Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reza Pahlavi at the Hudson Institute

As widely known among the global public, Former Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi launches vigorous campaign against the theocratic regime in his country. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has been the gravest threat to Middle Eastern security. Had there been a stable, strong, and pro-Western Iran, Saddam Hussein would never have dreamt of terrorizing his neighbors. Iran is the cause of the War on Terror and the Iraq War. Therefore, it is essential to explore a regime change in Iran to eliminate the source of further danger in the future. Let me summarize the speech.

Former Crown Prince mentioned the nuclear issue first. He points out that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) does not work against the regime which glorifies self-destruction of martyrdom. I would say this is a critical aspect to discuss nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Non-proliferation experts agree that MAD will be less reliable as the number of nuclear-armed states increases.

While the media and some intellectuals criticize the idea of promoting regime change because of on going troubles in Iraq, Reza Pahlavi refutes their viewpoints. Mentioning the collapse of communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Pahlavi commented as below.

President Reagan knew that he would not get behavior change from the Soviet regime unless he seemed serious about changing it. The actual change was a happy byproduct, which spelled the end of the Marxist mystique. East-European youth backpacked their way to the West to tell fellow students about the wide chasm between the deceptive promise of Marxism and its wretched reality. Long lines to take Marxist courses disappeared in Universities, from Buenos Aires to Paris.

Unlike Iraq, Pahlavi says that Iran has never been colonized, and Iranians established parliamentary system by themselves in early 20th century, when Russia was still under the czarist regime. I have to stress that widespread desire for liberal democracy is an important pre-requisite for regime change by foreign powers. Japan and Germany are successful cases of US led regime change. Prior to foreign intervention, the Taisho Democracy in Japan and the Weimar Democracy in Germany prevailed. From this perspective, regime change in Iran is more likely to succeed than that in Iraq. Pahlavi insists that Iranian journalists, intellectuals, and students get in touch with Western societies so that they can see current clerical regime critically. This is what happened in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Pahlavi criticize that the Baker-Hamilton Report shows no feasible ways to talk with Iran whose policy aims at humiliating the United States. While Iran has been isolated from the world, he points out that pressures from the United States and the global community do not have sufficient effect on this country. Current regime denies the Holocaust and tries to wipe out Israel. Also, it is acquiring nuclear weapons.

Since Iran does not have a common enemy with the United States as China did during the Cold War (the Soviet Union, of course), a Kissinger diplomacy with this country does not make sense. According to Reza Pahlavi, appeasement with Iran is not helpful to deal with current crisis.

As opposed to state-centric approaches by the State Department and the Pentagon, Pahlavi advocates that the West help civic organizations in Iran, such as women, youth, ethnic, and professional groups. Currently, pro-democracy activists in Iran have few contacts with outside. The government controls the media, and arrests bloggers even with limited readers. In order to resolve this problem, he recommends further broadcasting operations by VOA and BBC to Iranian grassroots who have some amateur satellite TV stations.

On the other hand, the Former Crown Prince objects to the war against Iran. He tells the reason as the following.

[the] Iranian people have changed their regimes many times before, when they had far less reasons to do so. He watches carefully for the signs of history repeating itself. Once he sees those signs, and only then, will he change his behavior.

Those who have keen interest in US led regime change can learn a lot from the speech by Reza Pahlavi. Unlike anti-Western leftists assume, promoting regime change in the Middle East is not belligerent. Nor, does it deny local cultural traditions to impose Western ways of tyhinking. This policy aims at empowering citizens across the Middle East. I hope those who are allergetic to the word “regime change” shed their misunderstandings to US and its key allies’ endeavor for the future.