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Minus mom & monarchy
I prefer a secular republic, but Pahlavi can play a pivotal role

By Yek Irandoost
February 12, 2002
The Iranian

I enjoyed reading Mrs. Sabety's "Stay away from courtiers" and as often is the case, not always, I generally agree with her opinion, but I disagree with some of her views regarding Reza Pahlavi.

Please allow me some latitude... More than likely, I will never go back to live in Iran, under any regime. I am no longer an activist, because the last time I was, I not only put my whole life on hold, but I also ended up supporting the Islamic revolution!

Even though I wasn't in Iran at the time, and my role was not instrumental in bringing the IRI to power, I am embarrassed for being so naive as to think religion could successfully address our problems. I now follow the events in Iran with great, albeit passive, interest.

All I want for Iran is to be a place where its people can live in freedom, enjoy relative prosperity, and have the opportunity to work hard to create a better future for themselves and their country.

As a side effect, I wouldn't mind taking some vicarious joy in being proud of my birthplace as a respected, progressive nation that can make a positive contribution to humanity. For that, an economically and socially healthy, and (unfortunately) militarily formidable Iran will suffice.

I can do without the glamour of a highly decorated Third World monarch that has more medals than there have been wars fought by mankind!

Why the introduction ? because I want you to know that I have no personal stake in the opinion I am about to present. My opinion may be wrong, but I assure you I don't have any hidden agendas ...end of latitude!

While I too am leery of promises that Reza Pahlavi now implies regarding the feasibility of democracy under monarchy, and can't help but remember the promises that Khomeini made twenty some years ago, but I am more willing than most anti-monarchists to hear him out.

I prefer a secular republic to monarchy, but I think Pahlavi can play a pivotal role in realizing the former, if the activists abroad push him in that direction, rather than categorically reject anything he has to say.

I believe like the rest of us, Pahlavi has matured a lot since the early days of our exile, but he has to take one or two more giant steps/leaps. I believe he must state that even if the people of Iran vote for monarchy in a referendum, he will NOT accept such a position, and he will NOT bring monarchy back to Iran.

He should also make it clear that if he is elected president, he would not serve more than 2 terms (4-5 years each). He may lose the support of some monarchists, but he must assess whether this posture is more consistent with his vision for Iran, and at a more pragmatic level, whether the added support he may receive from non-monarchists will outweigh the loss of some monarchist support, a group who are unlikely to take to the streets and risk their lives to overthrow the IRI.

Unlike those who prefer to let the reform movement in Iran take its course, and let future leaders rise out of that movement, I don't have a lot of faith in the reform movement, nor in its leaders.

I think the new breed of opposition leaders in Iran are nothing more than insurance policies for the current ruling clique in Iran, who are willing to give up power as a last resort, but only to a friendly replacement that will spare their lives and riches in the post-Khatami/Khamenei Iran. Remember the deal Yeltsin negotiated before he stepped down? "Don't come after me, and don't investigate my financial dealings, and I may be willing to consider early retirement!"

I also foresee the IRI giving up more power in the form of abolishing mandatory veil / chador / hejab in the near future (1-2 years), if that's what it takes to slow down, or prevent its bloody demise.

That's a topic worthy of a separate, lengthy discussion. But to address it briefly, as tempting as it may be to settle for a more moderate Islamic Republic, the reform movement in Iran is by its nature and constitution, incapable of establishing a truly secular government, and without prevasive secularism, Iran can not embrace modernity, and without modernity, Iran can not hope to survive past the 21st century.

Throughout history, vibrant younger generations have brought about drastic change, only when their relative numbers have been higher compared to the rest of the populace. Examples are the baby boomers in the west, and Iranians cerca 1979. Iran is once again blessed with such a generation, but if they don't bring about the necessary changes in the next 4-5 years, Iran has to wait another few decades before it gets another chance.

In addition, with our dwindling oil supply, and the likely demotion of the Persian Gulf region as the most important geopolitical area in the world, and its replacement with Central Asia, Iranians do not have much time to get passed the IRI, and set a course for rapid reconstruction in hopes of joining the modern world in less than 50 years, when oil/gas exports may be non-existent.

The IRI has recently announced that in less than 20 years, domestic consumption of oil will be so high that there will not be anything left for export. In the last few years, there has been a shortage of refined oil/gasoline for domestic use. Only a modern industrial economy with advanced agriculture can hope to survive in that environment.

You see, time is running out. I would hate to see Iran become like Chad, once the playground of the colonialists, but now no one is even kind enough to nuke them out of their misery, because they just don't matter anymore!

The geopolitical map of the world for the next 20-30 years is being redrawn today. Iran can not afford to make an error, lest it will land on the wrong side of the global power struggle. She must at least have knowledgeable decision makers that will put Iran's interests before those of Britain, Russia, or anyone else's.

And they must do that now, not a few years from now. Unless of course there's someone out there that can show us how Iran is making the right choices today vis-a-vis Afghanestan, the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, etc. Iran does not have time for the reform movement to take its sweet time.

In the movie "Taste of Cherry", Abbas Kiarostami tells us that taking the longer, more windy road is more scenic (better). But that is a deception that the IRI is feeding its opposition groups, while it diverts the last drops of Iran's national wealth into personal investments and bank accounts abroad.

Patience and resilience in the face of adversity is a major theme in contemporary Iranian Cinema, and its unfortunately propogated by some of our "opposition" radio and TV stations, but I digress! There is no time for patience. It is time for quick, but not hurried action. It takes debate and planning, but it also takes some compromises by all sides.

Iranian opposition groups must unite, and they must do so quickly. Now, I don't see a candidate with more potential than Pahlavi. He has the name recognition, he enjoys some approval by civilized countries, and he is very close to becoming a democratic leader that just needs some polishing and realigning.

If Pahlavi can escape his mother's influence and aspirations for monarchy, and also distance himself from some (not all) "chaaploos" remnants of the former regime, as well as some (not all) irrational and dogmatic monarchists, I think he can be instrumental in putting Iran on the right course.

Therefore, while I still have a hard time supporting him in his current persona, I think he should be supported if he can take the giant leap previously mentioned. I hope that activists in this forum and elsewhere will diplomatically, not antagonisiticaly, push him in that direction.

Finally, there's the other giant leap, which has to do with Pahlavi's detailed analysis of what wrong was done during his father's reign, as well as what were the achievements, and I hope we can all agree there were some.

But this requires another long winded blabbering, and I will spare you for now! Suffice it to say that I believe this is the best way for Pahlavi to exonerate his father, which I believe is one of his prime motives. If he tells the truth, and accepts the consequences, I believe future (impartial) historians will conclude that his father and grand father, on the balance, did more good for Iran than harm.

Who knows, we might even someday erect a national monument to honor all 3 Pahlavi's, along with Dr. Mosaddegh all in the same place! There might even be room for some former islamic revolutionaries, for knocking some sense into the monarchists and making this discussion possible!

In closing, I think Pahlavi is just a little rough around the edges and with some polishing at the capable hands of Iranian opposition abroad, he can serve as a catalyst in bringing about a more timely end to the IRI, and perhaps even serve to head or shape a post-IRI transition (6-12 month) government.

Now the question is, is the West genuinely prepared to put an end to Islamic Fundamentalism and support democratic governments in the region? I hope they are. In hopes of a better Iran for all Iranians, specially those living in Iran, and a better world for the rest of us!

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Yek Irandoost


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