Businessman Amir Jahanchahi says he will nurture ‘cells of resistance’ to force regime change in Tehran
Iranian opposition supporters abroad are being urged to unite in a new Green Wave movement to work towards overthrowing a divided Islamic regime in Tehran.
Amir Jahanchahi, an exiled Iranian businessman, today called on his countrymen to rally round and act more decisively, suggesting that elements of the powerful Revolutionary Guard could be persuaded to turn against the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“The opposition cannot lead the street to victory,” Jahanchahi said in an interview on the eve of the Iranian new year holiday. “The leaders are not ready to accept a full change of regime. The Iranian people are ready to accept the truth that this regime will not be changed by a velvet revolution. It has to be changed by force.”
Jahanchahi, 49, left Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution and has since lived in London and Paris. His father was the country’s last finance minister under the shah. Unlike many other Iranian exiles, he has no other citizenship.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have won last June’s presidential election, has insisted that no one represents his Green movement outside Iran.
Jahanchahi said his Green Wave would be open to any Iranian who subscribed to democratic principles – although it was not clear whether that would exclude monarchists and groups such as the People’s Mujahedin, described as terrorists by the US and several other countries.
“It will be a constellation of all the Iranian opposition, not an organisation or a party. I do not represent anyone. I am not Ahmed Chalabi,” he said – a reference to the Iraqi exile who was highly influential in Washington before the 2003 US-led invasion but was later discredited.
The movement is to be fronted by Mehrdad Khonsari, a London-based Iranian academic. Plans include convening a group of experts to draw up plans for a provisional government to take power once the regime has been overthrown. Jahanchahi also talked of “flooding the country with money” to support transport strikes that would “bring this regime to its knees”, and of setting up a Farsi-language radio station to broadcast into Iran.
Jahanchahi argues that Iranians have proved themselves capable of heroic sacrifice since the disputed election, with scores of dead and thousands of arrests in protests met with a brutal crackdown. In recent weeks the authorities appear to have regained the upper hand.
“I want to transform the cells of discontent into cells of resistance,” he said. “I will help people from the regime leave the country and admit to their mistakes.” He declined to explain how this would be done.
Jahanchahi is confident, persuasive and evidently wealthy – he lives in a luxurious home in one of London’s choicest residential areas and insists money is not a problem. But he is unknown to Iranian opposition supporters at home or abroad. “There are a myriad of these self-publicising and self-proclaimed spokesmen and they are virtually all very dubious indeed,” said one Green movement activist.
Jahanchahi compared himself to General Charles de Gaulle, who announced the fight against the Nazis from exile in London in 1940. Last year Jahanchahi published a book in French entitled The Iranian Hitler: Ending Ahmadinejad’s Dictatorship.
“The Iranian regime needs to be overthrown by force,” he said. “The key to all the problems of the Middle East is in my country. The aim is not just to change the regime. It will happen sooner or later. The question is whether it can happen before Ahmadinejad leads Iran and the region into instability and war.”
Ian Black, Middle East editor