Telegraph | News | Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran
Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran
By PHILIP SHERWELL
The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, the inspiration of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, has broken a three-year silence to back the United States military to overthrow the country's clerical regime.
Hossein Khomeini's call is all the more startling as he made it from Qom, the spiritual home of Iran's Shia strand of Islam, during an interview to mark the 17th anniversary of the ayatollah's death.
"My grandfather's revolution has devoured its children and has strayed from its course," he told Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language television station. "I lived through the revolution and it called for freedom and democracy - but it has persecuted its leaders."
He also made clear his opposition to Teheran's alleged development of a secret nuclear weapons programme. "Iran will gain real power if freedom and democracy develop there," he said. "Strength will not be obtained through weapons and the bomb."
Mr Khomeini, 47, is a Shia cleric, but he believes that the holy men who have run the country since 1979 - to whom he dismissively refers as "wearers of the turban" - abused their power following the overthrow of the Shah.
The Dubai-based satellite channel's website spelt out his backing for armed intervention by America, a country excoriated as the Great Satan by his grandfather and Iran's current rulers.
It stated: "As for his call to President Bush to come and occupy Iran, Hossein Khomeini explained that 'freedom must come to Iran in any possible way, whether through internal or external developments.
If you were a prisoner, what would you do? I want someone to break the prison [doors open]'."
His approach is even more hardline than that of fiercely anti-regime Iranian exiles, who oppose military action while urging the US to back a domestic uprising.
It is the first time he has voiced his bitter opposition to the regime since Teheran engaged on its nuclear confrontation with the international community under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, its virulently anti-US president.
At home, the regime has recently faced violent protests by ethnic Azeris and demonstrations by students' and women's groups.
Mr Khomeini briefly emerged as an unlikely critic of the Islamic Republic in 2003, when he called for armed invasion during a visit to Washington and New York.
The cleric returned to Iran at his family's insistence and was protected from retribution by his grandfather's widow, Batol Saqafi Khomeini.
It is not clear why he has chosen now to speak out again or whether the regime was aware that he would be talking to Al-Arabiya after banning other media organisations from interviewing him. A translation of his comments, made on May 31, was first released last week by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
He said that if he came to power in Iran, one of his first acts would be to make wearing the hijab (veil) an optional choice for women.
Mr Khomeini's mentor is believed to be the regime's best-known religious critic, Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, who was released from house arrest in Qom in 2003 after six years for criticising the rule of Ayatollah Ali Khameini.