JERUSALEM — The pro-democracy uprisings sweeping through the Arab world are in danger of being manipulated by Iran's Islamic Republic, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu warned in an interview with AFP.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with AFP at the weekend, the Israeli premier said the unprecedented protests sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa could go one of two ways.
"What we hope to see is the European Spring of 1989," he said, referring to the year which marked a turning point for the wave of revolutions sweeping through the Eastern Bloc which led to the break-up of the Soviet Union two years later.
But Tehran, he warned, was trying to cash in on the tide of mass uprising sweeping the region to turn it to its advantage in a bid to repeat the events of 1979 and the Islamic Revolution.
"We could find that the Arab Spring turns into an Iranian winter," he warned.
Since the start of the unprecedented popular protests in January, which first saw millions take to the streets of Tunisia and Egypt in a movement which has then swept through the region, Israel has been raising the spectre of an Iranian-style theocracy moving in to take over.
"In a time of chaos, an organised Islamic group can take over the state. It happened in Iran and it also happened in other places," the Israeli premier said in February.
In Iran, mass protests against the Western-backed Shah erupted in January 1978 and he was forced out a year later, leaving a power vacuum that was grasped by the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who returned to set up the Islamic Republic.
Since then, the Iranian regime has become Israel's most virulent enemy, with its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly predicting the demise of the Jewish state.
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