself academic billing for television and the lecture circuit. He teaches one course at his alma mater, Georgetown University on Iran and Caspian Oil politics. On this basis he has claimed to be a “professor” at Georgetown. He is in fact an adjunct faculty member at the college, but here it is hard to know what kind of “adjunct” he is, since he never seems to be on campus. The chair of the department of government has tried in vain to get him to cease and desist in claiming this affiliation. 

Both Sobhani and Michael Ledeen are remarkably cagey about claims for the restoration of the Monarchy. Their ambitions are clearly to restore the Pahlavi dynasty, but they are both exceptionally careful about making this pronunciation openly or in print. They are frequently photographed with Reza Pahlavi and in some circles Sobhani is derisively referred to as “The Pretender’s Prime Minister”. Sobhani, when he refers to Reza, frequently calls him an “activist” rather than a future Monarch. 

All three have connections with the media agency, Benador Associates, who manages both their op-ed placements and television appearances. Eleana Benador represents Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Charles Krauthammer, Martin Kramer and other conservatives connected to the Bush Administration. Pictures of Eleana Benador and Reza Pahlavi with Israeli supporter and AIPAC member Bob Guzzardi, and Middle East Forum head Daniel Pipes appear on Bob Guzzardi’s website. 

Sobhani and Ledeen clearly feel that the United States can produce an internal coup in Iran. Ledeen has said as much in (his recent book) “The War Against the Terror Masters” and many articles for the National Review Online, The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. 

Ledeen and Sobhani expect to have the coup first, and then present Reza Pahlavi as the emergent ruler. Ledeen said as much in a rally in Los Angeles for Iranian monarchists, saying in effect: Let’s have the revolution first, then worry about who will rule Iran. 





Second Article: Exiles: How Iran’s Expatriates are Gaming the Nuclear Threat

New Yorker, March 2006



Still, the response to Pahlavi’s satellite TV appearances allowed him to at least argue that he had a constituency in Iran. “And the C.I.A. got interested in him,” an Iranian analyst told me. “It took the view that his uninvolvement could be an advantage. ‘He’s clean! He hasn’t killed anyone! And he might be able to be a unifying figure.’ “

Pahlavi and his supporters were thrilled by Bush’s State of the Union speech in January, 2002, in which he referred to an “axis of evil” that included Iran and Iraq, along with North Korea, and later that year and in early 2003 opposition members obtained meetings with officials in the Vice-President’s office, the National Security Council, and the State Department.

The heart of their support, however, was in the Pentagon, which was preparing a draft national-security Presidential directive, or N.S.P.D., on Iran. An Iranian political activist recalled having policy discussions with several people who were working on the draft, including Larry Franklin, the Pentagon’s Iran desk officer; Ladan Archin, an Iranian American Pentagon official; and Michael Rubin, a young Pentagon staff assistant who wrote the draft. (In August, 2004, it was reported that Franklin was suspected of having described the document’s contents to two AIPAC employees; he pleaded guilty last October.) It appeared that the Defense Department officials had been in contact with Pahlavi’s associates. “There were ideas discussed that I had heard about from Ahmad Oveyssi a year or so earlier,” the Iranian activist said. When the activist offered his own ideas, the officials’ obvious enthusiasm led him to conclude that the draft was an elaborate directive for the mobilization of opposition forces. There would be money for communication devices for students in Iran; for American and European N.G.O.s; for buying off and neutralizing the Revolutionary Guard; for buying information; for supporting existing satellite-television operations; and for funding the exile opposition.

In the spring of 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, Pahlavi and his close circle were heartened. “They became so cocky-they thought that any day now they were going back to Iran,” a person with close ties to them told me. “It looked as though America had walked over Afghanistan and Saddam. The Americans were talking about bringing Zahir Shah, the former king, back to Afghanistan from Rome. When he fell from power, in 1973, he was sustained by the Shah. They figured the Americans were going to bring Reza back.” One of Pahlavi’s congressional allies, Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, introduced a bill that would have channeled a hundred million dollars to support opposition activities, including TV and radio broadcasts into Iran. In May, 2003, Michael Ledeen wrote a policy brief for the American Enterprise Institute Web site arguing that Pahlavi would make a suitable leader for a transitional government, describing him as “widely admired inside Iran, despite his refreshing lack of avidity for power or wealth.” The schism within the Administration between those who were favorably disposed toward Pahlavi and those who were not reflected the broader interagency policy divide. Richard Haass, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s policy-planning director, recalled recently, “Reza came to see me one day. It was a pleasant fortyminute meeting. It was not clear to me that he had much of a following in Iran-and, in any event, he did not convince me that Iran was on the brink.”

Haass continued, “I was in one camp, and the Vice-President’s office and the O.S.D.”-the office of the Secretary of Defense-“in the other. There were two very different schools of thought. One, that the U.S. ought to ‘engage’ Iran, offer the Iranians as much of a dialogue as they were prepared to have-to extend these concrete and political benefits, but only if we get what we want. The problem is that a lot of people in the government have been wedded to the idea of ‘regime change.’ They thought the regime was vulnerable, and engagement would throw the Iranians a lifeline. I believed then and I believe now that they are dead wrong.

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