Interview: The Iranians Don’t Want Nuclear Weapons


Published on German public radio channel “Deutschlandfunk” on 29. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

A demonstrator in Tehran holds up his blood smeared hand into the air. (photo: AP)

The son of the last Shah of Persia supports the Green Revolution movement in Iran Cyrus Reza Pahlavi in dialogue with Jürgen Liminski

“A democratic Iran would engage in peace and disarmament”, said Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Persia and unifying figure of the resistance against the regime in Tehran. He believes the movement is “the best of what the country has ever been given in its long history.”

Jürgen Liminski: Last weekend at the annual conference of the International Society of Human Rights, IGFM, the situation in Iran was discussed. The main speaker at the event was the son of the last Shah, the presently 49 year old Cyrus Reza Pahlavi. Since the fall of the Islamic Revolution 31 years ago, the former crown prince has lived in exile in Washington and is considered a unifying figure of resistance against the regime in Tehran. At the brink of the IGFM event, I had the opportunity to lead an interview with Reza Pahlavi. The first question was aimed at the conference that was to occur two weeks later over the ensuing regulations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it read: Does Iran need the atomic bomb?

Cyrus Reza Pahlavi: I personally believe that it does not lie in the interest of Iran to acquire the atomic bomb, and for several reasons. First of all, because we are bound by agreement to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Secondly, because we have a strategic advantage over many neighbors through natural conditions and resources and this advantage can become balanced through the relinquishment of further military options like the atom bomb. Thirdly, because I believe that the Iranians would not feel safer if they have this weapon. Other countries in the region would then strive for it. A democratic Iran would engage in peace and disarmament.

Liminiski: It is often claimed that the Iranian people support the regime’s desire to acquire the atomic bomb. In your opinion, is this correct?

Pahlavi:No, that is absolutely false. The Iranians do not want nuclear weapons. If the question is whether Iran as a sovereign country has the right to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy, then the situation is very different. I would remind you that neither the world nor Iran had a problem with the free use of nuclear energy before this regime came into power. In fact, the same countries that are presently exerting joint pressure on Iran had previously offered to sell them nuclear technology. Germany was among them. What has changed is the trust in the leadership of the country. One cannot trust this regime, it supports terror and is everything but transparent. It has led the country to the brink of military retaliation. This is definitely a source of serious concerns. Many Iranians have these concerns. Therefore it’s absurd to believe the propaganda saying the majority of the Iranians support the regime in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Liminski: How do you feel about the opposition, the green movement?

Pahlavi: I support this movement with all heart. They belong to the best of what the country has ever been given in its long history. It is so valuable because it is as pluralistic as it can possibly be. It is a movement which does not only know the values of freedom, but is also ready to pay a high price for it. I am in earnest exchanges and trustful talks with members of this movement, both inside and outside the country. I have pledged every imaginable means of support to them so this movement can survive and bring esteem back to the country so all can aspire for human rights and democracy in our homeland.

Liminski: How could Iran find its way back to freedom?

Pahlavi: Well, it is clear that if they are dealing with an extremely repressive regime, then it is immensely difficult to openly show any structured organization. They would be immediately shattered. Therefore, the opposition is forced to operate from the underground and resort to civil disobedience rather than carry out persistent, daily protests. Such a resistance has its ups and downs, but the Green Movement is by no means dead. It is important to see how additional factors can give power to this movement from inside and also from outside of Iran. Here the international community can definitely contribute to the movement.

Liminski: Can Germany or Europe be such an additional factor?

Pahlavi: Of course. Take for example the sanctions – but at this point I would like to discuss an idea with policy makers. They cannot place this clerical regime decisively under pressure purely with economic sanctions. Far more crucial is the pressure from within. It is essential that the governments who wish to impose pressure on Iran and help  freedom prevail in this country take this into account. This means conclude sanctions that hit the regime and not the civilian part of the population. Secondly, place certain units and parts of the regime under pressure rather than continue business with them. I am thinking of the technical support the regime is receiving from companies like Nokia and Siemens. This technology has helped the regime block internet access or listen into the communications of the people. Rather, these companies should help the Iranian people overcome the blockages. Here, direct contacts, and the solidarities between people that go beyond the scope of the  governments, will be extremely helpful. I also think of non-government organizations that help raise awareness about political prisoners, the lack of rights in courts, or on needed and denied medical care. All this might take a long time, but these are only a few examples.

Liminski: It has often been said that the regime is at its end. But it is still in power. Would you dare to make a forecast for the end of the period of suffering for the people and the end of this dictatorship?

Pahlavi: We have often experienced situations in history where the circumstances were mistaken. I personally, for example, would never have believed I would experience in my lifetime the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, and now that is already two decades ago. Those who view in this light the situation in Iran and see the signs of decline and of receding movements even within the leadership circles of the regime, those will say the end is near. But the critical point, the biggest difference between 1979 and today is that it doesn’t count so much what the people don’t want but rather what they are striving for, what alternatives they see, and where they want to go. The alternative is vital. I propose in this sense a democratic system on the basis of a secular state. In other words: the separation of religion and state must be completely clear and definitive. This is the key factor for both democracy and human rights to really take precedence. Only then can the will of the people be truly represented, and only then can there be permanent stability for the country and its neighbors. Democracies do not lead wars against one another. It’s quite different with the current regime which exports radical Islam by terrorist means and in the near future with the atomic bomb in their hands. That is the alternative that stands for Iran and the world. I believe the peaceful alternative is not far and is feasible, provided, of course, decisive measures are taken to support this peaceful alternative.

Liminski: How do you see your own role in this context or in the future democracy? It’s widely known your father did not even rule a democracy.

Pahlavi: Well first of all: it’s not about me and I hope that the Iranian people understand what moves me and what my job is. In this sense, my past and my own words speak for themselves. I am not running for office. At this point in the history of our country, I am doing everything I can as an Iranian. And even though some expectations may be directed to me, I will help ensure there are free elections in Iran and that the Iranian people truly decide freely what they want. Free elections – that is the goal of my political mission. After that day, I am naturally willing to serve the people in the role in which they want to see me in the future. If not, my work is done and I can say in good conscience the patriot has done his duty, the patriot can go.

Liminski: The decisive factor is internal pressure on the regime. This was the son of the late Shah, Reza Pahlavi, in interview with German radio at the time of the annual meeting of the International Society for Human Rights in Bonn.

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