Barak forcing Iran expert Lubrani out

Senior officials tell 'Post' that power struggles between Mossad, Defense Ministry lead to decision.

ehud barak happy 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
ehud barak happy 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
After a career spanning half a century, longtime Defense Ministry official and Iran expert Uri Lubrani appears to be on his way into forced retirement over power struggles with the Mossad. Lubrani, 81, has served in a wide range of positions since joining the government in the 1950s. He was Israel's ambassador to Uganda and Iran and was the coordinator of government activities in Lebanon during Israel's 18-year presence in the security zone. Senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that power struggles between the Defense Ministry and the Mossad have led to a decision by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to close down Lubrani's office, which includes him and several assistants. One assistant, I. - a former department chief in the Mossad - was informed last week that his contract would not be extended. The officials said that Lubrani would likely leave his office by the end of the summer. "At a time when Israel is working to stop Iran's nuclear program it is unfortunate that Lubrani is being forced out," explained one close associate. "He is one of the country's foremost experts on Iran and is one of the only people who warned about what was happening in Iran before the nuclear program picked up steam." Lubrani, who has been a longtime proponent of investing in Iranian dissident groups and regime change, apparently angered the Mossad by dealing with matters over which the spy agency felt it had exclusivity. After receiving complaints from the Mossad, Barak appointed his chief of staff Brig.-Gen. Mike Herzog earlier this year to evaluate Lubrani's importance. Herzog, officials said, recommended closing Lubrani's office and Barak is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks. Barak's office released a statement saying that "Lubrani would continue to serve as an adviser to the defense minister, and that positions in his unit would undergo review in light of the geo-strategic changes in the region." In addition to maintaining contacts with Iranian dissidents, Lubrani was also one of the key supporters of Israel Radio's Persian Service, which could be closed if the Prime Minister's Office does not transfer NIS 1 million to Bezeq for a new antenna in the coming weeks. The radio service is Israel's only line of communication with the Iranian people. Its broadcaster is Menashe Amir, one of Israel's leading experts on Iran. "Israeli policy is not to speak to Iran, but it is important to speak to the people so they can get a different understanding of events that are happening in the world," one government official familiar with the service's possible closure said. "This is a funding issue that if not solved will cut off Israel's conduit to the Iranian people," the official said. The radio broadcasts are transmitted to Los Angeles, where they are then diverted to Iran. They are believed to have been listened to by millions of Iranians daily for almost 50 years.