LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.
“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”
The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.
Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.
“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.
“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”
Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.
However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.
“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”
Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”
He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.