Today's date:
Fall 2003


Reform Is at Dead End in Iran; Now Is the Time for Regime Change

Reza Pahlavi II is the eldest son of the Shah of Iran, driven from power after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Reza Pahlavi lives in exile now near Washington, where he spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels on June 19 as student protests flared. Excerpts follow.

Washington -- The overwhelming majority of people in Iran today are just fed up. They are fed up with two decades of brutality, corruption, mismanagement, economic decay, unemployment and personal harassment.

It is clear now that even the reform they voted for and hoped for with (President Mohammad) Khatami is not going to materialize. People cannot see their life chances being wasted yet again for years to come.

People sense the weakness and reactive nature of the regime and sense opportunity. Despite the immediate brutality of the regime -- hired thugs who are now conducting the repression -- the fear factor is decreasing. Clearly, the momentum against the regime has shifted. Even commanders of the Revolutionary Guards in the eastern provinces are resigning instead of following orders to crack down. The minister of higher education has resigned. Everyone knows this is the time to be with the people or against them.

The knowing smile on the faces of the young people today is the same look I saw on the faces of those who came out in the streets against Milosevic during his final days in Serbia.

The main reason for the student rebellion just now is that Iranians have reached the saturation level, the boiling point, of frustration with the regime. Obviously, getting rid of the dictator next door has had a positive impact. It is a bit like the Eastern bloc. Changes in Poland affected the Czechs, which affected the East Germans and so on. The same kind of liberation epidemic, if you will, has come to our region.

The difference with the Eastern bloc is that when the regime in Moscow fell, it was quickly followed by collapse throughout the Eastern bloc. In our region, the main culprit of fundamentalism and terror, the regime of clerics in Iran, is still standing. But the noose is tightening, and they know it.

It is absolutely clear to the protesters that the reform movement is dead. No one any longer hopes for any magical transformation by this regime. Only a few at the top are hanging on to power at the expense of the people. The demand, therefore, is for regime change that will bring a secular, democratic government. The mullahs should be out of power and the government should be based on popular self-determination.

MULLAHS WITH NUKES? | It is no longer a question of moderates or conservatives. As everyone inside Iran understands, it is a question of the totality of the regime. That is why a change of regime is the best antidote to the development of mass destruction weapons in Iran.

No one in the world would trust the ruling mullahs in Iran with their finger on the trigger of a nuclear bomb. Therefore, the best way to stop them from getting the bomb they want is to not make deals with this regime, but to invest in democracy. That is the best safeguard against the extremism that is the root cause of all the problems in the Middle East.

If anything, the regime's intent to obtain a bomb places great urgency on the arrival of democracy so that we can avoid any type of foreign intervention.