Thursday 23 November 2017

Tough sanctions pushing Iran closer to 'Arab Spring'

Iranian clerics hold copies of the Koran at a demonstration in Tehran.
Iranian clerics hold copies of the Koran at a demonstration in Tehran.

Phoebe Greenwood Tel Aviv

IRAN is being hit so hard by sanctions it could trigger an Arab Spring-style revolution, Israel's foreign minister has warned.

Less than 48 hours after Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu warned the international community of the urgent need to stop Iran's nuclear development, Avigdor Lieberman has argued the case for inaction with equal conviction.

Basing his analysis on government intelligence and the reports of Russian businessmen who have visited the Islamic Republic, Mr Lieberman said the impact of international economic sanctions has stoked popular unrest in Iran to such a degree that by summer next year there will be an uprising comparable to that which unseated Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Crazy

"In my view, there's going to be an Iranian-style Tahrir revolution," Mr Lieberman said.

"If you held a referendum -- the nuclear programme or quality of life -- 70-80pc would choose the second option. It's not that they're opposed to the nuclear programme, but they aren't willing to pay these crazy prices," he added.

It is uncharacteristic for the foreign minister to play the part of peacenik, but on Iran, he has argued for sanctions over military action. Last Thursday, the same day Mr Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly, a report from Israel's foreign ministry was released concluding that sanctions on Iran are working, calling for another round.

In New York last week, Mr Lieberman urged UN delegates to support any Iranian popular uprising.

Referring to the wave of failed demonstrations in Tehran in 2009, Mr Lieberman warned: "Last time, the West didn't expect it and was confused. This time, it could lead to the fall of the regime. Israel must not interfere."

In an indication that Washington might be thinking along similar lines, the US State Department announced it was removing Mujahedin-e-Khalq -- an Iranian dissident group operating in exile from an Iraqi refugee camp -- from its terror list. The move provoked outrage in Tehran.

Reacting to Mr Lieberman's comments, a senior official within Mr Netanyahu's camp said: "All Israelis hope that a more moderate government will come to power in Iran. But it would be very dangerous to wait for regime change when the current regime is so brutal in its suppression of opposition.

"Iran's nuclear clock is ticking much faster than any popular efforts to bring about a democratic Iran," the official added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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