Pahlavi awaits his ascent to throne in Iran: Pretender to Peacock Throne tells Annika Savill the reign of the mullahs is near its end

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The Independent Online
THE PRETENDER to the Peacock Throne believes his time may be near. The unrest inside Iran, he says, is 'approaching an imminent crisis. People are running out of patience.'

After the recent attacks in the West blamed on Iran, Shah Reza Pahlavi II hopes the world will now lose all patience with the Islamic Republic and its revolutionary exports. For too long, he says, the West avoided a confrontation.

'Forgive my being blunt, but if you go to bed with everyone you can expect to get sick at some point,' he said in the first interview with a British newspaper for several years. The interview, over a glass of mineral water at the Grosvenor House hotel during a stopover between Paris and the United States, was part of what the Shah describes as an 'imperative now - to become far more active. One, to introduce myself to my countrymen, to governments and opinion- makers; two, to work with forces inside eager to see real change.'

He will be 34 in October. It is more than 15 years since the revolution overthrew his father, and almost 14 since he crowned himself Shah following his father's death. In truth, the language has not changed much over the years. He is not aspiring to the throne for personal aggrandisement; his role is that of 'unificator and co-ordinator - a task I gladly accept'.

But there is some irony in his hopeful comparisons with the events that eventually overthrew his father. Recent protests, in cities like Mashad and Tabriz, are 'very similar to what happened 12 to 18 months before the revolution. People are no longer timid or hesitant. The regime is incapable of resolving the economic malaise. I am not simply talking about the man in the street. I am talking about the structural effects of bad administration, the blatant misuse of resources to finance terrorism across the world.'

He admits that gaining democracy would not be peaceful; but he pussyfoots around the modalities. 'I want to be absolutely realistic - it would be naive to believe the regime would leave voluntarily. If necessary, an armed struggle - but only as a final option.' He says the army is ready: 'The armed forces are more favourable to me than to anyone else. We have contacts with the military - we know they'd be prepared should the signal be given.

'We have invested a lot of time and effort in contacts with all sectors of society - one of them is the army. But also with clergy, bazaaris, technocrats. The more time goes on, the more penetration - even within the regime itself.'

But the rest of the world, he complains, has failed to put the abolition of the mullahs' reign on the agenda: 'No leader in the West has ever called for the overthrow of the Islamic regime. A key problem is that the people of Iran have been receiving mixed signals.'

There are up to 4 million Iranians in the diaspora. 'I am confident the majority of my countrymen inside are on my side too. They may not be monarchists but they expect me to be the one who acts as a loudspeaker on the way to a restoration to democracy.'

He divides his time between Virginia and Paris. He has no son and heir of his own yet, but two daughters under three. He is 'certainly a marked target, though the last thing I think about is my personal safety'. He is willing to risk a timetable for his return: 'A year, two years from now. It depends on the circumstances.' But then he has said things like that before.

(Photograph omitted)