A budding coalition of conservative hawks, Jewish organizations and Iranian monarchists is pressing the White House to step up American efforts to bring about regime change in Iran.
For now, President Bush's official stance is to encourage the Iranian people to push the mullah regime aside themselves, but observers believe that the policy is not yet firm, and that has created an opportunity for activists. Neoconservatives advocating regime change in Tehran through diplomatic pressure — and even covert action — appear to be winning the debate within the administration, several knowledgeable observers said.
"There is a pact emerging between hawks in the administration, Jewish groups and Iranian supporters of Reza Pahlavi [the exiled son of the former shah of Iran] to push for regime change," said Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian-Jewish Public Affairs Committee in Los Angeles and a hawk on Iran.
The emerging coalition is reminiscent of the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, with Pahlavi possibly assuming the role of Iraqi exile opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi, a favorite of neoconservatives. Like Chalabi, Pahlavi has good relations with several Jewish groups. He has addressed the board of the hawkish Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and gave a public speech at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and met with Jewish communal leaders.
Pahlavi also has had quiet contacts with top Israeli officials. During the last two years, according to a knowledgeable source, he has met privately with Prime Minister Sharon and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israel's Iranian-born president, Moshe Katsav.
In another parallel to the pre-invasion debate over Iraq, an intense policy battle is heating up between the State and Defense departments over what to do in Iran.