Reza Pahlavi, pretender to the Iranian throne, has had a good year. Not only has he been the subject of major articles in such U. S. publications as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, but more importantly, "Long live Reza Shah" has been heard on the streets of Iranian cities at large demonstrations. Those demonstrations started out innocently enough over issues such as the national soccer team or teachers' pay, but they quickly acquired an angry political tone. Iranians are unhappy over the crackdown by hard-line Islamists entrenched in unaccountable revolutionary institutions, who have systematically stripped away what little power was held by the popularly elected reformers.
In this atmosphere, anyone whom the hard-liners hate can count on substantial popular sympathy, and few fit the bill better than Reza Pahlavi. Add to which, Iranians—dispirited at their inability to bring about change after repeated smashing election victories by reformers who then are blocked at every turn—are looking for a man on a white horse to rescue them, and they remember that the first Reza Pahlavi (grandfather of the author of this book) did exactly that when he deposed the dissolute and corrupt Qajar dynasty and force-marched Iran towards modernity.
But Reza Pahlavi has more going for him than just a favorable moment. He also has an excellent message, well in touch with contemporary Iranian realities and articulating the popular hopes for democracy. Furthermore, he has the great leader's touch for stirring rhetoric emphasizing how hopes and dreams can be realized with sufficient effort. And he is realistic: his scenarios for Iran's future include both the optimistic (flagging zeal by Islamists plus mass civil disobedience lead the Islamic Republic to implode) to the pessimistic (Islamists resist to the bitter end, with a regime of brute terror). No wonder Reza Pahlavi's speeches and interviews beamed to Iran on Los Angeles-based Persian-language NITV satellite television have generated so much interest.