Iran: brinkmanship or war?

On 2 February 2006, the Board of the International Atomic Energy Commission, under heavy pressure from US imperialism, finally “referred” Iran to the Security Council of the United Nations, due to meet on 6 March.

From the day that the Iranian people overthrew the regime of US imperialism’s most beloved puppet, the Shah, the US has maintained a stand of unrelenting aggressive hostility towards the Iranian regime, even through the past decade in which Iranian foreign policy has been characterised by a policy of appeasement towards western imperialism – even to the shameful extent of stopping Iraq from exporting half a million barrels of oil a day in breach of sanctions in 1999, backing the US war against Afghanistan in 2001, and encouraging some Shia groups in Iraq to support the US invasion in 2003. None of this prevented the US from designating Iran a part of the ‘axis of evil’, that is to say, a country where the US proclaimed itself to have the right to use ‘pre-emptive strikes’ to bring about regime change, the purpose being to leave Iran unarmed at the time US imperialism decided it was time to impose its will by force. This is why throughout every attempt at appeasement on the Iranian side, the US has been raising a hue and cry about Iranian ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as a pretext for denying Iran the right to have any nuclear industry at all, civil or military. As a matter of fact, as part of the policy of appeasement, the Iranian government even signed up voluntarily to a Protocol under which it agreed not to enrich uranium and to allow unannounced surprise inspections of its nuclear facilities when the existence of such facilities was exposed by a dissident group. But in spite of this, and in spite of the fact that the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) inspectors have never found anything the US would not like – and presumably neither have all the various US spy satellites, since the evidence would have been presented if it had existed – the US never gave up crying wolf.

With the election of Ahmadinejad as the new President of Iran, however, the Iranian policy of appeasement has come firmly to a close. The national aspirations of the Iranian people have come to the fore once more, and these are aspirations that can only be met at the expense of imperialism. The signs are that in Ahmadenejad the Iranian people have elected a president who is going to be prepared to lead them in a fight for their rights, and in particular in a struggle to ensure that Iran’s massive oil profits are used for the development of the Iranian economy and the wellbeing of the masses of the Iranian people, rather than for the enrichment of imperialist multinational companies. Aware, however, that such ambitions make his regime very evil indeed in the eyes of the imperialist governments whose function is to further the interests of their multinationals in every possible way, Ahmadinejad has no choice but to look to his defences.

From the moment of his election he made it clear that Iran was going to restart its nuclear programme, as is its perfect right in international law to do. There is a lot of talk about whether the Iranian nuclear programme is for “peaceful” purposes or not, but it has to be accepted that the only way the country is going to be able to protect itself from US imperialist invasion for the purposes of “regime change” is by means of a nuclear deterrent. With Israel, Pakistan and India all having their own nuclear industries, there is no reason in law why Iran should not have one also. In terms of practical necessity, Iran’s future as an independent state depends on its having such an industry. However ‘military’ its purposes, they will be purely peaceful, as Iran will never be in a position to launch nuclear aggression against any other country and survive. It needs nuclear weaponry purely to prevent aggression being launched against it as it tries to build up its independent economy. It needs its nuclear weaponry for the purely peaceful purpose of maintaining peace. It has escaped nobody’s attention that the main reason why Iraq is an occupied country today, subjected to unbridled imperialist looting at the expense of the masses of people, is precisely because Saddam Hussein did not have the WMD it was alleged he did have. He had allowed weapons inspectors to supervise the dismantling of all his defences, and when they were all gone, then US imperialism and its allies invaded. The Iranian mullahs hardly need divine intervention to enable them to understand this very clear lesson.

Response of Iranian regime

Having very carefully weighed up the situation in the world today, Ahmadinejad has dismissed the likelihood of the referral to the UN Security Council causing any serious problems for Iran. “Our enemies cannot do a damn thing. We do not need you at all. But you are in need of the Iranian nation”, he is said to have responded to the news of the referral. In fact, he took advantage of the situation to advance the Iranian position by

” *stopping IAEA inspectors from carrying out surprise inspections of Iranian nuclear sites …

” *scrapping a voluntary agreement reached in 2003 that included not only surprise inspections but a suspension of uranium enrichment, a step towards attaining a nuclear weapons capability.

” * Initiating a bill in the Iranian parliament to restrict the sale of American goods in Iran” (Guardian, 6 February 2006, ‘Iran taunts west on security council move’).

Ahmadinejad is quite right. Conditions are as favourable at the moment for standing up to imperialism as they will ever be as a result of the heroic struggles being maintained in Iraq especially but also Afghanistan against the imperialist invasion forces. The imperialist forces are too overstretched to make the invasion of Iran for the purposes of regime change a wise choice from the imperialist point of view. Furthermore, strife in the region has diminished world oil supplies, and any measures taken against Iran could only make matters worse, leading to even greater increases in fuel prices, which could prove catastrophic for imperialist industry’s competitivity. The “world” needs Iran’s oil, as a result of which, the Security Council would not even be able to impose sanctions on Iran without shooting its imperialist supplicants in the foot.

It can even be said that if the Security Council does go ahead to impose further sanctions on Iran – and Iran is very, very accustomed to sanctions, as well as to getting round them – this could actually benefit Iran in a number of ways. Firstly, it could hasten its programme for developing economic independence forcing it to create its own industries rather than continue to rely on those owned by its enemies. For instance, it is unbelievable but true that Iran, which is one of the world’s major oil producers, actually imports 40% of its vehicle fuel – why? Because it doesn’t have enough of its own refining capacity. It would not at all be a bad thing if Iran were forced to correct that situation sooner rather than later, for example.

Secondly, the sanctions would force Iran to use all the not inconsiderable influence at its disposal to heal the Sunni/Shia rift which imperialism has been gaily exploiting for the purpose of maintaining its control over middle eastern oil resources. It is good to see that, even without the Security Council having met to discuss sanctions, Shia clerics in Iraq close to the Iranians are struggling hard to maintain Sunni/Shia anti-imperialist unity in Iraq following the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra on 22 February – which triggered some hysterical and bloody communalist responses, but bears all the hallmarks of the imperialist dirty tricks brigade – starting with the fact that the site in question is holy to Shias and Sunnis alike, so it was highly unlikely to have been torched by Sunnis as has been claimed. When all Muslims make common cause against imperialism, the latter’s domination can hardly survive.

War still possible

Even though it would be an extremely foolish move on the part of US imperialism to try to wage war on Iran at the present time, the possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand. It is a war that imperialism would ignominiously lose, but at the cost of millions of lives and livelihoods. In its thirst for profits, imperialism’s decisions are not always sane. There is a worrying amount of anti-Muslim hysteria going round in the media designed to present Middle Eastern people as subhuman – for instance the famous ‘anti-Islamic cartoons’ which appeared in Denmark, whose real function is to present middle eastern people as uncultured thugs – the kind of propaganda which helps to ‘legitimise’ war. There may be the temptation to try to do to Iran what was done to Iraq, namely, to bomb it to smithereens and then subject it to years of sanctions to ensure its complete defencelessness before moving in for the kill. This strategy would in the end be as fruitless in the case of Iran as it is proving in the case of Iraq, but even more millions of innocents will have to suffer and to die if this is what is to be tried.

The British working class must defend the right of all people, whatever their religious affiliations and beliefs, and whatever their nationality, to build their own independent economies, to provide work and livelihoods for their people. There is sometimes a temptation to identify with the imperialists because of shared skin colour and cultural affinity. However, the fact that they might look like us and go to Church for their births, deaths and marriages, by no means prevents them being evil murderers. The loyalties of working people must always be to other working people, wherever they might live in the world, not to the evil rich.

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