Spartacist Canada No. 171
U.S., Israel, Canada:
Hands Off Iran!
Down With Imperialist Sanctions!
The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard No. 991 (25 November), newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S.
The Obama administration’s November 21 announcement of a sharp escalation of economic sanctions against Iran is the latest in a series of belligerent moves by the U.S. imperialists and their Israeli junior partners. For its part, the Harper government in Ottawa had already called for intensifying sanctions against Iran, declaring on November 18: “The question is not if, but rather the degree to which, we will act.” True to form, the social-democratic NDP quickly hailed the sanctions as “very important,” calling to “cut the financing mechanism” for Iran’s nuclear development program.
The stated purpose of these moves is to stop Iran’s purported attempts to develop nuclear weapons, which the Iranian government has always denied. Taking aim at Iran’s central bank and petroleum industry, the sanctions aim at making the country’s economy scream, threatening to further pummel working people who are already suffering from rampant inflation, widespread unemployment and mounting shortages. Ottawa’s push to tighten the imperialist economic stranglehold on Iran is also part of an increasing effort by the Canadian rulers to project a hardline pro-Zionist profile on the world stage.
Last year, the Iranian government responded to prior sanctions, which had cut almost 2 percent off the annual growth of Iran’s GDP, by taking an ax to government subsidies of fuel and other essential goods. The price of bread quickly tripled, while gasoline prices shot up fourfold. Now, Washington targets the Iranian Central Bank (ICB) as a “money laundering concern,” while Britain announces it will deny Iran access to the financial hub in London. The imperialists aim to further restrict the ability of countries to pay for Iranian oil and gas, the source of 75 percent of that government’s revenue.
The latest sanctions come two weeks after a November 8 report by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran. In 2007, the IAEA stated that Iran had dismantled efforts to build an atomic bomb four years earlier. Now, contradicting that conclusion, the same agency coyly speaks of “indications” that “some activities” related to nuclear weapons may have continued after 2003 and “may still be ongoing.”
On November 18, just hours after the IAEA in Vienna adopted a resolution condemning Iran for its alleged nuclear program, the UN General Assembly in New York voted overwhelmingly to demand that Iran cooperate with an investigation into the crackpot story that Tehran had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. The bizarro accusation peddled by Washington is that Iran, using a flaky Iranian American used-car salesman as its agent, tried to hire hitmen from a Mexican drug cartel. (His “contact” turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.) The Iranian government cogently compared this fiction to the George W. Bush administration’s concoction of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” as a pretext to launch the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The UN resolution exemplifies the role of that body as a fig leaf for the pursuit by the imperialists—centrally the U.S.—of their great-power interests, including through naked aggression against semicolonial countries.
The escalating sanctions come as Israeli officials have been whipping up war hysteria and threatening to launch air strikes against suspected nuclear research sites in Iran. Determined to maintain its monopoly on nukes in the Near East, Israel conducted air strikes against Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. The stakes are much higher in any attack on Iran, which is a significant and historic power in the region.
The news that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu had discussed striking Iran was broken earlier this year by Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. In May, Dagan had told the press that a military strike aimed at taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities was “the stupidest thing I ever heard,” and would threaten to push Israel into a “regional war that it would not know how to get out of” (Haaretz, 1 June). Under Dagan, who has plenty of blood on his own hands, Israel tried to thwart Iran’s nuclear program by injecting the Stuxnet computer virus into Iran’s centrifuge system, which enriches uranium, and by carrying out assassinations of scientists as well as a senior commander of Iran’s missile development program.
U.S. president Barack Obama, for his part, has repeatedly rattled his sabre at Iran, declaring that he would keep “all options,” including the threat of military attack, “on the table.” Washington recently announced that next year U.S. and Israeli military forces will carry out their largest-ever joint exercises, “simulating the ballistic missile defense of Israel.” Imperialist sanctions and military “options” go hand in hand. Recall that the 2003 war against Iraq, which led to the death of upward of a million Iraqis and unleashed communalist slaughter on a mass scale, was prepared by UN sanctions imposed 13 years earlier that killed 1.5 million people.
The misinformation offensive over Iran’s nuclear program was powerfully exposed by journalist Seymour Hersh in “Iran and the Bomb: How Real Is the Nuclear Threat?” (New Yorker website, 6 June). Hersh recalled that the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a summary of the views of senior officers from all major U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded “with high confidence” that Iran had stopped working toward a nuclear weapon in 2003. Hersh wrote that the original draft of this year’s NIE update, later changed under pressure from the Obama White House, stated that Iran’s supposed earlier nuclear weapons research targeted not Israel or West Europe but Iran’s longtime nemesis Iraq, which Iranian leaders thought at the time was trying to develop nukes. Hersh explained: “The Iranian nuclear-weapons program evidently came to an end following the American-led invasion of Iraq, in early 2003, and the futile hunt for the Iraqi W.M.D. arsenal.”
Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes. In fact, in the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail and with continuing military threats, it is entirely rational and necessary for Iran to pursue getting nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter attack. As the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a major think tank for the U.S. ruling class, admits, nuclear weapons “offer a deterrent capability: unlike Saddam’s Iraq, a nuclear Iran would not be invaded, and its leaders would not be deposed” (“After Iran Gets the Bomb: Containment and Its Complications,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010).
U.S. Imperialist Terrorists
In the event of any military attack by the U.S. or by Israel on Iran, working people and the oppressed internationally must not be neutral but must take a clear side with Iran. As Marxists, we do not give an iota of political support to the reactionary Islamic regime in Iran. But it is the nuclear-armed U.S. imperialists who are the main enemy of the world’s working people and oppressed.
It was the U.S. that incinerated some 200,000 Japanese people in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, an unprecedented atrocity which was immediately hailed by Canada’s bourgeois rulers. The U.S. ruling class that is today threatening Iran is the same obscenely rich capitalist class that gorges itself on profits while busting unions, throwing millions out of work, slashing social services, destroying health care and stealing pensions—attacks that hit particularly hard at the black masses segregated at the bottom of society. In opposing the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and other imperialist adventures, we raise the call for class struggle at home, promoting the understanding of the need to mobilize the proletariat to sweep away the murderous imperialist order through socialist revolution. We demand: All U.S./Canadian/NATO forces get out of Afghanistan now!
Although the Obama administration is seeking—at least for now—to rein in Israel and head off an immediate military attack on Iran, support for such an action has been growing within U.S. ruling circles, and not only in Wall Street Journal editorials and the speeches of Zionist neocons. A sign of the broader “bomb Iran” sentiment was an exchange between strategists for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), which includes former officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations, and others from the Council on Foreign Relations.
CFR spokesmen argued in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2010) that, in the event Iran succeeded in developing nukes, the U.S. should threaten to attack with any means, “including nuclear weapons,” if Tehran crossed certain “redlines,” such as “initiation of conventional warfare against other countries” or “stepped-up support for terrorist or subversive activities.” Initially, the CSBA authors argued a more restrained line of keeping up the current policy of sanctions and military pressure (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011). Yet one day after the November 8 IAEA report, the same CSBA authors posted a statement online titled: “Why Obama Should Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Case for Striking Before It’s Too Late.”
It takes some chutzpah for the U.S. rulers, echoed by imperialist Britain and France, to rail against Iran possibly acquiring nuclear weapons. The U.S. capitalists possess enough nuclear firepower to destroy humanity many times over. The atomic bombing of Japan, which was ultimately meant as a warning to the Soviet Union, epitomized the role of the U.S. rulers as the greatest menace to the workers and oppressed the world has known. That act of imperialist barbarism has been followed by a long line of wars and military operations, from Korea and Vietnam—where the U.S. failed to reverse social revolutions—to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya more recently. The destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state by capitalist counterrevolution two decades ago removed what had been the chief military and diplomatic obstacle to the imperialists’ pursuit of their global ambitions.
The U.S. funnels billions in aid every year to Zionist Israel, whose existence is predicated on the displacement and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. The Zionist rulers have transformed Gaza into a concentration camp for Palestinians, surrounded by an electric fence, a wall and the Mediterranean, while forcibly ghettoizing the West Bank Palestinians as well. Surrounded by Arab populations, Israel’s rulers consider themselves to be in a permanent state of war and have repeatedly shown their willingness to use military force.
Israel got its start as a nuclear-armed power with the aid of France, which in 1958 built the reactor for the Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev desert. The U.S. subsequently provided support for Israel’s nuclear program while shielding it from international scrutiny, helping to maintain a veil over the extent of Israel’s stockpile of nukes. In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona, pulled back the veil, revealing that Israel had acquired an arsenal of some 200 nuclear warheads. For his heroic exposure of the scope and scale of Tel Aviv’s doomsday machine, which targeted the USSR as well as nations in the Near East, Vanunu was convicted of treason and sentenced to 18 years in prison, eleven of those spent in solitary confinement. Forbidden to leave Israel since his release in 2004, Vanunu was twice again arrested and imprisoned. The vindictive Zionist rulers want him forever silenced, but the working class internationally will be forever in Vanunu’s debt.
Mounting Pressure Against China
Increasing belligerence toward Iran comes as the U.S. is preparing to withdraw almost all of its troops from Iraq and draw down its forces in Afghanistan, while strengthening its position elsewhere in the region. The U.S. is reportedly planning to beef up its military contingent in Kuwait, while reinforcing its naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration is also looking to negotiate a stronger military alliance with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Turkey have announced the placement of an American anti-missile radar system on Turkish territory, 435 miles from Iran, by the end of the year.
Chief among U.S. rulers’ concerns in redirecting their forces is pursuing the military encirclement of China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining bureaucratically deformed workers states. In the name of fighting “terrorism,” the U.S. has in the past decade enhanced its military presence in the Philippines and resumed open military relations with Indonesia, in addition to establishing bases in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Washington has also strengthened military ties with the Japanese imperialists and continues to buttress capitalist Taiwan. Last week, Commander-in-Chief Obama announced plans to deploy 2,500 marines to Darwin in northern Australia as a move to counter China.
Capitalism was overthrown in China by the 1949 Revolution. Today, despite major inroads by both foreign and indigenous capitalists, the core elements of China’s economy remain collectivized. Ultimately, the imperialists aim to restore capitalist rule in China, and for this they have a multipronged strategy: capitalist economic penetration combined with military pressure and support to domestic counterrevolutionaries, such as the “Free Tibet” movement. It is vital for the international proletariat to stand for the unconditional military defense of China and the other deformed workers states—Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos—against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. Thus, we support the testing and development of nukes and delivery systems by North Korea and China.
China is highly dependent on the flow of Iranian oil—in 2009, Iran ranked as China’s second largest oil provider. Despite this fact, the Stalinist regime in Beijing supported all four previous rounds of UN sanctions directed against Iran, a measure of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s futile strivings for “peaceful coexistence” with the imperialists. In the interest of its economic relationship with the U.S., the Beijing bureaucracy has also embraced the imperialists’ “war on terror.” Through its appeasement of imperialism and opposition to the program of world socialist revolution, the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy undermines the defense of the workers state. It is necessary for the Chinese proletariat to carry out a political revolution to oust the Stalinist misrulers and establish a regime based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.
Anti-Imperialism Abroad Means
Class Struggle at Home
The working people of Iran have a long history of subjugation by the imperialists and bloody suppression by their “own” rulers. In 1953, after the modernizing nationalist regime of Mohammad Mossadeq tried to nationalize Iran’s oil fields, the CIA staged a coup, installing Shah Pahlevi and propping up his savage rule for 25 years. In 1979, in a “revolution” hailed by almost the entire left internationally, the Islamic hierarchy under Ayatollah Khomeini seized power, going on to crush struggles by workers, women and oppressed national minorities. Women were segregated from society under sharia law and forced to don the sweltering head-to-toe veil; workers organizations were smashed; leftists were jailed and executed. Uniquely, our organization, then known as the international Spartacist tendency, championed the proletariat’s class interests against the forces of Islamic reaction. Our battle cry was: “Down With the Shah! Don’t Bow to Khomeini! For Workers Revolution in Iran!”
Today, Iran is again a cauldron of discontent, with the working people, youth and women suffering privation and chafing under the mullahs’ rule. The multinational Iranian working class, leading all the oppressed behind it, must overthrow the Persian-chauvinist, clericalist regime. Key to this perspective is the forging of a Leninist workers party in Iran. Such parties must be built throughout the Near East in struggle against all forms of fundamentalism and nationalism. In Egypt, where there has been a new outburst of mass opposition to military rule, the working class must emerge as a contender for power in its own right, against both the army and the powerful, reactionary forces of political Islam. In Israel, where recent popular struggles against economic privation have helped reveal the class divisions that define that society, Zionism continues to chain the overwhelmingly Jewish proletariat to its class enemy (see “U.S./Israel Tighten Screws on Palestinians,” WV No. 988, 14 October).
The International Communist League fights for a socialist federation of the Near East, necessarily linked to the struggle to sweep away the rapacious imperialist rulers in the U.S. and elsewhere through workers revolutions. Imperialist subjugation, military occupations and war are endemic to capitalism in its death agony, and can only be fought through a struggle against the entire system of exploitation and oppression. The Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste is committed to building a multiracial workers party that breaks the political chains tying the working class to its “own” exploiters, particularly via the labour bureaucracy and the pro-capitalist NDP. Such a party is the necessary instrument to lead the struggle for workers power to victory.