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Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, October 4, 2012

As thousands of Iranians stormed the streets of Tehran on Wednesday due to the economic problems in the sanction-hit country, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Israel has a deep interest in supporting those calling for a regime change in Iran. He further stated that Israel should encourage and put pressure on the international community to take action to aid the dissenters. The protests in this week are the most dramatic in Iran since the demonstrations that erupted after the 2009 presidential elections.

Lieberman told Israel Army Radio that what "we are seeing now is just the first buds,” of the Persian Spring, predicting that, “As we approach presidential elections in Iran, in June 2013, we will see much more of this."

Lieberman indicated that Western nations made a mistake in not taking actions to fan the flames enough during the 2009 protests, which could have encouraged regime change and halted Iran's nuclear drive.

Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic has written on October 2 " One of the prime missed opportunities of the Obama Administration came during the Iranian "Green Revolution" uprisings of 2009. The President could have advanced American moral and strategic interests by standing up more boldly for the young demonstrators protesting totalitarianism. But he was too passive in his approach"

“The best help Israel can offer is not to disrupt things by interfering. I don’t think we have a special status that forces us to lead initiatives, but we should definitely follow matters closely and encourage the UN Security Council, the EU, the world powers and others to take action,” Lieberman told Israel Army Radio. Lieberman spoke of the fact that this time in his view that the West must help the protest movement in Iran, facilitating its communications, giving money and mobilizing international organizations, and other bodies.

“I have no doubt the Iranian regime is approaching a critical moment. The only question is what will come first — the fruition of its nuclear program, or the Persian Spring. We must be prepared for both possibilities.”

Caspian Makan, an Iranian journalist, who escaped through the mountains of Afghanistan to Turkey before finding refuge in Canada, has sent the Winnipeg Jewish Review a video of thousands of protesters in Iran taken Wednesday October 3. Makan says that this video was uploaded onto the internet on October 4. Makan, whose fiancé, Neda was shot on the streets of Tehran in 2009 in an incident caught on the cell phone camera of a passerby, was tortured in an Iranian prison before coming to Canada. He says that the reason that the protesters seen in this video (below) are men is because the protests erupted in the business section of Tehran, where the merchants are men work, as a result of the drastic drop in the value of Iranian currency, the rial.

It should be noted that there have been reports of  videos on the internet, apparently uploaded by Iran’s underground and exiled opposition movement to exploit the moment for political advantage, that appear to be fake, blending clips from Wednesday with old footage from the antigovernment protests that followed the disputed election more than three years ago.

Lieberman revealed to Ha'retz that aside from intelligence reports and diplomatic cables, he receives periodic briefings from friends and acquaintances - businessmen and diplomats from the former Soviet Union - who travel regularly to Iran.

"The situation in Iran, and the feelings of the man on the street, is one of economic catastrophe," he said..... There's a shortage of basic goods, a rise in crime, and people are trying to flee the country, sending money abroad."
According to Lieberman, "Based on my conversations with people who visit Iran, if you held a referendum - the nuclear program or quality of life - 70 to 80 percent would choose the second option. It's not that they're opposed to the nuclear program, but they aren't willing to pay these crazy prices."

Makan told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the Iranian regime is trying to pin the blame for the economic problems on Ahmadinejad's poor economic management specifically, since he is at the end of his eight year term and cannot run again. They do not want the Iranian people to believe that the economic woes are just related to sanctions, but rather to Ahmadinejad's inept mismanagement.

Makan, who said he is in contact with Iranian dissidents, suggests that the regime has raised the price of chicken because "90% of chickens are domestically produced" such that the Iranian people will blame Ahmadinejad and not the whole Islamic regime and it's nuclear drive which has led to biting sanctions.

AFP has reported that "The crisis has fuelled intense factional in-fighting in Iran, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad deflecting blame onto the sanctions and hardline rival camps....His detractors in return pointed fingers at Iran’s monetary policies, which discourage bank deposits and fail to reverse sky-high inflation and unemployment. "

Analysts have also emphasized that, even if protests continue, the resolve of the Iranian government to stay in power cannot be underestimated. As Jonathon Tobin in Commentary writes - :
"If a shaky government like that of Syria, whose power base is a minority group, can persist, how much more solid is that of its Iranian ally, which can still count on the backing of the religious establishment as well as the military. There are things that can be done to heighten the Islamists’ problems in Iran. Sanctions must be increased and more stringently enforced. After all, though ordinary Iranians are suffering, the amount of oil income flowing into the country is still enough to support the needs of the government, the military and the nuclear program.

Just as important would be the demonstration of Western resolve that has been lacking in recent years. In 2009, President Obama’s relative silence about the violence in Tehran discouraged protesters and assured the ayatollahs that they had nothing to fear from the United States. That set the stage for the last three years of failed diplomacy because Iran’s leaders have never believed that the president meant what he said about preventing them from going nuclear.

If Washington continues to soft pedal its Iran policy and places its hopes on domestic unrest producing a change in policy, the only result will be to perpetuate the current stalemate. Like Assad, the ayatollahs have no plans to give up power."

For  a good analysis on how  the unrest in Tehran may make a military strike on Iran by Israel more unlikely see the Wall Street Journal's "Israel Alters Calculus on Iran " "

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.