Israel, U.S. increase the pressure on Iran

Report: Israel and the United States formed a joint working group focusing on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran.

Ben Ariel,

Iran
Iran
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Israel and the United States formed a joint working group a few months ago that is focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and pressure the country's government, Channel 10 News reported on Tuesday.

Two Israeli officials told the television network the team was formed as a part of the U.S.-Israeli framework document on countering Iran.

The officials added the team has already met several times during the last few months.

The move is a major example of the Trump administration's policy shift in the region, noted Channel 10 News, as the Obama administration almost completely refused to discuss any potential efforts for stirring unrest or encouraging protest inside Iran with Israel due to its efforts to complete the Iran nuclear deal.

According to the report, both the domestic situation in Iran and the work of the joint team were discussed during a meeting between national security adviser John Bolton and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat at the White House several weeks ago. Both Bolton and Ben-Shabbat think that raising internal pressure on the Iranian regime might have a positive influence on Iranian regional behavior.

"Nobody is seriously thinking about regime change, but this team is trying to see if we can use the internal weaknesses of the Iranian regime in order to create more pressure that will contribute to changing Iranian behavior," said an Israeli official.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office declined to comment. A spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House said in response, "We don’t confirm or provide details of internal deliberations."

The report comes as unrest in Iran continues it faces economic woes in the wake of the United States pulling out of the 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers that had lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs on the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

Iran's currency has plunged almost 50 percent in value in the past six months against the U.S. dollar and inflation is on the rise.

Traders in Tehran's Grand Bazaar held a rare strike last week against the collapse of the rial. On Saturday, there was a protest in the southwestern city of Khorramshahr.

Iran also suffered from anti-government protests last January. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed at the time that "Iran's enemies have been encouraging the demonstrations in the country in recent days with money, weapons and intelligence agents."

Channel 10 News noted that, in the last few weeks, both Israel and the U.S. started using social media to convey anti-regime messages to the Iranian people. Netanyahu has recently posted four different videos on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — translated to Farsi — in which he speaks to the Iranian people and encourages them to protest against the regime.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote a series of tweets supporting the protesters in Iran, criticizing mass arrests of protesters by the Iranian regime and highlighting the regime's growing funding of the Revolutionary Guards Corps as controversy build over Iran's domestic spending.








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