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


US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW

US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW
Updated 20 May 2022

US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW

US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW
  • ‘Officials should be very clear on how forces will avoid harming Somali civilians during military operations’
  • Biden signed order reversing Trump administration decision to withdraw nearly all 700 troops

LONDON: US military forces redeploying to Somalia must make civilian protection “a priority,” Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

US President Joe Biden on Monday signed an order reversing a Trump administration decision to remove nearly all 700 American troops from the East African state and redeploy them as part of a joint operation with the Somali government to tackle Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda.

“US officials should be very clear on how forces will avoid harming Somali civilians during military operations,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at HRW.

“They will need to work closely with the Somali and African Union authorities to avoid repeating past laws of war violations and promptly and appropriately respond to civilian loss.”

HRW said past American operations in Somalia had not only resulted in loss of life and Somali property, but that the US had neither recognized these losses nor provided redress.

US military activities have been conducted in Somalia since at least 2007, but 2017 witnessed a marked increase in airstrikes before the Trump administration ordered the troop withdrawals in late 2020.

Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the news that some 500 US troops would be returning, with HRW saying Al-Shabab has continued to conduct indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and forcibly recruited children.

Nonetheless, Bader said the return of US military personnel must include a course correction that ensures it takes all allegations of civilian harm seriously and credibly investigates them.

“A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state,” she added.

“The US government recognizes the need to credibly investigate and compensate for civilian harm, but the military has yet to make this a reality.”


Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW

Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW
Updated 20 May 2022

Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW

Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW
  • This is ‘another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements’
  • Country rocked by ongoing labor strikes, protests over rising pric

LONDON: Iran has arrested several prominent activists on what Human Rights Watch described on Friday as “baseless accusations” amid ongoing labor strikes and protests over rising prices.

Citing news outlets close to Iran’s intelligence apparatus, HRW said the arrested are accused of “contact with suspicious foreign actors,” although no evidence was provided to back the claim bar the assertion by authorities that they had arrested two Europeans earlier this month.

“The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW.

“Instead of looking to civil society for help in understanding and responding to social problems, Iran’s government treats them as an inherent threat.”

Since May 6, people have gathered in at least 19 cities and towns to protest the news that Iran will experience price-rises for essential goods in the coming months, with MPs saying at least two people have been killed in the protests so far.

In the last week of April, dozens of teachers’ union activists were arrested after calling for nationwide protests to demand reforms of the pay scale system.

HRW said over the past four years there has been a spike in widespread protests in Iran, organized by major unions, over economic inequalities stemming from declining living standards.

It added that security forces have responded to protests with excessive, lethal force, and have arrested thousands, using prosecution and imprisonment based on illegitimate charges as the main tool to silence prominent dissidents and human rights defenders.

Since these latest protests kicked off at the start of May, authorities have heavily disrupted internet access in multiple provinces.

“Iranian authorities have long sought to criminalize solidarity among members of civil society groups inside and outside the country,” said Sepehri Far.

“The intention is to prevent accountability and scrutiny of state actions that civil society provides.”


Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 

Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 
Updated 20 May 2022

Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 

Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 
  • Al-Maqashi highly praised the US administration's efforts to establish peace in Yemen and its support for the government

DUBAI: Yemen’s minister of Defense, Mohammed al-Maqdashi, met with Colonel Mark Rittman, American Military and Security Attaché in the country’s US embassy on Thursday. 

The two discussed ways they can fight terrorism, in addition to military and security cooperation between the two nations. 

Al-Maqashi highly praised the US administration's efforts to establish peace in Yemen and its support for the government. 

Separately, Al-Maqashi met with the British Military Attaché in the UN embassy in Yemen to discuss bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense.


Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’

Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’
Updated 20 May 2022

Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’

Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’
  • The two sides discussed ways “to better serve the interests of their people”

DUBAI: UAE and Russian officials met on Thursday to discuss ways to enhance “strong ties” between the two countries, state news agency WAM reported. 

Chairman of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Abdullah Mohamed Al-Mazrouei, held meetings with Chairman of the Russian-Emirati inter-parliamentary Group, Аrsen Bashirovich Kanokov, in Abu Dhabi. 

During the meeting, which was also attended by Mohamed Helal Al Mheiri, Director-General of Abu Dhabi Chamber, the two sides discussed ways “to better serve the interests of their people,” according to WAM.

Al-Mazrouei highlighted that both the UAE and Russia possess the necessary capabilities to strengthen relations in areas such as trade, artificial intelligence and innovation. 

Kanokov expressed Russia’s keenness to enhance relations with the UAE in addition to strengthening ties between the business community in Abu Dhabi and Russia. He added that the goal is to build on what has been accomplished between the two sides over the years.

Kanokov also extended his condolences on the passing of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, and congratulated Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for being elected as UAE President.


Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea

Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea
Updated 20 May 2022

Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea

Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea
  • The attackers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, were repelled by the yacht's security force
  • Lakota, owned by French yachtsman arget is one of sailing world’s most famous boats

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen were accused on Thursday of trying to hijack one of the world’s most famous racing yachts in the Red Sea off the coast of Hodeidah.
Attackers in three fast-moving skiffs and armed with rocket-propelled grenades tried to board the Lakota, a 19-meter sailing trimaran owned by the French yachtsman Philippe Poupon.
The trimaran’s crew repelled the attacks and continued sailing up the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal. The yacht carries a racing crew of five but it is not known if Poupon himself, who has recently been on an Antarctic expedition with his family, was on board.
Yemeni fishermen in nearby waters saw crew on the vessel exchange fire with the attackers. “Several attempts were made to board her,” the maritime intelligence company Dryad Global said. “Reports indicate she managed to get away.”
Satellite-tracking data on Thursday showed the Lakota just west of the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea between Yemen and Eritrea on the Horn of Africa coast.
The racing trimaran, previously called the Pierre 1er, is one of the most famous vessels in the sailing world. Built in 1990, it was once owned by the American tycoon and adventurer Steve Fossett.
Poupon bought the yacht this year for an estimated €250,000 euros ($263,000).
It was on its way from the Philippines to France, from where the yachtsman plans to sail it in the solo Route du Rhum transatlantic race in November, and had docked in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa last Sunday.
Yemeni government officials said they had no doubt that the Houthi militia had carried out the attempted hijack.
“Our information says three armed Houthi boats sailed from Al-Saleef in Hodeidah on Tuesday and were stationed in the sea. They attacked the boat,” one official told Arab News.
The attack on the Lakota came days after the Houthis hijacked another vessel in the Red Sea delivering food to government troops in the city of Medi, in northern Hajjah province.
The vessel, which had three fishermen and two soldiers on board, was sailing from government-controlled Khokha, south of Hodeidah, to the 5th Military Region in Medi on Sunday when it was attacked by armed Houthi boats.
“The crew sent an alert that the Houthis were surrounding them and would arrest them, two hours after leaving Khokha,” a local officer told Arab News.
In January, the Houthis hijacked the UAE-flagged vessel Rwabee with a crew of 11 off the country’s west coast, triggering local and international condemnation.
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said the ship was carrying medical equipment from a temporary Saudi hospital on the Yemeni island of Socotra.