natan sharansky 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left for Russia yesterday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and other officials, former Soviet prisoner of Zion and current Likud MK Natan Sharansky offered the prime minister what might be his last piece of advice as an opposition politician: Be straight with Putin about Iran's nuclear plans. The future of the world may depend on it.
Sharansky, who this week announced his retirement from politics to join the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based strategic think tank, was asked by The Jerusalem Post in his parliamentary office what Olmert should tell Putin when the two men meet in Moscow today.
He took a minute to consider the question, sitting behind his desk with his arms behind his back, glancing briefly at two self-parodying items hanging on his wall - a satirical face mask from Hartzufim and an Economist cartoon of himself with one of his biggest fans, President Bush - and then spoke, quietly and seriously, in English:
"He has to say we have had a long dialogue with the Russians about the dangers of leakage of Russian technology to Iran.
"You, President Putin, happened to be right when you said that it's not only Russian technologies but in fact more advanced Western technologies which are helping to produce missiles. You agreed, then, that it was a danger. Today everyone understands what the danger is to the free world, not only to Israel. They have a leader like Hitler who doesn't mask his intentions.
"We understand and respect your desire to see Russia as one of the leaders of the world. As one who is concerned about the future of the world and the position of Russia, you have to be part of that front.
"In the past it meant not losing Iranian markets. But now it's a critical moment. Everybody else in the world - the US, France, Holland, Germany and England - all understand the importance of a united stand. It's very important for freedom in the world."
He went on to say that Israel had to be "frank, open and uncompromising" with Moscow:
"We should make it very clear that it is extremely dangerous for us and we cannot keep on having good relations while [Russia] has this clear policy of open support for our enemies who want to destroy us," he said.
Sharansky, who has met several times with Putin, said the Russian president "understands better than all his predecessors how the West works. He understands that to bring back Russia to the status of a superpower he has to be not in confrontation with the West but [rather] in cooperation, and definitely Israel and the Jews have to be part of this alliance and cooperation."
Sharansky suggested that, if Russia really wanted to be a meaningful member of the Quartet and contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East, then it must stop arms sales not only to Iran but also to Syria, which according to Israeli intelligence passes on the weapons to terrorist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas.
After this summer's war in Lebanon, an Israeli delegation dispatched to Moscow complained that Russian anti-tank weapons delivered to Syria and Iran had been used by Hizbullah against Israel and could have reached Gaza as well.
In response, Moscow removed a senior official in charge of arms exports and, last week, perhaps in a gesture ahead of Olmert's trip, it published a more stringent set of rules governing its arms sales.
Olmert declared at the opening of the Knesset winter session on Monday that "Iran is deceiving the international community. It is dragging its feet and trying to buy time to complete its dangerous nuclear program. The Iranian threat is an existential threat to Israel; it is an existential threat to world peace."
The prime minister has indicated that the Iranian nuclear program will be the focus of his talks with Putin. Russia provided engineers and helped build Iran's nuclear reactor in Bushehr, and has been reticent to back international sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
Israel and the US are also worried about a Russian contract to sell Tor-M1 anti-aircraft systems to Iran. Russia has defended the deal, saying they are meant to be used only in self-defense.
Sharansky, when asked what role the US should or will have in all this, smiled and, preempting a further question, said, "No, Bush didn't tell me he would attack Iran." Pushed to elaborate nonetheless, he said: "I agree with [Sen. John] McCain, who said it would be terrible to attack Iran but worse for the Iranians to obtain nuclear weapons. Everything needs to be done to prevent them from obtaining weapons."