Iranian opposition gathering_311 Reuters.
(photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)
Uri Lubrani, who has advised Israel’s leaders on Arab affairs for decades and is currently on the staff of Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon, is urging US President Barack Obama to issue a clear public demand for freedom and democracy in Iran, and to pledge to support by all legal means the efforts by the Iranian people to achieve it.
The US has “to come out publicly,” Lubrani declared in an interview in Friday’s Jerusalem Post. “That would electrify the Iranians,” he added. “And we need a decision to the same effect in both houses of Congress.”
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What was needed beyond the public support from the West, he added, “is strike action. The economic situation in Iran is catastrophic. You have to ensure that it gets worse. What does that entail? Closing down their capacity to sell oil. And the US can help considerably in this matter if it wants to, by placing sanctions on companies that deal in Iranian oil. And then you need to encourage strike action, to bring the country to a standstill.”
Lubrani, who headed Israel’s mission in Tehran in the mid-1970s and warned the US and Israel ahead of the shah’s demise, added that “you must also bring about a situation in which the army – the most neutral organization – will be prepared to do something. The army has a long score to settle with the regime.”
All of this, however, he said, required the US to change tack. So far, the Americans have been giving the impression that they hope to engage with the regime on the nuclear issue, he said. “It’s either self-delusion or an effort to sweep it all under the carpet. From the moment that Obama entered the White House, the Iranians have been having a ball with the engagement approach. There’s not a chance in the world that they’ll halt their uranium enrichment.”
As things stand, Lubrani’s assessment is that the current wave of protests in the region will not threaten the regime in Tehran. “You have to take into account that the regime had prepared for the possibility of a public challenge for a long time,” he said, since the furor surrounding the fraudulent elections in June 2009. “It took every possible step in advance to ensure that there would not be problems this time.”
“Despite this,” Lubrani went on, “despite the fact that they’ve hanged 80 or 90 people in the last two or three months to terrify and deter; that they’ve arrested and tortured and sent people into exile to prevent any organized protest, still people ran in the streets. These kids are heroic. To protest in the street is to court death, and yet they run. But it wasn’t enough.”
Asked whether the US had again missed the opportunity, Lubrani was adamant: “No. It’s never too late. It’s not too late to say, ‘We share the sorrow and the pain borne by the Iranian people because of the regime’s abuse of it, and we’ll do everything to ensure there is no recurrence.’”
Queried as to why Israel couldn’t get the message to the US to stop engagement and support an Iranian push for freedom, Lubrani replied: “Our relations with the US are not so good these days. You would certainly know better than me. They have to reach the final conclusion that engagement won’t work.”
Broadly speaking, Lubrani predicted that the current turmoil in the region would ultimately lead to “a considerable weakening of what we call the moderate regimes of the Middle East. It will also lead to a weakening of American influence.”
Looking specifically at Egypt, he did not anticipate the Muslim Brotherhood taking control. “The average Egyptian does not see himself defined as a Muslim Brother,” he said.
But regarding Israeli-Egyptian ties, he predicted, “It will certainly be harder for us with a new regime in Egypt. Those days when our negotiations were with a single ruler are over. We’ll need to find ways to build a network of relations based on give and take. We’ll need to give it a lot of thought.”
Lubrani said the Iranians regarded what was unfolding in the region as
“an opportunity” to widen their sphere of control. Highlighting the
Tehran regime’s patience, he noted that Ayatollah Khomeini had urged his
successors in his will to “export the revolution.” Gradually, over 30
years, the regime had now taken control over Lebanon.
“And the same will happen with Syria,” he predicted. “Syria will become a surrogate. It’s unfolding there already.”