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OPINION

Iran’s Future, Democracy and Representative Government

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Charles Krupa

To borrow from President Ronald Reagan, Reza Pahlavi's monarchist voyage has been "like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other." Everywhere he goes, the son of a hated former monarch of Iran seems to gargle political moonshine and then curtsies away. And, he has never shed the title of "royal highness" or "heir to the throne."

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His so-called "European tour," proved to be a complete fiasco in France and the UK as many members of parliament declined to meet with him. According to the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ):

“In none of the countries Reza Pahlavi traveled to (Germany, France, England, and Belgium) did any government official, parliament speaker, foreign affairs committee head, or senior parliament members accept him, and only a few representatives with specific political leanings met with him. In the European Parliament, where a powerful publicity machine campaigned to arrange a speech for him on March 1st, only three representatives attended. Many of the groups and parliamentary factions had already announced to their members that they would not participate in the session arranged for Reza Pahlavi.”

On the other hand, former Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, who serves as coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, asked the UK government to cut ties with the Iranian regime and support the oppositional group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). 

And MP Bob Blackman, co-president of the International Committee of Parliamentarians for a Democratic Iran, said: “For a majority of the people in Iran, the shah and the mullahs are synonymous with totalitarian dictatorship. That is why generations of Iranians have paid the highest price to secure a free and democratic Iran for as long as it takes.”In his trip, Pahlavi barked at the main Iranian opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). 

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In the end, the snake oil salesman attempted to present the regime's Iraq war belligerence as patriotism and the mullahs' defamatory rhetoric against the MEK as factual. The son of the Shah seems to havethree layers. The first is that he seems to be a hopeless chatterbox who has produced a copious amount of inconsistent and often comically contradictory positions. The second layer is that he appears to be an opportunist, with no serious history of activism, bolting out of the blue in the hopes of riding the wave of discontent against the mullahs and ultimately dusting off the Peacock Throne in Tehran. And the third layer is that he seems to act, even if unwittingly, as the mullahs' perfect Trojan Horse. Consider the following as evidence.

The mullahs more likely welcome Pahlavi’s divisive activities for many reasons: He is the namesake of a former dictator, Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi, who can be easily ridiculed and dismissed; his monarchist brand is archaic; he has no organization with which to mount a serious challenge to the mullahs; he has not garnered domestic or international support for the past 40 years; he does not have a clear plan of action to change the regime; Until very recently, he had been a staunch supporter of engaging the most repressive elements of the regime, including the IRGC, with whom he claimed to have direct contact at all levels; and most importantly, he voluntarily joins the mullahs to attack their most formidable opponents, the MEK. Therefore, the mullahs can't ask for a better Trojan Horse to frolic the halls of foreign parliaments. This notion is bolstered by anti-MEK rhetoric that bellows from such events.

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In popular parlance in Iran, "Shah and Sheikh" are two sides of the same coin. They are both rejected as despised forms of dictatorship that have been thrown into the dustbin of history. One wears the cloak and the crown, the other the turban and the robe. Their nature, however, is the same, which is why protesters in various cities chant, "Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Leader (Sheikh)."

Nowhere is the Shah-Sheikh pact more noticeable than in their opposition to popular and progressive social forces. For example, Reza Pahlavi repeats the clerical regime's propaganda against the MEK. 

Consider the regime's anti-MEK narrative recently published by the state-run Tasnim news agency after the US Congress overwhelmingly supported the MEK's platform for the future of Iran. The mullahs' Foreign Minister officially condemned the move and labeled the MEK a "terror cult." Tasnim went on to claim that the MEK has a terrorist past and "fought on the side of Saddam" during the Iran-Iraq war. It added that the MEK also participated in "the massacre of Iraqi Kurds."Pahlavi seems to repeat this propaganda. He calls the MEK "cultlike," with a "terroristic past," who "fought the war against our troops," and was "participating in the chemical bombing ... against the Kurds." In other words, Reza Pahlavi does not even come up with his own arguments for bashing the MEK and seems to repeat the propaganda spewed by a regime he claims to be opposing!

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However, there is plenty of evidence contradicting such propaganda. It is common knowledge that when Iraqi forces attacked Iranian territory in 1980, the MEK rushed to defend their homeland. The State Department went on the record in 1984 to admit this fact, noting in a report to Congress that "Iraq invaded Iran (September 1980). Mujahedin units went to the front immediately. They were tolerated by the fundamentalists only in the first hectic days of the war, and most were soon expelled." Between 1982 and 1988, hundreds of thousands of Iranians lost their lives or were severely injured during the Iran-Iraq war. While the MEK advocated for peace, Reza Pahlavi and others supported the prolonged conflict under the guise of national honor. They owe the Iranian people an apology for their role in prolonging the suffering caused by the war.

Today, even some of the most senior IRGC commanders during the war say that it should not have continued after 1982. For example, former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezai said on September 25, 2016: "Iranian forces should not have entered Iraqi territory." The cost of this unpatriotic war was enormous. It was so unpopular that according to an official in 2017, "during the war, 600,000 soldiers fled the fronts." An estimated 100,000 child soldiers were killed by the mullahs after being sent to the fronts. 

In a 2018 interview with a Farsi language television channel, he said, “I am in contact with the Army, the Basij and the IRGC. We are communicating. They are sending their signals, declaring their readiness, and their alignment with the people.”Reza Pahlavi also made the ridiculous claim that MEK was involved in the 1988 chemical attack on Halabja. A French lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, told France's ARTE TV on September 27, 2005, that the regime's ambassador in Paris had invited him to the Iranian embassy to say, “Let us agree on a common culprit which is the MEK. You should say that the MEK did this and we will also say that the MEK did it. In this way we can save both parties' reputation. What do you think?” 

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Moreover, according to Reuters on May 22, 2002, "a 1999 legal document signed by a senior official of a major Iraqi Kurdish group that said there was no evidence the Mujahideen took part in the Iraqi government's 1991 campaign against the Kurds."As a reminder, his father brutalized Iranian Kurds, hanging the beloved founder of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Ghazi Muhammad in 1947 on the bogus charge of treason. 

In fact, major Kurdish parties have shunned Reza Pahlavi. For example, a KDPI senior leader said recently: "The Kurdish people struggled for 33 years to overcome the [Pahlavi] monarchic tyranny." He added that Reza Pahlavi "has defended the IRGC since the outset. We want to obtain freedoms in the future, but we cannot see these freedoms in the views of Reza Pahlavi." Pahlavi claims to have a unifying role above all Iranian opposition and justifies his lack of transparency regarding his views on essential issues. He even refuses to answer a simple question: who has granted him such a position? The son of Shah is displaying his own lack of a concrete plan for toppling the ayatollahs. Certainly, in the end, what springs up like a noxious weed to  practically interrupt the Iranian people's revolution will just as quickly vanish like foam on water.

Besides being the son of a deposed tyrant responsible for killing, imprisoning, and torturing dissidents and intellectuals while establishing a one-party system, he has no other credentials. It's highly ironic for someone like the son of the Shah, a political ignoramus to claim that people, particularly the MEK, can be prevented from accessing free and independent information in the 21st century, especially in the midst of the information age. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the lawyer “Mr. O'Dwyer claims that the Shah stole money [from Iran] and gave it to the Pahlavi Foundation and then stole the money from the foundation, which Mr. O'Dwyer says was run by the Shah… he [Mr. O'Dwyer] is asking for the return of some $56 billion from the Shah and some $3 billion from his sister, Princess Ashraf.”

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A foreign diplomat once walked into Abraham Lincoln's office, finding the president polishing his own shoes. He asked in disdain: "Mr. President! You black your own boots?" Lincoln replied, "Yes, whose boots do you black?" The fact is that the MEK has relied on its own resources and might to develop the strongest opposition to the mullahs with deep roots in Iranian society. They are proud to be sacrificing their own lives and livelihoods for the Iranian people. Reza Pahlavi, on the other hand, will always court irrelevance in the minds of the Iranian people and democratic opposition because he seems to be shining the IRGC's boots.

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