Reza Pahlavi, A Separation.

I give him a C minus grade for his potential as an opposition unifier


Reza Pahlavi, A Separation.
by Ari Siletz

At a dinner gathering last March I was half hoping the guest of honor would decline my request for an interview. If the conversation put him in a positive light most of my Iranian friends would never talk to me again. I wasn’t the only person at the party who felt uneasy about breaking bread with the former crown prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi. The whole idea behind this gathering of forty or so expats was to see if various pre-revolution foes could find a way to form a unified secular front against the Islamic Republic. The kababs and the various khoresh were delicious, there was plenty of good wine to go around, and the host and hostess were most gracious, but the dining atmosphere reeked of musty grudges from the old monarchy days.

Some of the former Shah opponents were wary of scandal and cries of “sellout” if they were caught hobnobbing with former royalty who might have jailed and tortured half the present guests if the revolution had not ended his line. For this reason only one camera was allowed and photos were taken only upon request. Tentatively taking Reza Pahlavi at his word regarding cooperation--and also trying for that interview--I thought I would show good will and stand in line with some of the royalists to get my picture taken with the guest of honor.

I let the apple-polishing monarchist lady in front of me have the prince all to herself in a pose, mostly because I have a rule to be nice to monarchists. They are an endangered species whose population I would like to see restored to the political ecology inside Iran. The nation needs its traditional institution of monarchy as an emergency backup in case the Islamic Republic is toppled and a secular republic fails. Once the Qom crowd is out of the picture, the crown is the only institution that can keep Iran from shattering into small ethnic states. This is why we should humor folks who dream of a day when every Iranian can be photographed kissing Reza Pahlavi’s boots. If, zabaanam laal, Iran’s wild tries at a secular republic land her into civil war territory, only a pair of royal boots can save her, one for kicking and one for kissing.

But talking realpolitik wasn’t the reason I cornered Reza Pahlavi in between bites of joojeh kabob and polo. A number of better qualified leaders have already thrown their hats in Iran’s democracy ring and there’s little value in the son of the deposed Shah squeezing himself into the queue. As far as I’m concerned, his patriotic duty is to wear those boots and stand ready to crush the bona fide democracy activists if they start killing each other instead of forming a democracy. As for the constitutional monarchy a la king of Sweden theme, the product is a tough sell, at least to me. It’s hard enough building a democracy from scratch without the financial burden of a purely symbolic royal court. So never mind politics, I just wanted to ask Reza Pahlavi for an interview where we would discuss Iranian art and culture, especially the movie A Separation. The film had just won an Oscar for best foreign film and his website had issued a tiny press release congratulating director Asghar Farhadi. By having Reza Pahlavi expand his praise, I hoped to influence expat Iranian attitudes, pausing the knee-jerk reaction that every made-in-Iran success is part of a conspiracy to legitimize the Islamic Republic.

I don’t feel guilty using the prince’s popularity among Iranian expats to get more enthusiasm for the successes of Iranians working in Iran. If the press release wasn’t from an assistant sending flowers for the forgetful boss, Reza Pahlavi should have had no trouble elaborating on his Post-it of praise for A Separation. Of course, in the process of discussing the film--which is a problem book on Iran’s social issues-- the would-be king may have revealed his understanding of the lives of his would-be subjects. But his insight or lack thereof was far from my mind. Really! As I said, when it comes to politics I’m interested in Reza Pahlavi’s boot size, not his IQ score.

Few people agree to be interviewed unless there’s something in it for them. Authors, musicians, and actors get publicity and sales. Politicians gain support for themselves or their message. What could a citizen journalist with a tiny readership offer a potential interviewee who already rules BBC, VOA and CNN? Normally nothing, but the game was not over. Reza Pahlavi was there to remind his old foes that the secular opposition, Shah lover or Shah hater, could easily unite behind the ideal of free and honest elections in Iran. Now he could have said that—again! -- on BBC, VOA or CNN and reached a far greater number of people than the forty or so people at the gathering. Why was he bothering with us? The answer is, interactivity. A politician can be a guest on every show that can be thumbed into a TV remote, but it will do him no good unless he steps off camera to hug babies, pump hands, attend town meetings, hear people out, and generally show that he is part of the community. The former prince was asking us to accept him, in some capacity, as part of the present community. This is what I could offer him that CNN could not: a temporary pass into the club, if he was politician enough to recognize it.

To make him feel at ease before pitching my interview idea I mentioned a couple of his first cousins I used to know in my high school days. I asked after them, how they are doing, where are they living now. That’s when things started to go wrong. He had only a vague idea where his first cousins may be.  This may not sound unusual in America, except maybe around the Christmas season. Certainly around the Iranian New Year not having a pretty firm idea of how your closest relatives are doing would seem atypical to many Iranians. My own email inbox and Facebook page were overflowing with Nowruz messages from relatives as far removed as my second cousin’s son.  Astonished, my mind flashed to all the beautiful photos of Reza Pahlavi with his wife, children, and mother. Had he isolated himself from his extended kin to the point that the royal family was now effectively only one branch wide? This did not suggest a good sense of community on his part. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize the club-pass tucked inside my interview request. Quickly I moved on to the subject of Iranian film.

With a sigh he uttered a one-sentence generality about how A Separation shows that things are pretty awful for Iranians. He did not mention the film’s historic Best Foreign Film Oscar. I wondered if he had really seen the movie, or even remembered that it had won an Oscar. Because here was an opportunity for him to add to his popularity by showing that he’s on top of Iran’s cultural preoccupation du jour. Pressing him to comment would have embarrassed both of us if he hadn’t seen the film, so I went on to asking if I could arrange an interview with his staff. Hopefully he could see the film by the time our interview happened and would have something to say about it. He seemed open to the offer, so I talked to two of his assistants present at the dinner and they thought that a non-political, culturally themed celebrity interview which included A Separation was a good idea. I got their business cards so that we could remain in touch and get the project rolling.

My email to Reza Pahlavi’s assistants to arrange the interview went unanswered, but about a week later a Reza Pahlavi interview appeared on Radio Farda. I read it with a sense of déjà vu because in this unique celebrity type interview he had answered some questions about A Separation along with discussing other fun subjects of cultural and tabloid interest. It seemed Reza Pahlavi liked the interview angle I pitched to him, but the community he felt comfortable sharing with was the Pahlavi fan club, not ours. As for the venue, he hadn’t risked beyond a US funded radio station.

It takes courage for foes to agree to let bygones be bygones and pool resources. Reza Pahlavi seems to expect all the courage to come from the other side. What this citizen journalist has to report is that the no-longer-young prince is still far from ready to be part of any Iranian opposition community outside his own group of supporters. So should the rest of us write him off completely? No, because the Regime’s secular opposition needs unity more than grudges and, as I explained, we may still need the monarchy for the boot kissing act if it comes to that.

Based on the Reza Pahlavi performance I saw at that dinner, I give him a C minus grade for his potential as an opposition unifier. Yet if my friends threaten to ostracize me for giving him a passing grade, I’m open to negotiating down. And if the Reza Pahlavi team wants to try again, it would serve the interest of unity to give their champion another chance.


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more from Ari Siletz

The Cutlure of Iran is A+++.

by alimostofi on

The Cutlure of Iran is A+++. The institution that guards it against aliens has a first class pedigree with the impeccable of record of thousands of years. Our King is not using the Royal Institution at his disposal and instead is making political.overtures. Would Ari dare to ask the Queen of England the same questions? Of course not. The Queen has duty and our King has the same duty. The day our King decides to run the office he has the job to run is the day when Iran will be ready to be Iran.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi


I give him an F for really F

by iranvatan on

Currently there is no Opposition or opposition leadre

They are all either puppets of the west or east...None are real Iranians or a nationalist...none of this claim leaders care about Iran or Iranians

 Iranians must stand up and choose a leader soon



One Iran for all Iranians


Hi Ari…ENJOYED Reading Your Report/Analysis!

by P_J on

I consider you a FAIR minded individual.   Since, I have seldom experienced any unbalanced NON-SENCE on your blog.

Regarding the RP; he is FAR more irrelevant than one thinks, not only in Iran, but here too.   I know of no ground swell of grass root or any other type of support in his favor either in Iran or abroad.   I also totally disagree with the Israeli papers’ assessment…I consider that wishful thinking on their part.

Fact is that most young Iranians don’t even know he exists, and when it comes to the older generation he is as popular as the Mullahs are.

Only difference is that, this guy and his CORRUPT family are sitting on TONS of EMBEZZELED loot, they brought out and are spending it on a gang of losing Shahollahis for their flimsy vocal support on IC, and elsewhere, and that has amounted to NOTHING/ZERO.

Being in possession of STOLEN money, knowingly, would make one as guilty as the guy who had stolen it…in other words he is NOW a CULPRIT, with a TOXIC last name going nowhere!   These are heavy baggage that not even a skilled politician can handle let alone a DING A LING like him.

As a total performance he deserves a big D, and declining!


Leaders get grades, so do citizens!

by fanoos on

I would give you guys an 'F' for being the worst unruling law-breaking mischievous citizens!


Thanks for making me laugh

by fozolie on

Point 1 is priceless. Plan, formulate, act? Did you get attending an Organizational Behaviour course? Hmmm very RPesque. 

I do agree however that the danger of foreign intereference is the real threat. The imbicile Bush was the best guarantor of the Mollahs and set back the cause of the Iranians working for change in Iran. 

Mr. Fozolie


Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on


1. Politically mature strategists always have a plan B and a plan C, if not beyond. Dismissing a possible course of action in case things go wrong-- such as an RP based solution-- on emotional grounds is for amateurs.

2. We living in the West can affect what happens in Iran by joining the anti-war voices in our host countries. This would give Iranians inside Iran time enough to determine their own political destiny.


He got an F a long time ago

by fozolie on

So do you for repeating the same platitudes and droll nonsense of the soft Left. Your F is for having such a low opinion of Iranians in Iran. Fortunately none of us living in the comfort of the West will have anything to do with what will happen. They are much more potically mature that you intelligentsia wanna bees give them credit.

Mr. Fozolie

Ari Siletz

More replies

by Ari Siletz on

Amirparviz: You have a point about each of us viewing the world through our own lens. You seem to have two sets of glasses though, a rose colored one for the monarchy and a very dark one for the West.

Divaneh: Enjoyed the Riddler title. Got me to thinking which bloggers we could nominate for Batman, Robin, Cat Woman, etc. Bruce Bahmani has the right first name and the gallant but angst-ridden vigilante 'tude. Now if only he were a billionaire! Glad you give RP higher marks for reaching out, but he didn't turn down your interview request. Putting in the hurt feelings factor he may get a higher mark for enzebaat. But his low political accumen is still a big drag on his average. To me he didn't seem good at leadership math. Perhaps if he was better at it he could better highlight the positives you mention and use it to motivate the fence-sitters to actively support him.

jmyt17: OK. Reading between the lines RP wants to be king. A bit more speculatively, his mother won't let him have it any other way.


Dr Ala: Thanks. You're ahead of me in graduating RP from high school into college undergrad courses. Your choice of the word "accept" is intriguing. Sometimes we get carried away with our democracy movement idea and forget that with the escalating situation between Iran and the West there's a chance that RP may simply be imposed on Iran by foreigners, flunking grade or not. In which case we would have to consider "accepting" him.    


MPD: ...




Multiple Personality Disorder


by Multiple Personality Disorder on


Mohammad Ala

There goes my people, let me catch up to them!!

by Mohammad Ala on

Ari jan;  As several mentioned, welcome back.

As a teacher, C- is not good and in graduate programs this is a failing grade (unless RP is in an undergraduate program).

We have a strange culture.  We punish the whole family if a member of that family has done something wrong.  However, this culture gives a lot of credit to name and upbringing. 

In leadership theory there is a joke and goes like this . . . there goes my people, let me catch up to them because I am their leader.  I wouldn’t be surprised if our people accept RP, because they have accepted worse cases through our long history.



by jmyt17 on

Ari welcome back to the party.

Well as my understanding he never mentioned that he is going to rule the country, but as a smart man like you, if you listen to his speechHe always mentioned that he want to make free Iran and bring a justice to the home-land in anyway, he can.What does mean?Iran is his home you, not as a ruler just an ordinary person.

Ari Siletz

Some replies

by Ari Siletz on

Esfand: I agree that RP is irrelevant in Iran, in fact too irrelevant for my comfort as I have explained in the article. He does have enough popularity in the US to be useful as a promoter of diaspora interests, particularly in the cultural arena. But culture doesn't seem to be his strong suit. By the way he seemed fairly fit physically when I saw him, though he could do better. 

afshinazad: Not everyone that was jailed and tortured during the Shah had killed policemen. As an example I cite author Shahrnush Parsipour who was jailed for quitting her TV job in protest over the executions. Many were jailed simply for sympathizing with an ideology, or in the case of Parsipour were prisoners of conscience.

jmy17: RP doesn't say he wishes to rule. He presents himself as just another Iranian who happens to have a podium through a historical accident. Though I believe most of his supporters feel otherwise.

Faramarz: Thanks for the welcome back. Guilt by association is not constructive. Interviewers often unfairly ask RP to dissociate himself from the charges against his father. A fairer approach would be to ask him to estimate how much of his support he would lose if he did that.

MM: Thanks. Been busier that I would like, so haven't been able to contribute as much. Though I still read IC quite a bit. Do you think RP himself would have trouble with a more secular and liberal constitution? My impression is that he would not. Again, it's not so much him but his support base that determines what he is able to say and do. I got invited to the gathering through a friend who is politcally skeptical of RP but open-minded and practical.

Anahid: It may have served RP to say that he got (or sent) Nowruz greetings to his extended family. Just skillful politicking! Maybe he had too much wine to be at his best.


HG: Thanks. You're right, the punching bag routine is simply self indulgence with negative results . Not only RP, but everyone could do their part in the diaspora unification. So happens RP is in a position to do more than most of us.


Bavafa: Regarding your point about leadership, I did not sense it in RP. I recognize leadership when I see it because of the volunteer work I sometimes do, say, working on a community building. You walk onto the site and the guy or gal who sizes you up, gives you a bucket of paint and points to a wall is a leader. After RP' call for unity, I walked up to him and said I can write articles, how can I help? He didn't know what to do with me. As you know, volunteers are to leaders as cookies are to the Cookie Monster. RP was more of a Bert in terms of his cluelessness about what to do with people.

Roozbeh: You seem to be in the wrong blog. What's this about oil cartels and such?

Vildemose: If you have a point to make please make it explicit. Rhetorical questions waste your time and mine, but most importantly the readers' time.  


Zia111: Can't speak for the Israelis, but the Israeli media has a generally favorble opinion of RP. For example, here 's a recent Jerusalem Post article where someone is quoted as saying, "In Iran, there are two names known to virtually all, even in the most remote villages. The first name is Khamenei and the second one is Reza Pahlavi.” Positive beyond credibility!!  

















Good to see you back Ari

by divaneh on

I kept thinking where is that riddler, and here you are. I truly enjoyed the article, your analysis of RP and the assessment of his abilities.

I however give him a higher mark as a potential unifier. I think the meeting that you reported was a good example of his effort to reach the opposition.

We must remember that whilst Shah is remembered for a harsh dictatorship, he is also remembered for a period of prosperity and relative security in Iran. Therefore whilst some associate RP with the negatives, others associate him with the positives of that era and have high opinions of him. That's why in my view he can bring much more to the table of unity than some may give him credit for.



Zia Ari's trying, the C minus is a grade on himself as a Unifier

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Ari and most of us see the world through a lens, where we are not aware of the deadly deceit/manipulation/and illegal actions being committed by the USA/France/UK/Israel.  We see through the lens living in the west, known as the Free media which is tweaked by the cia mi6 and mossad for the west, so they can implement their unlawful policies on others including Iran.  When you read this: former royalty who might have jailed and tortured half the present guests if the revolution had not ended his line. This After the head of Savak came on TV saying tortures did not happen, were not part of company practice and were unlawful to his knowledge or the knowledge of any of the people who worked with him, even though most of those making the allegations were themselves committing murdering and torturing against the govt by the likes of MeK, Commies etc  It's Ari's lens/false views that are giving him trouble seeing.  It is simply a lie. Like Dictator Lie, or the excessively repressive lie, or the corrupt lie, or the megalomaniac lie. The torturer lie and others are going to go eventually, when Iranians restore freedom and can express themselves again.  If Ari had said, the monarchy had defended the peoples freedom of thought and expression in the 60's and 70's against the wishes of the institution of shia clergy and now the opposition had learned how great the monarchy was and is upon reflection, Ari'd have given himself an A plus on being a Unifier... and psycologically passed it off onto His Majesty RPII.

I feel as if the Lyrics of the Renound Michael Jackson Song would have been  good for Ari to incorporate for his life in general, If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and MAKE THE CHANGE.  It's the changes you don't even know that you don't know about that will give you the greatest understanding.

Do you have any links to the negative israeli press on RP you mentioned Zia?


Ari Siletz

by Zia111 on

Why don't you Israelis like Reza Pahlavi? I have noticed a constant barrage of attacks on him by your papers in Israel and elswhere. Why does Israel think it can get a better deal for a future post-IR Iran with the likes of MEK and Jebhe Melli fossils but not Reza Pahlavi? Do you Israeli Jews fear Reza Pahlavi? Why?


 What and which

by vildemose on

 What and which oppositions groups does Reza Pahlavi is supposed to unify?

Which opposition group did you represent Mr. Ari?

I thought Mousavi/Rafsanjani/Khatami faction did not want a regime change?

What grade would you give toMousavi/khatami as unifiers?

btw, I haven't talked to some of first cousins for years because they showed no interest in being in touch with me.

p.s. Maybe RP knew who you were and reads your comments and articles;hence, his apprehension and his unease.

All Oppression Creates a State of War--Simone De Beauvoir


Strange, Since Reza pahlavi asked for khamenei's trial......

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

in an international court, for his crimes of mass murder of Iranian people, the attacks on him & his family have increased ten-folds!  

Be rest assured that Iranian people, after one failed Revolution, are smart enough   not to judge politicians on who his father was or did, or based on recommendations of some joke of a DC based Islamist regime/oil cartels  lobby.   But on his track record, what he says, and most importantly what he does.

As for question of leadership,  We have many young, sharp, brave potential next leaders,  right now, in islamist regime's jails.

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."


Ironically, it was only yesterday that I was thinking….

by Bavafa on

I hope Ari comes back, you were missed and this is a great example of why.


As for your grade of C minus, I think that is a well justified grade of course not for not knowing about his extended family as I dream to forget about my extended family (I have had way too many visits from them lately) but for his lack of touch, understanding and leadership that is required to unify Iranians and opposition groups.


Welcome back and I hope to read more of your writings.



'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


hamsade ghadimi

nice writing ari and a

by hamsade ghadimi on

nice writing ari and a great psychoanalysis on rp from the conversation you had with him.  you're good at getting a feel from a person, from the things he says, or doesn't say.  btw, i think as a matter of policy, rp does not give sepecific details about his immediate and extended family.  even to their joon-jooni friends.  at any rate, i'm not too concerened if rp is a unifier.  because of who he is, i don't think that title would work for him.  however, i would like him to be a unifying element. 

one can either appreciate the effort that others exert in opposing the reime in iri (no matter how small) or try the old routine of having a punching bag du jour and re-hash old animosity with jebhe melis, mojaheds, shahis, eslamis, bahais, jews....  i agree that your grading of c minus for rp as a unifier is generous.  though, i'd like to give him a b plus for his efforts regardless of his intention or competence.  and you get a c plus for your thesis on rp. welcome back and i hope i hear more blogs from you; especially, a blog with more snippets from the meeting you had.

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Ari for sharing your experience

by Anahid Hojjati on

As you noted, at first it semed strange that he did not know what his first cousins were up to. I know sometimes about my second cousins and what they are up to. However like many other Iranian families outside Iran, his cousins may reside in several different countries. If they are not on facebook, he may have a hard time knowing about them. Another point is that although many Iranian families keep track of cousins, etc, but there are some who seem to mostly focus on their own family once they are married and have kids, Reza must be one of those.


Welcome back, Ari

by MM on

I am happy that he is attempting to gather a bid of opposition.  Although you gave RP a passing grade, nothing less than an A+ will do for his supporters.

Unlike you, I would have definitely asked RP to put his words into actions by drafting amendments to the 1906 constitution that would remove the unnecessary powers given to the king and the clergy, guaranteed the implementation of the UN charter of the human rights in Iran as well as guaranteed free elections to select a government.

Did DK get you a ticket?  

Nice writing.  Happy pen-trails.


Welcome Back Ari!

by Faramarz on



Your absence was definitely felt on the site. Welcome back.

Although you were not able to interview Reza Pahlavi, at least you got a decent meal out of it!

Here is my take on your blog. 

There is so much caution, caveats, disclaimers in your set up to meet him that one thinks that you were going to a KKK or a Neo-Nazi gathering!

Reza Pahlavi was a teenager when this whole fiasco happened. He has not made any claims to anything (as in saying that he represents Iranians or Iranian-Americans, etc.) He has lived a clean life and he has thrown his support behind the Iranian people to the best of his abilities.

The best that his detractors can come up with is "guilt by association" to his father and grandfather.

I believe that the day that we Iranians are able to judge a man by the content of his character, we have come a long way.



by jmyt17 on


Setting table is not going to work for you.

You can back as a one Iranian like rest of us, not as a king or son of the king.

Iran is your home-land too, but not a place can rule any more.





by afshinazad on

For those who still think we Iranian could unite and serve the country not our own self interest must be out of touch and dreaming.Reza Pahlavi, is not a problem for Iran or the monarchy nor the republic or any other, our problem is we don't want to serve the country and the nation, we all want to have a star over us and we all want to be king or the president.

We never would unite and plan anything and therefore just like 1979 American will do the planning for us.

Regarding those who you mentioned were jailed and tortured in Shah Time, can you tell us what was supposed to be done with arm terrorist who are killing solders and policeman and if you were in power what would have been your solution. We Iranian full of shit and we don't know even what we want. Compare this regime with shah, why after 34 year killing and tortured and destruction of the country still keep bullshiting?


Esfand Aashena

Prince chubby will never leave his family and go to Iran, ever!

by Esfand Aashena on

Ari jaan his three daughters are born here and despite what he might say he is far more into living in exile than the rest of us.  Even if all the stars were to line up and America falls for another Chalabi figure again his family is never going to leave US for Iran.

So what is he going to do?  Get an apartment in Iran and commute back and forth to Maryland?!  Did you ask him that?

He is just prince chubby for us outside Iran where he is a reality star.  I don't even see any benefit of Iranian uniting outside Iran, it will never happen, we are too hard headed to make it happen but even if it were to happen it won't affect anything in Iran.  

Everyone from PMOI to prince chubby and everyone in between (Mr. Bagherzadeh for example) have been talking unity for ever.  If there was a slightest chance of such a unity (outside Iran) we'd have seen a simple example.  Nothing!

On the other hand in Iran, yes there can be unity because the pain is shared.  The pain is all too familiar and epidemic.  So yes there will be unity in Iran one day (or at least a great majority) to change the status quo but Iranians outside Iran will be as divided as they have ever been.  We are united in being divided! 

Everything is sacred