Are sanctions about to trigger an Iranian Spring?
Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman suggests that hardship could see the Islamic state's populace rise up
ECONOMIC sanctions against Iran have caused such hardship that the country could be just months away from becoming the latest Middle Eastern state to experience a popular uprising, according to the hardline Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.
"In my view, there's going to be an Iranian-style Tahrir revolution," Lieberman said. "If you held a referendum – the nuclear programme or quality of life – 70 to 80 per cent would choose the second option.
It's not that they're opposed to the nuclear programme, but they aren't willing to pay these crazy prices.
"The opposition demonstrations that took place in Iran in June 2009 will come back in even greater force," Lieberman said, according to The Daily Telegraph. "The situation in Iran and the feelings of the man on the street is one of economic catastrophe. There's a shortage of basic goods, a rise in crime, and people are trying to flee the country, sending money abroad."
Lieberman's judgment, drawn from intelligence briefings and reports by Russian businessmen who have recently visited Iran, was backed up by movements on the foreign exchange markets over the weekend.
The Guardian reported that the country's currency, the rial, slumped by five per cent on Saturday to reach an all-time low against the dollar.
Over the course of the last year the rial has now lost almost 60 per cent of its value which has caused price inflation on imported goods into Iran.
Israel's finance minister Yuval Steinitz backed up his cabinet colleague Lieberman, pointing out that the Islamic state's economy was "not collapsing, but is on the verge of collapse." With sanctions leading to a loss in oil revenue of up to $50bn, "the Iranians are in great economic difficulties," Steinitz concluded.
With the economic attack proving so successful, Israel is pushing the European Union to step up sanctions in a bid to topple Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without having to get involved in a potentially devastating regional war.
A foreign ministry official told the newspaper Haaretz: "There are indications that the average citizen is actually blaming the Iranian leadership for the situation and not the West, which has imposed the sanctions. Basic necessities like chicken, bread, meat and electricity have gone up sharply in price."
That Lieberman has championed the non-military option to preventing the Iranians developing their nuclear programme will raise some eyebrows. As The Week reported, the "hard-man" leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party once "publicly advocated bombing Tehran to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."