Friday, March 03, 2006

Shah's Son Urges Aid to Resistance

Reza Pahlavi says Iran won't yield in talks and military action could strengthen Tehran's hand. He pushes unity of opposition groups.
By Nick Timiraos
Los Angeles Times
March 2, 2006

WASHINGTON — The son of the late shah of Iran warned Wednesday that diplomatic efforts over the country's nuclear ambitions were unlikely to succeed, but said he opposed military action against his estranged nation.

Instead, the former crown prince of the U.S.-backed monarchy that was deposed in 1979 urged the international community to help support and unify opposition groups inside and outside Iran to increase pressure on the nation's ruling Islamic clerics.

Reza Pahlavi, 45, said military strikes would only rally support for Iran's hard-line rulers and that continued diplomacy and negotiations would give Tehran time to pursue nuclear weapons.

"The problem with these negotiations all along was the false assumption that the other side wants a solution to avert a crisis. Quite the contrary," Pahlavi said in a speech at the National Press Club. "Increasingly unpopular, the Islamic Republic needs an atmosphere of crisis to justify its increased militarization."

Pahlavi also opposes punitive measures such as economic sanctions, instead urging steps such as freezing assets and restricting travel for the ruling clerics.

Pahlavi is the son of the late Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. In 1953, a CIA-backed coup toppled the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. The shah, who had fled the country, was returned to power within days and ruled until the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set up the theocracy that runs Iran today.

Unpopular in much of the West, the shah accepted former President Carter's offer to come to the United States for medical treatment, prompting the seizure of U.S. diplomats in Tehran. The shah died in Egypt in 1980.

The younger Pahlavi, a father of three who lives in suburban Washington, said his chief objective was a secular, democratic government in Iran.

Asked about his role in such a government, Pahlavi said, "That's for my compatriots to decide." But he expressed a preference for constitutional monarchy and pointed to Japan, Sweden and Spain as successful examples.

Pahlavi spoke at the invitation of the National Press Club as international pressure mounts on Tehran to clarify its nuclear ambitions.

Iran says its atomic research is intended for peaceful purposes, but the Bush administration contends that Tehran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb. The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency is scheduled to hold another session on the issue Monday in Vienna.

U.S. officials have touted steps toward democracy across the Middle East as a way to contain the influence of Iran. But Pahlavi said Iran's growing clout is in part a consequence of the spread of democracy. "In Lebanon, if Hezbollah can spend more money than the government building schools, mosques and hospitals — thanks to generous Iranian contributions — don't be surprised if they win elections," he said.

Pahlavi's call for international support of resistance groups followed last month's State Department pledge of $85 million for anti-Tehran propaganda and aid to Iranian opposition groups, up from $10 million last year. He said more must be done to unite the "thousand circles of localized dissent and opposition" inside and outside the country.

Pahlavi said he had "very strong" political capital within Iran, but analysts offered mixed assessments of that claim.

"There's a lot of nostalgia … in Iran," said Patrick Clawson, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "

Other analysts said that prominent exiles such as Pahlavi might have less clout with the White House because of the widespread belief that U.S. officials relied too heavily on Iraqi exiles to make their case for military action against Saddam Hussein.

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