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His Majesty, the Exile : Reza Pahlavi, the Shah's Oldest Son, Says Another Revolution Will Sweep Iran, but He Can Only Wonder if It Will Restore His Kingdom and the Peacock Throne

October 03, 1988|BEVERLY BEYETTE | Times Staff Writer

The man who would be shah had brought his crusade--he calls it "my mission"--to Los Angeles, a city with an Iranian population of more than 300,000, the largest concentration in the United States, where 1 million Iranians now live.

But even as Reza Pahlavi II, heir to the Peacock Throne, was exhorting fellow expatriates to "go forth, hand-in-hand" to overthrow the Khomeini regime, hints of moderation were issuing from Tehran, and Great Britain joined France in restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran.

The 27-year-old son of the Shah Mohammed Pahlavi, the monarch who was driven out of his homeland in January 1979 and died in exile the next year, dismissed as "wishful thinking" suggestions that "so-called moderates" among those in power such as parliamentary speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani are reining in their radicalism.

In the Western vernacular that he favors, he said, "Don't buy their stock. That market will collapse."

Pahlavi assesses the overtures from Tehran, the hints that Iran no longer wants to live in political isolation, and concludes that it all is "nothing but a game. The game that these people are playing is: 'No war, no peace.' They can't fight the war (with Iraq) anymore. People don't want to fight anymore. They can't have peace, either. They can't afford to have peace . . . peace for them will mean transition of their power to the postwar constituency."

So, he says, they are simply "shopping for insurance wherever they can get it," engaged in a precarious balancing act in which they are trying to placate both radicals and moderates. "Don't bet on it," he repeats. "It is not a solid investment."

No Official U.S. Ties

Washington officially considers the Iranian monarchy abolished but has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since April 1980, five months after 63 Americans were seized as hostages in a militant takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

On Friday, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said the United States is "prepared" to have "direct talks" with Iran but has no plans for them. He emphasized that the U.S. agenda would be an end to the Iran-Iraq war, release of Western hostages now held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian Lebanese Shia Muslims and a halt to terrorist activity.

Those around Pahlavi refer to this young Western-educated prince offhandedly as "the shah," and, indeed, announcements for his Los Angeles speech, issued by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, billed him as the Shah of Iran.

In conversation, Pahlavi likes to be called "your majesty." A prince without a monarchy, he is nevertheless a man well aware that he is not "just any other person."

On Oct. 31, 1980, his 20th birthday, from exile in Cairo, he proclaimed himself "Reza Shah II," king of Iran, after his grandfather, who had established the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925.

In an emotional speech, the young prince had called on Iranian patriots to join forces in ending the Khomeini "nightmare." And he had assured them that "this nightmare, like others in our history, will pass."

Today, eight years later, his message is the same.

Now he speaks of "orchestrating" a counter-revolution--he prefers to call it "a popular uprising"--and, while stopping far short of outlining the specifics, he emphasizes that he himself is prepared to put his life on the line in the cause, "a soldier at the service of my country."

He asked an exuberant and affectionate audience at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel--where about half of the 1,100 in attendance were Iranians--"If you believe in me as a leader, then help me . . . the time has come. It's time to move."

In an interview in the Royal Suite at the Century Plaza, Pahlavi spoke passionately of his cause, the restoration of "popular sovereignty" in Iran according to the dictates of a Democratic constitution adopted in 1906. The Iranian people must be free to choose their own future, he said, "regardless of what that future may be."

Yes, he wants to see the monarchy restored, a monarchy in which he as king would be head of state rather than head of government--he cites Spain as a model for his kind of monarchy. But he insists that he is "ready to serve in any capacity," that were he to return triumphantly as king he would insist that his people then vote him in.

It has been 10 years since the day in June, 1978, that he left Iran, the pampered prince who had soloed in an airplane at age 13, going off to Reese Air Force Base near Lubbock, Tex., for jet training. His voice emotionally flat, he recalls that day and the months that followed:

"We had just graduated from high school, and the same evening I had thrown a party with my classmates, to celebrate our graduation."

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