Workers Vanguard No. 1000
13 April 2012
U.S. Imperialists Hands Off the World!
Down With Starvation Sanctions Against Iran!
APRIL 9—Further ratcheting up imperialist pressures against Iran, the U.S. and its European Union allies are preparing to issue an ultimatum that Tehran immediately close the recently completed Fordo nuclear facility, which is deep underground, and stop further enrichment of uranium. The demands of the Western powers, which claim that Iran is a few steps from developing weapons-grade uranium, are to be delivered at a meeting scheduled to begin later this week in Istanbul. As reported in the New York Times (7 April), President Obama calls this “Iran’s ‘last chance’ to resolve its nuclear confrontation with the United Nations and the West diplomatically.” Obama had already invoked the prospect of war to get Iran to bow to the imperialist diktat. He has declared that “all options are on the table” and assured Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly threatened air strikes, that the U.S. “has Israel’s back.”
The main weapon the imperialists have been wielding against Iran is an economic siege, which they have recently intensified. Beginning in November, the U.S., in coordination with Britain and Canada, moved to implement a virtual international financial quarantine of Iran. Last month, all businesses and banks in Iran were barred from accessing the system that arranges international money transfers. The embargo includes the central bank, which handles the export of crude oil. As a result of economic sanctions, the value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has dropped sharply and inflation is skyrocketing, led by soaring food and gas prices. With unemployment shooting steadily upward, Hyundai Motors has closed down its factory in Iran for fear of being penalized under the sanctions. Some essential household goods are impossible to obtain. The austerity is exacerbated by Tehran’s ban on hundreds of imported items, an effort intended to stem the decline of its currency.
The latest sanctions are aimed to strike at the heart of Iran’s economy: its oil exports. The European Union, whose member states currently buy 20 percent of Iran’s oil, plans to initiate a ban on all Iranian oil imports in July. The U.S. sanctions include measures to penalize countries that import Iranian oil and any bank handling payment for such sales can be denied access to the U.S. financial system. Under pressure from Washington, Turkey has declared that it will slash its purchases of Iranian oil by 20 percent. Other big buyers, including Japan, South Africa and India, have also indicated that they will reduce their orders, while China too has been buying less. To make up for the shortfall, the Saudis have promised to increase oil production to a 30-year high.
The stated purpose of the sanctions and military threats is to stop Iran’s purported program to develop nuclear weapons—an effort the Iranian government has always denied and for which even pro-imperialist analysts and U.S. intelligence agencies admit there is no evidence. It is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy for the U.S. rulers, echoed by imperialist Britain and France as well as Israel, to declaim that Iran has “no right” to pursue the development of nuclear weapons. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next 14 largest military spenders combined and possesses by far the world’s greatest supply of nukes as well as massive stores of highly enriched uranium. It stands alone in having used atomic weapons, incinerating some 200,000 Japanese civilians in the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 at the end of World War II. The purpose of that massacre was to send a message to the Soviet Union that U.S. imperialism meant to reign supreme.
There are clear indications that Iran has no plans to build an atomic bomb, as its government has repeatedly said. It should be noted that the 20 percent uranium enrichment level cited by the imperialists as approaching the level that can be used in weapons is the same needed for medical isotopes for cancer treatment. In 2007, the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) conceded that Iran had dismantled efforts to build an atomic bomb four years earlier. However, last November the IAEA released a report darkly hinting at “indications” that “some activities” related to nuclear weapons may have continued after 2003 and “may still be ongoing.” The facade of neutrality upheld by the IAEA, a body of the United Nations, was exposed by a cable released by WikiLeaks in which the agency’s director general, Yukiya Amano, was described by an American official as “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program” (London Guardian, 23 March).
The fact that Iran does not have nukes makes a military attack by Israel and/or the imperialists that much more of a possibility. As we have repeatedly stressed, in the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail and continuing military threats, Iran has every reason to pursue getting nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter attack. In the event of military attack by the imperialists or their Israeli accomplices, working people internationally must take a clear side with Iran. As Marxists, we do not give the least political support to Iran’s reactionary Islamic regime. But it is the U.S. imperialist rulers who are the principal enemy of the world’s workers and oppressed.
In the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has demonstrated its capacity to destroy regimes and in the process massacre hundreds of thousands of its victims. It is also clear that one by-product of these imperialist “triumphs” has been the unleashing of myriad national, religious and tribal rivalries, and, in the case of Iraq, the growing influence of Iran’s rulers. Those U.S. allies that sent small military contingents to Iraq and Afghanistan received nothing for their efforts except harsh criticism at home and, for the most part, have withdrawn their forces or are in the process of doing so.
Most significantly, the economies of the major capitalist powers are in the tank. Renewed war-mongering in the region has only served to increase the existing speculative bubble in oil prices and, thus, the prospects for a deepening of the worldwide recession. Faced with epidemic unemployment and savage assaults on living standards, working people in the U.S. are ill-disposed to the continuing presence of military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to the prospects of new wars. The fight against the depredations wrought by America’s rulers at home and abroad requires that the working class break its ties with the capitalist masters, primarily manifested in its allegiance to the Democratic Party. The road forward lies in forging a proletarian party that is based on the principle that the working class shares no common interest with the bosses and is devoted to the overthrow of the bourgeois order through socialist revolution.
Defend North Korea!
If the hype about Iranian nukes sounds like “Return of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” it is because, at bottom, it is a continuation of Washington’s drive to assert its domination of the planet. That drive was qualitatively increased after the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92, which removed a strategic counterweight to U.S. imperialism.
The recipe for asserting such dominance varies little, as seen in the lead-up to the war and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Ten years of inspections by the imperialists’ agents of the IAEA guaranteed that the country was effectively disarmed. During the decade or so of UN sanctions against the Saddam Hussein regime, an estimated one and a half million people, the majority of them children, died due to malnutrition, dirty drinking water and lack of medical supplies.
The arrogant rulers of U.S. imperialism feel no restraint in issuing their ultimatums. At last month’s “nuclear security summit” in Seoul, South Korea, Barack Obama lashed out at both capitalist Iran and the bureaucratically deformed workers state of North Korea. Backed by Japan and Britain, Obama demanded that North Korea stop a satellite launch planned for mid April, claiming that this would violate a ban on missile activity by the country. The Stalinist regime in Pyongyang, which says that the satellite is meant for surveys of North Korea’s countryside, answered that “we will never give up the right to launch a peaceful satellite, a legitimate right of a sovereign state and an essential step for economic development” (London Telegraph, 27 March).
Attempting to blackmail North Korea into relinquishing key means of defense, the U.S. over the past two decades has offered to provide aid if Pyongyang forgoes all military improvements, including the development of nuclear capacity and of ballistic rockets. In the latest deal, reached at the end of February, Washington agreed to provide 240,000 tons of food aid provided that North Korea end its uranium enrichment program and tests of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. Mobilizing its Asian allies and client states behind it, the U.S. has threatened to abort the deal if the satellite mission goes forward. Japan and South Korea have threatened to (try to) shoot down the missile if it passes over their territories.
The U.S. launched the Korean War in 1950 to smash social revolution on the peninsula and to pursue the overthrow of the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state that was created the year before. A peace treaty was never signed, and America’s South Korean client state refused to sign the armistice agreement between the U.S. and the North. Washington sees the Korean peninsula as a potential staging area from which to launch a counterrevolutionary assault on China. Since the Korean War, the U.S. has maintained a massive military presence in the South, today numbering 28,500 troops, while subjecting the North to military encirclement and embargo. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases from South Korea.
With the counterrevolution in the USSR, the economy of North Korea, which had made substantial advances because of its crucial links to the Soviet Union, was devastated. The country is now heavily reliant on Chinese aid and trade. Its sole strength is its substantial military power.
Whatever the intent of the upcoming missile launch, North Korea’s efforts to maintain and expand its military strength, including the development of nuclear capability, must be defended. As Trotskyists, we stand for the unconditional military defense of the deformed workers states—North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba—against imperialism and internal capitalist counterrevolution. At the same time, we fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies, whose policies are encapsulated in the reactionary dogma of “building socialism in one country.” Opposing the fight for international proletarian revolution, the privileged bureaucracies instead pursue a futile quest for “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism, undermining the defense of those states against the class enemy.
A stark expression of Stalinist treachery is Beijing’s complicity in attempts to disarm North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has joined four capitalist countries in round after round of “talks” aimed at suppressing North Korea’s nuclear development. This only strengthens the hands of the U.S., Japanese and European imperialists, who seek the overthrow of the Peoples Republic of China—the largest and most powerful of the remaining deformed workers states—and the transformation of the Chinese mainland back into a sphere of untrammeled exploitation. Defense of China, which is highly dependent on the flow of Iranian oil, is also undermined by the CCP bureaucracy’s support to all four previous rounds of UN sanctions against Iran.
Earlier this month, 180 U.S. Marines arrived in Darwin in northern Australia, the first installment of a planned 2,500 troops to be stationed there as part of the growing encirclement of China. 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. We join our comrades of the Spartacist Group Japan in calling to smash the counterrevolutionary alliance of U.S. and Japanese imperialism through workers revolution on both sides of the Pacific.
Intrigues Against Iran
The imperialist powers that have Iran in their crosshairs today have historically provided support for Israel’s nuclear program while helping to maintain a veil over the extent of the Zionists’ nuclear stockpile. The international working class is indebted to Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear facility, who in 1986 revealed that Israel had acquired an arsenal of some 200 nuclear warheads. For his heroic exposure of the scale of this doomsday machine, which targeted the USSR as well as countries in the Near East, Vanunu was convicted of treason and served 18 years in prison. He has been forbidden to leave Israel since his release in 2004.
Iran has also been on the receiving end of covert operations by Israel, Britain and the U.S. In January, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan became the latest victim of a series of assassinations of Iran’s nuclear scientists. This comes in the context of unexplained bomb explosions at nuclear facilities. Earlier the Stuxnet computer virus had disabled many centrifuges in Iran’s enrichment facilities. Today, the U.S. continues to send surveillance drones over Iran, which seized one of the spy vehicles after it crashed last year. As the Washington Post (7 April) reports, the drone flights are “only a small part of a broad espionage campaign involving the NSA [National Security Agency], which intercepts e-mail and electronic communications, as well as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which scours satellite imagery.”
In their war drive against Iran, Israel’s Zionist rulers have the backing of the venal capitalist rulers of many neighboring Arab states. Exacerbating religious tensions in the region, Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia have become increasingly belligerent toward Shi’ite Iran. Saudi Arabia, a massively armed and repressive sheikdom, has been a linchpin of U.S. domination of the oil-rich Gulf region since the 1940s. Regarding Iran, Saudi King Abdullah has been egging on the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake.” While drawing down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. is reportedly planning to beef up its military contingent in Kuwait while reinforcing its naval presence in the Persian Gulf and strengthening its military alliance with Gulf states. Meanwhile, NATO has begun operating a new anti-missile radar system on Turkish soil, 435 miles from Iran.
Iran has become further isolated in the region by the instability in Syria, Tehran’s most significant Arab ally. Syria is a patchwork of potentially hostile ethnic, national and sectarian groupings where the ruling minority Alawites hold sway over the Sunni majority, Kurds, Druze and others. For over a year, Bashar al-Assad’s reactionary Ba’athist regime has faced, and brutally repressed, an insurgency dominated by reactionary forces centrally from the Sunni Muslim population and backed by sundry imperialist and regional powers. The U.S., Britain and Turkey have given their blessing to the arming of the Syrian rebels, using proxies to avoid openly flouting UN sanctions against Syria. The three countries have said that “they could welcome Saudi and Qatari efforts to give weapons to the rebel Free Syrian Army” (Financial Times, 1 April), while the U.S. is chipping in with “non-lethal” aid as well as drone surveillance flights.
Key Syrian opposition leaders have appealed for imperialist intervention, echoing the “rebels” who became willing tools for the NATO terror bombing of Libya last year (see article, page 12). The Libyan opposition to the rule of the bourgeois strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi initially took the form of a low-intensity civil war overlaid by tribal and regional divisions, a conflict in which revolutionary Marxists had no side. But when the imperialist bombing began, we did have a side: for defense of semicolonial Libya against imperialist attack while giving no political support to the Qaddafi regime. Today we demand: Imperialist hands off Syria! In the event of imperialist attack, we would stand for the defense of Syria while maintaining proletarian political opposition to Assad’s bloodsoaked rule.
Iran and Proletarian Revolution
The Near East is a battleground of imperialist rivalries, mainly driven by the need to control the region’s oil reserves. The region is also characterized by deepgoing oppression—of women, of national, religious and ethnic minorities as well as homosexuals. Iran’s working people, youth and women have been chafing under the mullahs’ rule, as have its many national and ethnic minorities, such as the Kurds, Baluchis, Azerbaijanis and Turks. 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 that fights for proletarian rule in Iran and the broader region. This is necessarily linked to the need for workers in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere to sweep away the rapacious imperialist rulers through workers revolutions.
The “Iranian revolution” that brought the Islamist regime to power in 1979 was hailed by almost the entire left internationally, including the once-powerful Iranian left. The mass mobilizations that toppled the hated U.S.-backed regime of Shah Pahlavi were channelled into support for the Islamic hierarchy under Ayatollah Khomeini, who seized power and went on to crush struggles by workers and oppressed national minorities and subject women to intensified oppression under sharia law. Trade unions were smashed, and leftists were jailed and executed. Uniquely, the international Spartacist tendency, forerunner of the International Communist League, championed the proletariat’s class interests against the forces of Islamic reaction. We said: Down with the Shah! Down with the mullahs! Workers to power!
Iran’s multinational proletariat has suffered decades of intense repression. Today, along with most other layers of Iranian society, it is further ground down by the imperialist economic stranglehold and the regime’s austerity measures. To emerge as a class fighting in its own interest and in the interest of all the impoverished and oppressed, it must be broken from religious fundamentalism and all bourgeois political forces, including “pro-democracy” outfits like the bourgeois “Green Movement of Hope,” which itself is led by clerical authorities.
That movement emerged in 2009 during the presidential elections between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hussein Moussavi, a “reform” cleric who was prime minister for eight years under Khomeini. After losing the utterly fraudulent election, Moussavi placed himself at the head of the subsequent mass protests. About a year ago, Moussavi was placed under house arrest, from which he continues to organize the “Green Movement.” Moussavi is no less a butcher than his rivals in the current regime. While he was prime minister from 1981 to 1989, untold thousands of leftists, Kurds and women’s rights activists were slaughtered in the prisons and buried in mass graves. A decade later, in 1999, militant student protests were drowned in blood by the government of Mohammad Khatami, now a Moussavi ally.
In Iran as elsewhere, the key to mobilizing the proletariat in its class interests is the leadership of a revolutionary workers party modeled on the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which led the workers to power in the Russian October Revolution of 1917. The International Communist League is dedicated to building such parties throughout the world as sections of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.