WASHINGTON (CN) – Reza Pahlavi, son of the Iranian Shah who was overthrown in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, called the current Iranian regime a “sinking Titanic” Monday, and said an “overwhelming majority” of Iranians are against the system of government, a fact that may be supported as new acknowledgments of voting errors surface.
“It is not a matter of if it will fail,” said Pahlavi, “but a matter of when it will fail.”
But Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institute, a non-partisan think tank, noted that the Shah has not fared will in history. “Reza Pahlavi has a vested interest in trashing the regime,” said O’Hanlon.
Pahlavi spoke at the National Press Club where he differentiated between the Iranian people and the government, saying that most Iranians are secular, and stressed that the difference between the government and the people made the protests no surprise to him.
His observation that there is a discrepancy between the people and the regime may carry more water, now that Iranian election monitors are saying the election results were flawed.
Pahlavi predicted the current regime will fall, and called for a secular democracy to replace it, complete with a bill of rights for the people.
“Reza Pahlavi has a vested interest in trashing the regime” said Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institute, a non-partisan think tank.
O’Hanlon from the Brookings Insitute noted that Pahlavi was not chosen to represent the current political movement against the Iranian regime. “Protestors and demonstrators wanted Moussavi for the most part, and Moussavi was a critic and opponent of the Shah himself,” he said during the interview.
Regardless, Pahlavi described himself as part of the movement. “My sole objective is the help my compatriots reach freedom,” he said.
He left open the possibility for his political role in Iran, adding that he will leave it to the Iranians if they want him to do more.
Reza Pahlavi’s father was ousted from his position as Iran’s monarch during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The Shah was largely perceived as oppressive, corrupt, and extravagant. He was also largely secular and pro-western.
The Islamic Revolution succeeded after a year of strikes and demonstrations. The Shah fled the country and guerilla fighters overtook the national forces.
Pahlavi’s address comes thirty years later, after a week of massive street demonstrations in Iran that were sparked when the June 12 presidential election results in Iran showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as winning 64 percent of the vote, and his challenger, Mir Hossein Moussavi, as winning only 33 percent.
Members of Iran’s senior panel of election monitors admitted Monday that the election results were defective, and said that in 50 cities, the number of votes was more than the number of voters.
Moussavi supporters were skeptical early on, when election results were announced only tow hours after the polls closed, and because they had predicted a large victory, citing voter polls.
“I knew it would get to this point,” Pahlavi said during his speech about the rallies. He explained that only five or six percent of the population supports the government and that “30 years of pent-up frustration is finally exploding.”
He called for secular democracy and a bill or rights in Iran.
He said the “overwhelming majority” of Iranians are against the current political system in Iran, and called the regime a “sinking Titanic.”
“A line has been drawn in the sand,” between the people and the regime, Pahlavi said. More and more, they are choosing to side with the people.
He cited Moussavi as an example, as well as police officers who return home from work and go out to support the rallies in their civilian clothes.
Behind him were pictures of the protestors, one of packed crowds in the street, as far as the eye can see in the streets, another of a bloody hand raised against the skyline, and the third of police beating a limp street protestor with batons.
Pahlavi described the current regime as simply “tyrants and their thugs,” and brought up “our beloved Neda, whose only sin was the quest for freedom.” He took a moment to collect himself before he continued his speech in a quivering voice.
In discussions after the address, members of the press expressed their skepticism of Pahlavi’s sincerity.
Neda is the teenage protester who was reportedly shot dead as she walked the streets. Her death was caught on camera, where blood is seen gushing from her mouth.
In a private interview after the speech, Pahlavi showed a picture of his wife, his three daughters, and Neda, who he says he has adopted as his own daughter.
Reza Pahlavi’s compassion and his call for democracy come despite the fact that his dad was widely known as a brutal monarch.
O’Hanlon noted that, “The Shah is still not well regarded historically.”
When asked if he had any regrets about the rule of his father, Reza Pahlavi admitted that there were problems, but stressed the women’s rights and reforms that his father had headed.
He quoted Iranians as saying that if they knew it was going to end up like the current regime, they would have preferred the Shah.