Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


The Emperor Has No Clothes

The charade claiming to be the recent ‘elections’ in Iran, unfolded under a shadow of skepticism. The calls from the Supreme Leader and his close associates for widespread participation did not resonate among the broad swathes of the Iranian electorate. This disengagement was reflected in the notably low turnout, with the leading candidate in Tehran garnering a mere fraction—less than eight percent—of potential votes. This pervasive national boycott is a telling barometer of the current political climate and the citizens’ sentiment toward the theocratic regime.

Quick to exploit the mass boycott of the election, isolated spin doctors for Reza Pahlavi, son of the deposed Shah of Iran, claimed the majority of Iranians longed for the restoration of the monarchy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like the famous tale by Hans Christian Andersen about the Emperor who has no clothes, Reza Pahlavi continues to stride naked across the world stage, naively believing he is wearing the resplendent robes of a monarch. Meanwhile, in repeated uprisings that have shaken the Iranian regime to the core, demonstrators are heard chanting: “Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Sheikh,” indicating that they want democracy, not autocratic tyranny. The demonstrators are giving voice to the defining curse that has thwarted the Iranian people’s democratic aspirations for generations, namely the corrupt and brutal alliance, tacit or explicit, between Iran’s monarchists and clerics.

The overthrow of the Shah in 1979 was hailed by the Iranian people as a deliverance from cruel oppression. The monarchy’s relationship with the clergy, who hijacked the revolution to seize power, was a complex one. The Shah had initially shown fidelity to religious customs and leaned on the clergy during the first two decades of his rule. It was a symbiotic relationship. The monarchy derived its ‘divine’ claim to legitimacy from the clergy, and the clergy derived its social power and wealth from the monarchy’s acquiescence. The two institutions were a major impediment to the formation of a developed civic society based on democratic values and human rights. The clergy, with some exceptions, tried to stay in the Shah’s favor and maintained pervasive relations with SAVAK, the Shah’s hated secret police, who brutally murdered and tortured political activists and intellectuals, including authors, academics, artists, and poets. But following widespread demonstrations against his oppressive rule, the Shah fled in January 1979, never to return.

In 1980, after his father’s death, Reza Pahlavi proclaimed himself Reza Shah II and said he wanted Iran to have a constitutional monarchy. Despite claiming that he would like the Iranian people to have the freedom to choose if they wished to restore him as King, he nevertheless proclaimed himself Shah or King while living in Egypt. But, despite abundant financial resources about which he has never been entirely transparent, he has failed to assemble significant supporters of the monarchy in exile or form a cohesive opposition group during the past four and a half decades. His failure to emerge as a credible opposition figure has underlined the fact that the monarchy is a spent force that belongs to the past and has nothing to offer for the future of Iran.

Indeed, the self-proclaimed ‘Crown Prince’ Reza Pahlavi, has inflamed hostility in Iran by stating his would-be support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the theocratic regime’s reviled equivalent of the Gestapo. During an interview in 2018, he said: “I am in bilateral contacts with the (regime’s) military, the IRGC and the Basij. We are communicating. They are signaling their readiness and expressing willingness to align with the people.”

It is the warmongering IRGC and their paramilitary Basij, who have shot, arrested, tortured, raped, and brutalized opponents of the regime at home and abroad for 45 years. They are blacklisted as a foreign terrorist organization in America, and Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament, and a huge majority of EU lawmakers have called for their blacklisting in Europe. They brutally repressed the nationwide insurgency in 2022, killing more than 750 innocent protesters, including many women and children, and arresting over 30,000. During all these public protests, support for Reza Pahlavi has been non-existent. Indeed, the would-be ‘King’ has remained largely invisible in opposition circles for the past 45 years. For him to suggest a role for the IRGC in a future Iran, is an outrageous indication of the total illegitimacy of the monarchy.

Reza Pahlavi and his dwindling bunch of supporters are also naively playing the role of useful idiots for the mullahs. Keen to spread confusion through the ranks of the protesters, millions of whom have called for the overthrow of the theocratic regime, the mullahs have seized on deceptively promoting the return of the monarchy as a way of alarming the people and creating difficulties for the opposition, who have guided and coordinated opposition to the theocratic regime from the outset.

Threats, lies, warmongering, deploying terror gangs abroad, and crushing dissent at home, are the hallmarks of this oppressive regime that massacred over 33,000 political prisoners in 1988 alone. The courageous protesters and their resistance units, who risk their lives daily by demanding the overthrow of the mullahs, deserve the unequivocal backing of the West. The EU and UK must now follow America’s lead by blacklisting the IRGC and indicting the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, and all the other regime tyrants, for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. The time for weakness and appeasement is over. Only the overthrow of this tyrannical regime will avert a nuclear disaster and restore peace, justice, and democracy to the Iranian people and the wider Middle East. A naked emperor in the shape of Reza Pahlavi is an amusing fairy tale fit only for children.