Munich Security Conference: Iran can be a stable force in the world with a new system

Former crown prince warns 'we need to make a transition as fast as possible because the opportunity costs grow every day'

A man holds a flag bearing a photo of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during a protest on the day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich on February 17. Reuters
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Iran has an opportunity to play a positive role in the world and its region but only if its opposition forces gain rapid support from friendly countries to transform the way the country is governed, the country's former crown prince has said.

Reza Pahlavi told the Munich Security Conference that Iran was at a turning point, in part powered by the need to enable the equality of women. Having refused to invite Iranian officials to the event, the organisers opened the prime Saturday sessions with a panel that included the activist Masih Alinejad and US senator Robert Menendez.

"We need to make a transition as fast as possible because the opportunity costs grow every day that goes by — it becomes more and more costly for Iranians and not just for us but the rest of the world," he said.

"What Iran needs is solidarity in the principles that we are fighting for and we hope to have the support of any country. We are speaking to representatives to help them understand that our ask is for countries to be unified with us in the same way you expect us to be unified on our side."

He said his visit to Munich would enable those discussions to move forward. "This is a perfect opportunity as we engage with parliamentarians or leaders of different governments to discuss what exactly can be done besides maximum pressure, which is further sanctions," he said.

"We are also hoping to have maximum support for the people in Iran whether its in areas that can be immediately done, for instance, internet access or a strike fund to support striking workers and the funding of it.

"There are many ways we can come up with solutions and many, many more."

Ms Alinejad took issue with the idea that the Iranian people were the victims of sanctions and the failure of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. She said people resented how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC leadership diverted all the resources.

"We don't want the West to sanction the people of Iran but we the people of Iran know the best that while we were suffering from sanctions the money went to 51 institutions, one of them is morality, police, walking around and picking on women and telling you cover yourself property," he said.

"The money went to IRGC, the money went to the son Ayatollah Khamenei. The money that the US government, the Europeans, sent to them through the deal goes to them to these dictators in Iran. So that is why I don't believe that sanctions itself hurts people.

"It's the corruption they should target and I strongly believe that strategic sanctions can help. I want Western country to show the same harmony the have shown towards Russia."

Senator Menendez said he wanted the Europeans to abandon once and for all the JCPOA but added that Iran's regional neighbours needed more support. "The Iranians themselves walked away from what had been, I think a good deal for them," he said. "In recognising that you need to do a few things. Number one you need to formally say that plan is off the table.

"It's not only that but I think you need to organise the region -- in a collective missile defence situation that sends a very clear message to Iran. There are consequences for Iran and I think you have to multilateral allies support our sanctions, and this is where I hope the Europeans would join us."

Nazanin Boniadi, an actress and activist, has launched a charter for change with the former crown prince and said this would provide reassurance for those who fear transition.

"When we come up with this charter, and we send it out to the world, please know that this is not something that we have concocted it is something that has been, you know, really devised by the people of Iran inside Iran," she said. "It's the people of Iran who were actually calling for isolating the regime. If you've listened to them closely they're not saying death to America for sanctions or death to Trump.

"They're actually saying that about the Islamic Republic."

Updated: February 18, 2023, 11:48 AM