The value of monarchy

Can Reza Pahlavi, heir of the late Shah of Iran, play a role in bringing down the current Iranian régime?

There is a precedent. Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia played a key role in organising opposition to the Milosevic régime. Alexander's only criterion for inviting opposition leaders to his conference was that they had to be advocates of democracy. He, properly, kept himself out of debates as to whether Yugoslavia or Serbia should be capitalist or socialist. The illegal decision to strip the royal family of their citizenship and their property, made by Tito immediately after the war, was reversed, and the Crown Prince now lives in Serbia again.

Despite an article I wrote on the subject, there has been little discussion of restoring the monarchy to a constitutional role. If the Crown Prince wishes to put this on the agenda, he needs to find a way to serve, non-politically, in government. Perhaps he should become head of a commission to promote inward investment or tourism. His business and financial contacts in the west, and his royal status, would bring a great deal to such a role.

But Iran is not Serbia. There is a long history in Europe of constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II and King Juan Carlos set standards of public service that others envy. There is no such tradition in the middle east. There, the word 'king' has a different, and much darker, meaning. The last Shah of Iran may seem benign by comparison with the monstrous régime which followed him, but at the time he had one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Can Pahlavi succeed? No doubt he can play a role in organising and focussing opposition. But if he hopes to restore the monarchy, he faces a less favourable climate than Crown Prince Alexander. And Alexander has not succeeded.

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