Exclusive: Iran’s Reza Pahlavi pessimistic on nuclear deal but optimistic about future of ties with Saudi Arabia, Israel 

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Updated 31 May 2021

Exclusive: Iran’s Reza Pahlavi pessimistic on nuclear deal but optimistic about future of ties with Saudi Arabia, Israel 

Exclusive: Iran’s Reza Pahlavi pessimistic on nuclear deal but optimistic about future of ties with Saudi Arabia, Israel 
  • Appearing on Frankly Speaking, Pahlavi warns that current US talks with Tehran are futile as regime only responds to increased pressure
  • Pahlavi praises Saudi Vision 2030 reforms and Abraham Accords, says such opportunities are the dream of every Iranian today

DUBAI: Reza Pahlavi, the crown prince of Iran in exile, sees the outcome of the talks on a new nuclear deal as “futile” as long as the current regime is in place in Tehran.

“Regardless of what is trying to be negotiated here, the net outcome is that it’s futile. The regime is simply using whatever it has as a means of blackmail — forcing the world to deal with it so it can continue maintaining its grip on the geopolitics of our region,” he told Arab News.

In a wide-ranging interview kicking off a second season of Frankly Speaking, Pahlavi also talked about future Iranian relationships with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East states, including Israel, once the ayatollah regime has been ended, and the desire on the part of most Iranians to return to a normal post-theocratic life.

He insisted that he does not have ambitions to be a new “shah” in Iran, and that it would be up to Iranians to choose what kind of government they want to live under.

“I’m not running for any office. My only mission in life is to get to that finish line, which is the liberation of Iran and, post this regime, to have an opportunity to establish a new secular, democratic system … That day will be the end of my political mission in life,” he said.

Pahlavi, the eldest son of the late shah, was heir apparent to the throne until the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Since then, he has lived mostly in the US as an activist/advocate against the regime.




Reza Pahlavi, the eldest son of the late shah, sees the outcome of the talks on a new nuclear deal as “futile”. (Screengrab) 

Pahlavi had a hard message for US President Joe Biden amid indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on a new version of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to regulate Iran’s nuclear industry and re-establish economic links to the rest of the world.

“This regime can’t change its behavior because its entire existence depends on its viral state of wanting to export an ideology and dominate the region either directly or via proxies,” said Pahlavi.

“We’ve seen in fact that (US sanctions), for the most part, increased pressure on the regime and forced it to curtail its ability to do whatever it wanted to do. Any relaxation (of pressure) emboldens (the regime) and enables it to further its constant state of creating instability in the region.”

Pahlavi believes that if economic sanctions are lifted, it would only increase the potential for Iran to fund terrorism in the region, where it has orchestrated attacks on Saudi Arabia and other countries through its militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“I think we’ve seen that happen already once during the Obama administration, where a tremendous amount of money was released to the regime and none of it was spent on the people of Iran,” he said.

Pahlavi looks forward to a new era of good relations between Iran and its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, after a change of regime in Tehran.

“Look at the way the relationship was before the revolution. When King Faisal of Saudi Arabia passed away, there was a seven-day mourning period in Iran. That’s the extent of what the relationship was,” Pahlavi said.

“The people haven’t changed; the regime has. And as a result of its negative impact in the region, we can certainly anticipate a future where mutual respect and cordial relationship will be conducive to better trade, better commerce, more opportunities and (improvement of) people’s lives, standard of living, healthcare, regional stability, security coordination and many (other) things.”




In a wide-ranging Frankly Speaking interview, Reza Pahlavi also talked about future Iranian relationships with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East states. (Screengrab)

Pahlavi praised the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the Saudi economy and liberalize social and cultural life, as well as the Abraham Accords between Israel and some Middle East countries.

“Other nations are moving forward (in order) not to depend on oil as a major source of revenue, readjusting their economies and having plans for the future, and all of that in conjunction and cooperation with each other. That’s the model to follow,” he said.

“I can’t be more happy to see that evolution, and the Abraham Accords, and everything that comes after, because we’re in the direction of progress and regional cooperation and opportunities.”

Pahlavi contrasted the role Iran used to play in the Gulf before the revolution with the situation now, where the country and its people are increasingly isolated.

“There was a time when people in Dubai were dreaming of coming to Tehran to go to our supermarkets and shop in our stores. Today the dream of every Tehrani is to go the furthest move away from Iran,” he said.

Pahlavi insisted that there is no deep-seated hatred on the part of Iranians for Arabs, Israelis or Americans, pointing out that students in Tehran had recently refused to take part in regime-organized demonstrations against foreign countries.

“A nation like Iran, which has a long history of civilization, of culture, of tolerance within itself, has never had an issue of antagonism vis-a-vis any other culture or nation,” he said.

The regime’s theocratic rule has also alienated more Iranians from religion, Pahlavi added. “I think religious governance has created a situation where people are steering away from religion. In fact, there’s much more apathy vis-a-vis any religious sentiment as a result of this regime directly trying to force a politicized religion and impose it on the public,” he said.

“Iranians have learned it the hard way, and I think today you see that even those who are pious in Iran don’t want this regime because they see the damage that it causes to people’s faith and to the clerical establishment.”

The Iranian people are emerging from their own “Islamic Inquisition,” he said, referring to the religious extremism of 16th-century Europe.

Pahlavi also attacked the influence of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls much of the country’s economic infrastructure in alliance with the regime, as revealed in recent leaked comments by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Pahlavi said: “I was glad that somebody from the regime itself is dismantling this naive expectation by the Western world that moderates will be able to resolve the issues should they be in a position of control. It’s a totalitarian system at the end, depending on the decision of one supreme leader.”

He has advocated a democratic and secular system of government for his country, either with an elected president or a constitutional monarchy.

“It’s for the people of Iran to ultimately decide the final form, so long as the content is democratic, which is why I’ve asked my fellow compatriots — whether republicans or monarchists — in the future to put forth their best model or proposition as to what the final form could be,” he said.

“Once the regime collapses, we anticipate a period of transition where a temporary government will have to manage the country’s affairs while a constituent assembly will draft a new constitution, put to debate all these issues that are to be discussed, so that the people of Iran ultimately have a choice of how and what would determine the future.”

According to Pahlavi, greater regional cooperation would help the Middle East overcome many of the profound challenges it faces, such as climate change and water shortages.

“Long before we can resolve the political crisis, we should worry about the water crisis that exists in our area. This isn’t only Iran but many other countries also suffering from water crisis problems,” he said.

“If Iran today was a different Iran, you wouldn’t have missiles being shipped to Yemen. We’d have scientists, including Israeli experts who are the best in the field, working at resolving the water crisis for our respective countries.”

 

 

*Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule

Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule
Updated 30 min 41 sec ago

Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule

Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule
  • The Knesset vote will either terminate the hawkish premier’s uninterrupted 12-year tenure or return Israel to a stalemate

JERUSALEM: Israeli lawmakers are to vote Sunday on a “change” coalition government of bitter ideological rivals united by their determination to banish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
The crunch Knesset vote will either terminate the hawkish premier’s uninterrupted 12-year tenure or return Israel to a stalemate likely to trigger a fifth general election since 2019.
Netanyahu, who is battling a clutch of corruption charges in an ongoing trial he dismisses as a conspiracy, has pushed Israeli politics firmly to the right over the years.
On Saturday night, around 2,000 protesters rallied outside the 71-year-old’s official residence to celebrate what they believe will be his departure from office.
“For us, this is a big night and tomorrow will be even a bigger day. I am almost crying. We fought peacefully for this (Netanyahu’s departure) and the day has come,” said protester Ofir Robinski.
A fragile eight-party alliance, ranging from the right-wing Jewish nationalist Yamina party to Arab lawmakers, was early this month cobbled together by centrist politician Yair Lapid.
On Friday, all coalition agreements had been signed and submitted to the Knesset secretariat, Yamina announced, a moment party leader Naftali Bennett said brought “to an end two and a half years of political crisis.”
But the ever-combative Netanyahu has tried to peel off defectors that would deprive the nascent coalition of its wafer-thin legislative majority.
If the new government is confirmed, Bennett, a former defense minister, would serve as premier for two years.
Coalition architect Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party and is a former television presenter, would then take the helm.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc spans the political spectrum, including three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party.
The improbable alliance emerged two weeks after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and following inter-communal violence in Israeli cities with significant Arab populations.
“We will work together, out of partnership and national responsibility — and I believe we will succeed,” Bennett said Friday.
Sunday’s crucial Knesset session is due to open at 4:00 p.m. local time (1300 GMT), with Bennett, Lapid and Netanyahu all set to speak before the vote.
Netanyahu has heaped pressure on his former right-wing allies to defect from the fledgling coalition while attacking the legitimacy of the Bennett-Lapid partnership.
He has accused Bennett of “fraud” for siding with rivals, and angry rallies by the premier’s Likud party supporters have resulted in security being bolstered for some lawmakers.
Netanyahu’s bombastic remarks as he sees his grip on power slip have drawn parallels at home and abroad to former US president Donald Trump, who described his election loss last year as the result of a rigged vote.
The prime minister has called the prospective coalition “the greatest election fraud in the history” of Israel.
His Likud party said the accusations refer to Bennett entering a coalition that “doesn’t reflect the will of the voters.”
Sunday’s vote arrives hot on the heels of police crackdowns on Palestinian protests over the threatened eviction of families from homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers, a month after similar clashes fueled the latest war between Israel and Hamas.
It also comes amid right-wing anger over the postponement of a controversial Jewish nationalist march.
Netanyahu favored finding a way to allow the so-called “March of the Flags,” originally scheduled to take place last Thursday, to proceed as planned.
He took that position despite the original route envisaging the march unfolding close to flashpoint areas including the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, where clashes last month triggered the Gaza conflict.
The premier’s insistence saw his opponents accuse him and his allies of stoking tensions to cling onto power via a “scorched-earth” campaign.
If Netanyahu loses the premiership, he will not be able to push through changes to basic laws that could give him immunity in regard to his corruption trial.
The controversial flag march is now slated for Tuesday and ongoing tensions surrounding it could represent a key initial test for any approved coalition.


Oman reports spike in COVID-19 cases amid mass vaccination campaign

Oman reports spike in COVID-19 cases amid mass vaccination campaign
Updated 13 June 2021

Oman reports spike in COVID-19 cases amid mass vaccination campaign

Oman reports spike in COVID-19 cases amid mass vaccination campaign
  • A total of 338 patients are in intensive care rooms, according to a June 11, 2021 report by the country’s Ministry of Health
  • Tens of thousands of people in the Sultanate have been vaccinated in private hospitals, as part of the country’s inoculation effort

DUBAI: Oman has reported an increase in daily coronavirus cases amid the start of mass vaccination campaign in the Sultanate.
Hospitals have exceeded the limit allocated to coronavirus patients in Intensive Care Units, reaching 157 percent in two hospitals, local daily Times of Oman reported.
A total of 338 patients are in intensive care rooms, according to a June 11, 2021 report by the country’s Ministry of Health.
Oman’s daily infection rate has more than tripled in the past 30 days, with the number of people testing positive with COVID-19 approaching 2,000 this week.
“The indicators of this wave are very worrisome, and this recent spike in numbers is because of gatherings that took place during Eid,” Dr Faryal Al-Lawati, a Senior Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the Royal Hospital, told local radio station Shabiba FM.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in the Sultanate have been vaccinated in private hospitals, as part of the country’s inoculation effort.
Private hospitals and clinics have contributed to the campaign against COVID-19 by offering vaccinations to walk-in patients and those who have registered in advance.
“Those who wish to get vaccinated at private hospitals will need to pay a fee, which depends on the type of vaccine they choose to take,” the report said.
A doctor at Badr Al-Sama’a Hospital, a private medical center that is taking part in the immunization campaign, said: “the cost of the vaccine will be borne by patients. Those who want to take the vaccine can walk in to any of our clinics, where they will be administered a vaccine of their choice, provided it is in stock.”
After taking the vaccine, patients will be required to wait 15 minutes at the hospital, where they will be examined for any symptoms.


Election for ‘new Algeria’ gets low turnout amid opposition boycott

Election for ‘new Algeria’ gets low  turnout amid opposition boycott
Updated 13 June 2021

Election for ‘new Algeria’ gets low turnout amid opposition boycott

Election for ‘new Algeria’ gets low  turnout amid opposition boycott
  • A huge number of candidates — more than 20,000 — vied for the 407-seat legislature, once dominated by a two-party alliance considered unlikely to maintain its grip on parliament

 

ALGIERS: Voter turnout was low midway through the day as Algerians voted on Saturday for a new parliament in an election with a majority of novice independent candidates running under new rules meant to satisfy demands of pro-democracy protesters and open the way to a “new Algeria.”

Tension surrounded the voting in the gas-rich North African nation. Activists and opposition parties boycotted the election.

Authorities have tightened the screws on the Hirak protest movement in recent weeks, with police stopping weekly marches and arresting dozens, the latest a Hirak figure and two journalists. The three prominent opposition figures, including journalist Khaled Drareni, a press freedom advocate, were freed early Saturday, three days after their arrests.

The early election is supposed to exemplify President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s “new Algeria,” with an emphasis on young candidates and those outside the political elite.

A huge number of candidates — more than 20,000 — are running for the 407-seat legislature, once dominated by a two-party alliance considered unlikely to maintain its grip on parliament. Islamist parties all offered candidates.

FASTFACT

The three prominent opposition figures, including journalist Khaled Drareni, were freed early on Saturday, three days after their arrests.

It’s the first legislative election since former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office in 2019 after 20 years in power. Tebboune was elected eight months later, vowing to remake Africa’s largest country but with no sign of abandoning the preeminent though shadowy role of the army in governance.

“We are looking for change,” voter Mohammed Touait said at a polling station. “I am 84 years old, and today I woke up at 8 a.m. because I still have hope for change.”

The Constitutional Council announced on Saturday that it would be 15 days before results of the balloting are known because of the number of candidates and the need to ensure against fraud, which marked past elections.

The participation rate among Algeria’s 24 million voters was 10 percent midway through the day, the electoral authority announced.

The president, at the start of the day, brushed off as irrelevant the number of people who vote.

“What is important is that those the people vote for have sufficient legitimacy,” Tebboune said after casting his ballot in Algiers.


Lebanon’s Sunni leaders renew support for Hariri

Lebanon’s Sunni leaders renew support for Hariri
During the session, chaired by the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Saad Hariri discussed the obstacles to forming the government. (Supplied)
Updated 13 June 2021

Lebanon’s Sunni leaders renew support for Hariri

Lebanon’s Sunni leaders renew support for Hariri
  • Supreme council meeting warns of ‘suffocating crisis’ facing the country

BEIRUT: The Supreme Islamic Sharia Council, which represents the Sunni community and its leaders in Lebanon, has renewed its support for Saad Hariri, the prime minister-designate, amid an escalating dispute over the failure to form a government in the country.

After a lengthy meeting on Saturday, in which Hariri participated, the council warned that “any quest for new definitions regarding the constitution or the Taif Agreement is not acceptable under any of the arguments.”
It was earlier reported that Hariri might announce during the meeting that he was stepping down from the task of establishing a new government entrusted to him by parliament last October.
The French initiative and the mediation of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri so far have failed to help form a government because of an escalating dispute between Hariri and President Michel Aoun, together with his political team represented by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement.
The meeting, which was held in Dar Al-Fatwa and attended by former prime ministers, said that the blame for delaying the formation of the government lies with those “who are trying to invent ways and methods that nullify the content of the National Accord Document, which enjoys the consensus of Lebanese leaders who are keen on Lebanon’s independence, unity, sovereignty and pan-Arabism.”
During the session, chaired by the grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Hariri discussed the obstacles to forming the government and steps he has taken to overcome them.
Those present at the meeting expressed their fear that “the suffocating crisis facing Lebanon will deteriorate into an endless abyss amid the indifference and random confusion that characterizes the behavior and actions of leaders who control citizens.”

BACKGROUND

The French initiative and the mediation of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri so far have failed to help form a government because of an escalating dispute between Hariri and President Michel Aoun.

The dispute over the formation of the government is a “futile debate,” they added.
Hariri later described the discussion as constructive.
“The country is witnessing a political and economic deterioration every day,” he said. ” What matters to us is the country at the end of the day.”
One of the participants in the meeting, who declined to be named, told Arab News that “Hariri presented the options before him, including resignation, but the attendees rejected the matter and pressured him to adhere to his constitutional powers and wait to see what Berri’s mediation might result in.”
The source said that “the importance of the statement issued by the meeting should not be underestimated because it is a statement issued by Dar Al-Fatwa and condemns the president and his son-in-law.”
Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister, said that the problem of forming the government is internal, and Aoun must respect the constitution. “Aoun violates the constitution every day and does not act as the one who unites the Lebanese,” he said.
Siniora said that “Hezbollah is hiding behind the president and MP Gibran Bassil. It wants the government-formation paper to remain in its hands to use as a negotiating card. Hezbollah is a major problem and a source of pain.”
Mustafa Alloush, vice president of the Future Movement, said that “there is pressure from the Sunni community on Hariri not to quit his assignment and not to hand over the government formation to people working as proxies.”
He added: “Dar Al-Fatwa’s statement gave a clear sign of support to Hariri, and dialogue is continuing between Hariri and former prime ministers.”


Afghan activist doctor receives award for refugee work in Turkey  

Afghan activist doctor receives award for refugee work in Turkey  
Zakira Hekmat aims to promote education, language learning, cultural programs, capacity building, and awareness campaigns among refugees. (Supplied)
Updated 13 June 2021

Afghan activist doctor receives award for refugee work in Turkey  

Afghan activist doctor receives award for refugee work in Turkey  
  • Zakira Hekmat recognized by IGAM Research Center on Asylum and Migration after working with UNHCR

ANKARA: The Ankara-based IGAM Research Center on Asylum and Migration has recognized an Afghan doctor for her work helping refugees.
Zakira Hekmat, 33, was awarded $2,000 by the center, led by Metin Corabatir, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’s (UNHCR) former spokesperson in Turkey.
Hekmat, herself born an internally displaced person in Jaghuri district in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, said she considered herself lucky, which had driven her to help other Afghan refugees.
“I think that by giving back to my own community, I can best heal the pain of displacement, ruination of my homeland, and the suffering of my people,” she told Arab News. “I was lucky enough to have a house to live in and a university to attend when I first came to Turkey, but not everyone was lucky like me. So, I wanted to help them with all my capabilities because I know they face many challenges.”
Hekmat’s Afghan Refugees Solidarity Association (ARSA), which she started in 2014, worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus disease pandemic to help people in need, including with those who lost homes and jobs or were left vulnerable, and she was recognized in 2020 by Washington-based charitable organization HasNa as one of its Peacebuilders of the Year for her work.
She graduated high school living under the Taliban while doubling up as a teacher due to a shortage of female staff in her area. Hekmat then briefly attended Kabul University as an undergraduate before leaving for the medical faculty of Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey, and then working at an immigrant health center in the city, predominately serving refugees, many coming from neighboring Syria fleeing the country’s civil war..
Hekmat said her formative years in Afghanistan shaped her identity. Teaching poor children in Ghazni, she said, shaped her lifelong commitment to social justice by reconnecting marginalized people with the rest of the society.

FASTFACT

Zakira Hekmat said her formative years in Afghanistan shaped her identity. Teaching poor children in Ghazni, she said, shaped her lifelong commitment to social justice by reconnecting marginalized people with the rest of the society. 

Now her focus is on refugees, especially widowed women, refugee girls and children, by promoting education, language-learning, cultural programs, capacity building, child-focused activities, translation services for refugees and conducting awareness programs.
ARSA, she added, had worked on dozens of voluntary projects with the financial support of the UNHCR and the Turkish government, including setting up a network of 370 refugees volunteers in 58 cities across Turkey to help newly-arrived refugees to settle into their cities, and producing and distributing items to protect them from the pandemic.
“By teaming up with our local volunteers, we produced protective masks and soap (to help prevent) contagion, and we distributed them free to NGOs in need across the country as well as to the refugees themselves,” Hekmat said. Her network produced about 1,000 face masks per day, she added.
In addition, with the UNHCR, ARSA helped around 600 needy Turks and Afghans by providing them with essential supplies for the winter, and delivered hygiene kits to over 6,000 families.
“I don’t care much about the country of birth, but I attach high importance to the country where I can breathe and live freely,” Hekmat said. “We can only overcome stereotypes and prejudices against refugees if we listen each other and come together around a cup of Turkish tea.”
Her current work also focuses on child protection, stopping underage marriages and domestic violence, and promoting social cohesion and awareness campaigns about asylum-seekers. She has also launched a project for women refugees to design accessories and other handicrafts.
“They produced about 600 items (so far) and we provided the raw material for them. It became a source of livelihood for them and served as a pathway to self-accomplishment,” she said.
Corabatir said Hekmat had acted as a bridge for more than a decade between each Afghan refugee and UN agencies in Turkey, and had tried to solve their problems with an extensive network she established herself over years in the medical sector and through her charity activities.
“We intend to raise awareness about these charity works and introduce these people to the attention of the authorities. She also showed to her peers that they have rights to enjoy as refugees. It is essential that these people inspire other refugees for raising awareness and leading social change in their communities,” Corabatir said.
Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 330,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers of other nationalities, including Afghans and Pakistanis, according to the latest data of the UNHCR.