Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Israel has a deep interest in supporting those calling for a regime change in Iran and should press the international community to aid dissenters. Liberman made the comment a day after protesters clashed with police in the streets of Tehran over increasing economic hardships and the steep drop in the country’s currency value.
“The Foreign Ministry has long pointed out that we are on the way from the Arab Spring to the Persian Spring. What we are seeing now is just the first buds,” said Liberman in an interview with Army Radio. “As we approach presidential elections in Iran, in June 2013, we will see much more of this.”
Liberman said that the West made a mistake when it didn’t take a more active role in supporting the reformist protesters during the last elections in 2009 and that the international community must be prepared to assist with money and institutions.
When asked by the interviewer whether US President Barack Obama had made a mistake by not fanning the flames enough during the 2009 protests and subsequently perhaps cutting off Iran’s nuclear rush, Liberman said the mistake was not Obama’s but that of all Western nations.
Addressing Israel’s role vis-a-vis the popular protests in Iran, Liberman said, “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.”
“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.”
Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran on Wednesday as public anger over economic problems in the sanction-hit country erupted violently. The protests were the most dramatic in Iran since bitter demonstrations erupted after the 2009 presidential elections: Approximately 150 people were arrested.
TV footage showed the protesters shouting slogans of “Death to the corrupt regime” and “Get out of Syria, and start taking care of us” — a reference to Iranian involvement in helping President Bashar Assad repel the Syrian-rebel efforts to oust his regime.
Police reportedly used tear gas to disperse about 100 people who had gathered outside the capital’s central bank and were chanting anti-government slogans.
Washington on Monday pointed to the drop in the rial’s value as proof that sanctions on the country were working.
The West has leveled restrictions, described by the US State Department as “punishing,” against Iran’s oil and banking sectors in a bid to halt the country’s nuclear program.
The rial’s sharp decline is attributed to a combination of Western sanctions and government policies — such as fueling inflation by increasing the money supply, while also holding down bank interest rates. That prompted many people to withdraw their rials to exchange for foreign currency over the past months.
On Tuesday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters that the country would overcome the sanctions, but that restrictions on the banking industry were taking a toll.