Would Iranians really bring back the Shah?
Pundits have marveled at what a big surprise it is that ordinary Iranians have revolted against the mullahs. It's a surprise to them, but no surprise to American Thinker's readers, whose Iranian contributors have kept us posted for years about what is really going on in Iran.
Just look at these pieces by Hamid Bahrami, Reza Shafiee, Hassan Mahmoudi, Amil Imani, and Shahriar Kia. Over and over again, these writers warned there is a problem, and now Iranians' protests against corruption, soaring prices, environmental ruin, Revolutionary Guards thuggery, poverty, and bank collapses have become the "surprise" story of the day.
One writer at Politico correctly noted that the "surprise" stems from reporters covering only Tehran's elites, not the doings in the hinterlands. The hinterlands, of course, are where the trouble started, beginning in Mashhad, and these are the parts of the country American Thinker's writers have been bringing us information on. These writers showed long ago that what we are seeing now isn't your garden-variety protests of city elites seeking "reform" or "fair elections." These protests are smaller, but they're the real kind, revolutionary ones, actual calls for the overthrow of the regime and the initiation of a new government. Protests now aren't coming from the comfortable elites who just want a little bit of tweaking.
Now with eyes on Iran, one essay, published six months ago at American Thinker, stands out: Amil Imani's piece titled "Is Reza Pahlavi the Only Hope to Overthrow the Mullahs?"
On the surface, it sounds ridiculous that anyone would want to bring back a king, even as a constitutional monarch in a democracy. But it's real. Here is an account by Voice of America about the rise of the late Shah's son, Reza Pahlavi, a smart, photogenic, democracy-oriented leader, waiting in the wings as an alternative to the corrupt, sneering mullahs.
As Imani noted:
Reza Pahlavi is the son of the late Shah of Iran. I have never had the honor of meeting or speaking with him, although I judge any man based on what he says and what he does.
As I watched this man grow and become a seasoned politician, my admiration for him grew stronger. In my opinion, Mr. Pahlavi has become the very asset that the opposition has needed for many years.
He appears to have no ulterior motive other than doing what he can to help his countrymen in Iran and his willingness to become the necessary catalyst to dislodge the current brutal regime. Reza Pahlavi wants the Iranian people to rise up against the regime and establish a parliamentary democracy based on democratic values, freedom, and human rights.
American Thinker's writers, most recently Hassan Mahmoudi, have noted that in the shouted slogans in the crowds, many were calling for the return of the Shah. Russian propaganda organ Sputnik has noted the phenomenon in the streets, too.
It's worth noting that kings are easily understood by average people and for that reason have appeal, especially in light of the failure of the current regime.
I have one story of my own that suggests that a return to the Shah may not be as far-fetched as it seems.
An old friend, Andrew Scott Cooper, spent years of research to write a fascinating scholarly book about the last days of the shah of Iran, titled The Fall of Heaven, published by Henry Holt & Co. last year. He actually managed to reach and interview the former Shabanu, or, queen, of Iran, Farah Diba, who was living in exile in Europe. From that, he wrote a unique account of the Shah's last days, largely told through her eyes.
It was a sympathetic analytic history, intended, as he told an audience at the Nixon Library last year, to show that there once was another Iran, one where women had freedoms; living standards were rising; human rights were improving (he learned that the Shah's much-vilified SAVAK secret police, for instance, committed far fewer crimes than Soviet-linked propagandists stirring trouble had claimed); and the country was integrated with, not isolated from the world community. The Shah, Cooper argued, really did want to see his country advance in the world, and he enacted many democratic reforms.
Naturally, saying something out of the ordinary, or contradicting the conventional wisdom, is a good way to get panned, and so publication of the book was followed by several critical book reviews – in the top papers, often by Iranian-Americans affiliated with the elite establishment centers of Iran research, such as Stanford. These were scholars who had an interest in maintaining the conventional wisdom and who may have had interests getting contracts from the mullahs. These are the same people whom policymakers and newspaper editors tend to consult as experts and were the people who said all was well; just stay out of Iranian affairs and let them handle it. In addition, there was a creepy campaign on Amazon to drive down the ratings of the book by similar people who had never even read it – and Amazon put a stop to it. What this all showed is that there existed a large entrenched establishment with an interest in maintaining the status quo, and its operators were aghast at the idea – now being shouted in the streets of Iran – that maybe bringing back the Shah could be good. Of course, they hated this louche idea.
But this came against another subplot of the publishing of this book, which was that a hell of a lot of those books, thousands of them (showing Iranians their own history and teaching them that Iran was once a very different place), somehow got smuggled into Iran, and the locals lapped them up.
As a result of this, within a few days, a full Farsi translation of the book will be coming out, which should stoke conversation about this in Iran even further, given the interest shown. Publishers don't publish books in non-Western languages if they don't think they will sell. Obviously, the publishers knew that something big is going on and published the costly translation. Iranians, starved of information about their own history, are likely to lap this up just as they lapped up the English-language version.
Given what is going on in Iran now, call it fat on the fire.
Don't think there hasn't been wild interest on this side of the hemisphere, too. Iranian-Americans on the West Coast flooded an author's event held at the Nixon Library last year in September, shortly after the publication of Cooper's book. It was standing room only, and it's important to note that the Nixon Library is not all that close to where most Iranian-Americans live in the Los Angeles area, which is Beverly Hills and its outskirts. The Nixon Library is about an hour's drive away from that in Yorba Linda, Calif., and it's an arduous drive, through a truck-convoy-route highway. Here is a photo I took of how the audience that night looked:
Here is Andrew Cooper signing copies of his book – which sold out with a line waiting.
Is it really that far-fetched that the Shah might be seen as a legitimate alternative for Iran? Not with these current things going on. Right now, U.S. policymakers should be ignoring the Stanford establishmentarian elites on Iran and reading Cooper's book as fast as they can.