Who is Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi? Can he return to power in Iran?

Reza Pahlavi is the eldest male offspring of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last ruler from the Pahlavi dynasty to rule Iran.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah of Iran who was ousted in 1979 in the Islamic revolution, said the current regime led by Ayatollah Khamenei will collapse soon. "It's just a matter of time for it to reach its final climax. I think we're in that mode," the exiled former Crown Prince said in Washington.

The 59-year-old said the events unfolding in Iran following the escalation of tensions with the US and the shooting down of the Ukraine Airlines jetliner are similar to the popular protests that ended his father's reign in 1979. "This is weeks or months preceding the ultimate collapse, not dissimilar to the last three months in 1978 before the revolution," he said, according to the Agence France-Presse.

Protesters trooped out into Tehran's streets last week after the regime admitted that the Ukrainian passenger plane was accidentally shot down by the military. The protests and the sometimes violent reprisals hogged the limelight internationally even as Tehran upped the ante against the Americans by targeting the Iraqi military bases following the killing of the Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.

Who is Reza Pahlavi?

Reza Pahlavi
Former Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Reza Pahlavi is the eldest male offspring of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last ruler from the Pahlavi dynasty to rule Iran. He was born in October 1960, to the third wife of the pro-Western ruler who was deposed in 1979. Reza has lived in the United States for the most part of his life and hasn't been to Iran for decades. But he founded the National Council of Iran, a self-styled opposition group seeking the ouster of the clerics' rule.

Can Reza Pahlavi return to power in Iran?

A pro-monarchy sentiment is not evident in Iran although opposition to the clerics' rule has simmered for a long time. During the 2017-18 protests that shook Iran some Iranians supported the return of the monarchy. The Brookings Institution said in a report in 2009 that Pahlavi does not have the organizational infrastructure in Iran to force a credible course correction in domestic politics. However, he enjoys huge popularity among the Iranian expatriates.

Pahlavi, who named himself the 'king of kings' in Iran following the 1980 death of his father in Egypt, where he as in exile. In the 1980s Pahlavi enjoyed the patronage of the American spy organisation CIA. However, the active support of the US establishment to Pahlavi petered out after the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

Pahlavi He still remains the monarch as per the Iranian Constitution of 1906 that gave legitimacy to the Pahlavi dynasty. In more recent year he has called himself the former Crown Prince of Iran. Reza Pahlavi is secular in political outlook and pro-western like his father. "I believe Iran must be a secular, parliamentary democracy. The final form has to be decided by the people," he said in June 2018.

End of Pahlavi dynasty

iran protests

Following the 2011 anti-government protests in Iran, Reza said it was upon the youth of the country to save the nation. "Democratisation is now an imperative that cannot be denied. It is only a matter of time before the whole region can transform itself," he said.

The Shah of Iran left the country on January 16, 1979, and top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had been in exile in Paris, assume power. The Iranians then took control of the US embassy in Tehran demanding the extradition of Shah. The US refused and the embassy siege went on for a year. The Shah was eventually given asylum in Egypt, where he died of cancer.