As an American, I feel a bit hamstrung talking about potential regime change in Iran, especially when an opposition group includes Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the Shah who was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. There are good reasons for the Iranian people to overthrow their government, but that doesn’t mean they want Americans directing things behind the scenes or some restoration of the Pahlavi dynasty. To be legitimate and successful, a political movement in Iran must be homegrown and appropriate for the times. That means the movement probably doesn’t need or want rhetorical help from the likes of me.
Having said that, one thing this opposition has right is that it seeks to put ideology, ethnicity and sectarianism aside. It’s made up of Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis, most of whom are Sunni, as well as Persians who are mostly Shiite. It has monarchists, yes, but also Republicans and leftists. If Pahlavi is part of such a group, then he’s ostensibly renouncing any claim to a crown. They don’t have a program nailed down yet, but on Friday as the regime marked the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, the opposition said that they’re working on it.
“The Islamic Republic has survived because of our differences and we should put our differences aside until we come to the polling booth,” Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said in a video message to the prominent opposition figures’ gathering at Georgetown University in Washington.
U.S.-based women’s rights advocate Masih Alinejad said: “We must agree on principles based on the declaration of human rights, on eliminating discrimination, and principles that every Iranian can see themselves in, and that depict the end of oppression.”
Alinejad expressed hope that an agreement on the opposition’s principles could be reached by the end of 2023.
Still, the real leadership shouldn’t be made up exclusively of exiles, nor should they be broadcasting from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. There are far too many echoes here of the Iraqi exile groups that lobbied for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Iran is a great country with a great people. It has so much more to offer than the kamikaze drones they’re exporting to Russia and China. It has more to offer than the narrow-minded and sectarian ideology of the regime which requires repression and cruelty to maintain. I want political freedom for the Iranians because they deserve it, and I want a different government in Teheran because the current one has a nasty habit of exacerbating other problems the world is facing. I wish them the Iranians the best of luck, but Americans should not try to direct the dissidents. That’s how we got here in the first place.