Iran's Democratic Future?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Dec. 12, 2002, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Iran has the dubious distinction of making President Bush's "axis of evil" list. But the son of the late shah of Iran says on the contrary. He wants his country to become a model of democracy for the entire Arab or Muslim world.

I asked Reza Pahlavi what is happening in Iran these days.


REZA PAHLAVI, SON OF THE FORMER SHAH OF IRAN: There's a dynamic that is now happening in Iran never seen before, and I think this is indicative of the fact that many of my competitors today are taking matters into their own hands with no fear factor involved, defying the regime to its very core and its very existence.

GIBSON: Can the government of Iran be wrested from the hands of the mullahs? Can these people who are demonstrating on the streets actually change Iran's current government?

PAHLAVI: I think that the campaign of civil disobedience will eventually bring a situational paralysis for the regime and force it to collapse.

What can help expedite that is for the outside world to be aware of the dynamics of change in Iran today, demonstrate solidarity with the people of Iran, and certainly, by not cutting deals with the current regime or by throwing, if you will, a lifeline to a sinking ship. This can only expedite the process.

As to its feasibility, absolutely. Look at how Milosevic was ultimately brought down.

GIBSON: The government of the United States should be doing what? The government of the United States got into a fair amount of trouble with its involvement with your late father. What should our government be doing now?

PAHLAVI: I think the world and America included has learned a lesson that standing for principles is not a problem. It's anticipating an outcome or trying to impose a particular outcome that becomes problematic.

As far as I'm concerned, the current U.S. administration and U.S. government has no other aim but to show solidarity and support for causes of liberty and freedom around the globe and showing and demonstrating sympathy for that, stopping short of trying to determine an outcome and leaving it in the hands of the people, which is exactly what we are asking for as a nation.

GIBSON: As you well know, there has been a now 20-year-plus history of hostility and enmity between the United States and Iran. Do you think that there's a chance that that atmosphere can end sometime soon?

PAHLAVI: As far as dealing with Iran is concerned, the issue is the investment ought to be on the people of Iran and not the regime. The current regime has every reason to be hostile to the United States, but the people of Iran are not.

Case in point, we saw how the Iranian people demonstrated their sympathies for the victims of Sept. 11 the day after the attack. Contrary to what the regime has constantly done… ever since its inception, burning the American flag and chanting "Death to America."

The Iranian people understand the values that this country, the United States, is founded on, the principles of freedom, the principles of quality, of liberty, of secularism, and this is precisely the kind of principles that we are trying to apply to our country as well, while remaining true to our own culture and heritage.

There's no inconsistency in that, and, if there's a partnership in that direction, the relationship between a country like the United States and the Iranian people is a natural partnership. It's the politics of the current regime that is demonstrating the wrong aspect and the wrong...

GIBSON: But how can the United States support the people of Iran and still keep the regime at arm's length?

PAHLAVI: Look, there have been cases in history where we have seen particular governments that were unpopular, oppressive, or corrupted or totalitarian fall one after the other, from South Africa to the military dictatorship of Latin America to the terrorships of the Far East, of the eastern block countries in Eastern Europe.

And I think, in this case, when you look at the Taliban in Kabul, the current regime in Baghdad and, of course, the regime in Tehran, I don't think that we're talking about any different trend in the sense of the world standing up to principles, upholding human rights, not condoning it in the interests of short-term economic gains. This is what it's all about.

So, as far as standing with the people of Iran, it's to show solidarity, of moral support, but leaving it at the hand of the people of Iran to determine their fate. The best way that the Iranian people can have access to that choice is by making sure that the current regime is not being, if you will, dealt with in terms of cutting deals with it because this only… [prolongs] their demise… by getting more economic trade or income that goes to the regime's coffers, mind you, and not in the interest of the nation itself.

The best way, therefore, is to invest in the process of change and by not giving the regime what it is hoping for, regardless of its rhetoric.

GIBSON: Mr. Pahlavi, thank you very much for joining us.

PAHLAVI: Thanks for having me.


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