When they have to fly, they're "shotor"; when they
have to carry loads, they're "morgh"
By Haj Mirza Khan
November 9, 2001
The discussion in Iranian.com about the prospects for a future Pahlavi
monarchy is absolutely fascinating in a singularly Iranian fashion. That
we should be discussing this at all is a testament to our failure of imagination,
as well as our inability to resolve issues and put them behind us.
The silliest arguments, as usual, come from pro-monarchists or royalists.
What is comical about their arguments is the range of reasoning they cite;
from feudal admonitions like: "You namak-nashnaas" who would be
nothing without the "favor of Pahlavis", to the hyper-enlightened:
Harvard-educated people should be "more sophisticated" than to
question the merits of monarchy!
The saddest part of the Pahlavi "Dynasty" is the pressures
put on crown princes. These ordinary young people are expected to rise up
to the challenge of incomprehensibly complex historical and social circumstances
in Iran, just so they can carry on the Pahlavi name. Inevitably, they get
used by foreigners they try so hard to please.
Just as Mohammad Reza Shah (may he rest in peace) suffered to be a great
king, Reza Shah II is stepping in the same path. I feel bad for Reza Shah
II to be pressured into this disservice in order to fill his "destiny".
His father did the same, and, despite his best intentions, was rejected
by his people, abandoned by his Western allies, and damned by history.
The truth about Pahlavis is that Reza Khan, a capable and patriotic Iranian,
overthrew the ineffective constitutional monarchy of the bankrupt Qajar
Dynasty in favor of an Ataturk style progressive secularism. He was a dictator
who ruled with an Iron fist in order to bring Iran into the twentieth century,
and to help her realize her greatness within. Maybe that's the only thing
that could've helped Iran at the time. But, somewhere along the line, he
saw himself as so effective and popular, that he got the notion to declare
Let's get something straight to begin with: the Pahlavis were not kings.
1- A king (shah, sultan, amir, maharaja, etc.) is the head of a pyramid
of feudalism. The king rules the governors (lords, hakems, khans, pashas,
rajas, etc.) who in turn rule lesser landlords, who in turn rule kadkhodas,
who in turn manage peasants. And so the system functioned for centuries
in relatively simple agrarian societies before industrialization.
2- A king's claim to the throne is based on tradition, extensive tribal
connections, and sheer force.
3- Kingship in Iran has always had a direct relation to religion, and
has often come out of religious revolt, e.g., Sasanid and Safavid.
4- Even when founders of a dynasty in Iran were successful military commanders
who declared themselves kings, they went through extensive pains to trace
their bloodlines to ancient Persian kings; albeit with a few fabricated
links here and there. This is true of Achamenid, Alexander the Macedonian,
Sasanid, Samanid, Ghaznavi, Safavid, Afshar, Zand and Qajar.
Some Arab Imams claimed descendence from Persian kings because Imam Hossein
married the daughter of Yazdgird (Shahrbanou). Some Ottoman Sultans in Turkey,
and Mongol rulers in India and Afghanistan also claimed descendency from
5- A king demonstrates undying love for the land, culture and customs
of Iran, as an example for everyone else. He does not go to school or vacation
in foreign lands.
So if we accept the above as part of the traditional definition of a
king, where would the Pahlavis fit? Not very traditional, are they? But,
there's no kingship without tradition. Monarchy is defined within tradition.
Pahlavis have straddled tradition and modernity on an "as-needed"
basis. I call them the Shotormorgh (ostrich) Dynasty -- when they have to
fly, they're "shotor" (camel); when they have to carry loads,
they're "morgh" (bird).
When we want them to stand and fight for a cause -- any cause -- they
run and hide. When we want them to stay away and let the events unfold,
they're in the middle of every quagmire. They're brave in times of peace,
and gentle in times of strife. They wear military uniforms, and fly fighter
planes when we're at peace. They wear suits and go into exile when times
They are single-minded, and hunt down their opponents when they have
absolute power. Then they become reasonable, and talk of "unity"
when they need the people to put them back in power. Laws and the constitution
mean nothing to the Pahlavis, until they have to point to it and ask for
their position back.
They're not responsible for what their fathers did in the past; nor do
they attempt to explain away mistakes, yet that relationship is their sole
claim to anything in our world. They like the benefits of that relationship,
but don't want the burden of its history. In the process, they've made a
mockery of both monarchy and political process in Iran.
An elected king, or a referendum for monarchy, are the most absurd oxymorons
in this, or any other, century. Only the Shotormorgh Dynasty could've come
up with this one.
Before we get into any of that, let's get serious with the royalists.
Let's give'em a chance to explain themselves first. Let's have the monarchists
answer a few questions, and explain a few historical positions. They say
"mistakes were made" in the reign of the late Shah. Enumerate
the mistakes. Elaborate please.
How would this constitutional monarchy, or this royal democracy, be different
from the one that ousted Mossadegh, and silenced the voices of moderation
in Iran? I would like to know how Reza Shah II would've handled the situation
with Mossadegh and the nationalization of Iranian oil under the exact same
circumstances had he been the constitutional monarch at the time?
It should be easy to answer now that all the facts are out. Let me hear
his analysis of the situation. He can leave out any mention of his father's
personal role in it as it would obviousely be too close to home for him
-- just a hypothetical, "If it were me in that position" scenario.
We may not be able to correct our past mistakes, but taking a position now
shows what we've learned from history.
Another question: Was the 1979 revolution in Iran a popular uprising,
or did an unspecified "catastrophe descend upon [Iran]" as described
in rezapahlavi.org? Would Reza
Shah II address the issue of his assets at any time? Will we ever get into
where he, and his family, got their money? I would love to know how frugally
they've lived, and brilliantly invested, on the late Shah's salary as apportioned
by the Iranian constitution and parliament. That money lasted a long time,
didn't it? Are questions like this considered distasteful in the new kingly
I'd like to know how Reza Shah II feels about having a close relationship
with the West, like his father had, and where exactly would he draw the
line between alliance and dependence. What steps would he take to ensure
we don't become tools of other people's foreign policy? Already, on CNN,
he sounds like what they'd want him to sound like.
Remarkably, his speech last week at Yale was almost identical to the
Israeli position expressed this week. They both talk in similar terms about
failure of moderates in Iran, Iran's support for terrorism, Iran's quest
for weapons of mass destruction, and Iran's opposition to the Middle East
"peace" process. They both warned against including Iran in any
coalition to fight terrorism. Looks like imperial Iran already has a new
ally in the Middle East.
This sort of thing makes me very uncomfortable for many reasons, least
of which is the stringent views of a future "constitutional monarch"
on such controversial matters of foreign policy at such a crucial time.
Say what you want about the IRI, but their regional foreign policy has
been on the mark throughout the past two decades. They have been called
a "rogue" state by the U.S., but whatever position they take in
the Middle East, the U.S. is forced to take the same position a few years
later. The troubles U.S. has had with Iraq and the Taliban in the past,
as well as the troubles they are about to have with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
(not to mention Turkey and Egypt in the not too distant future), have all
been anticipated by the Iranian revolutionaries long in advance. Did I mention
the debacle in Lebanon?
I think the U.S. realizes now that they can not have stability in the
Middle East without dealing with Iran. This respect, the mollas have earned!
Suddenly, they're the ones everybody wants to talk to, and deal with! Seems
like somebody finally stared at the map of the region long enough to appreciate
Iran's place among nations. My! How times have changed.
It is now the U.S. that has to concede a few points to the IRI in order
to make-up for her own foreign policy errors. They've already apologized
for the 1953 coup. Now they might end economic sanctions and return frozen
Iranian assets. Money and international recognition would certainly enhance
the hand of Khatami and his supporters in Iran, and can not be bad for democracy.
At this crucial juncture, in comes a Pahlavi with his soft approach to
civility and compromise! It's like déjà vu all over again
(a la Mossadegh vs. Britain). Once again, a Pahlavi steps in to save the
West from a battle they've already lost to Iran. I don't think even he would
realize if he were being used. Or maybe the promise of a throne is too tempting.
Even if we don't question his qualifications and this timing, maybe he
himself should. Why are Western interests so nice to him all of a sudden?
Why would these foreigners want him to succeed in defeating the mollas,
and establishing a democracy in Iran NOW? Where was the Wall Street Journal
during the Iran-Iraq war? Where was the New York Times when Iraq
was using chemical weapons against "your countrymen"?
Do you want revenge for what happened to your father? Here's an idea:
next time, before you use the pronoun "we" to refer to yourself
and the U.S. as partners in this war against terrorism, why don't you first
demand an apology from this "friend" for how your father was treated
on his deathbed?
Show me first how you'll deal with your friends here, before we talk
about how you'll deal with your enemies there. Stand up for the interests
of Iranians, at home or abroad, before you step up to bat for anyone else.
Just as their loyalty to their nation comes before their loyalty to you
or you family, so should yours. Once you do these things, you'll be an Iranian
citizen in my eyes. As for being a king? Well, let's discuss that later.