Workers Vanguard No. 863

3 February 2006


Down With Imperialist Nuclear Blackmail!

U.S. Hands Off Iran!

Less than three years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, U.S. imperialism now has Iran in its crosshairs. Claiming that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, President Bush on January 26 delivered an ultimatum: “Your desires for a weapon are unacceptable” (New York Times, 27 January). This is rich coming from the president of a country with a stockpile of nukes capable of destroying the world several times over. The U.S. ruling class is the only one to have used nuclear weapons, incinerating some 200,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and the U.S. government today proclaims a policy of “pre-emptive” nuclear attack against any country it deems a threat.

There is clear agreement across the U.S. bourgeois political spectrum, from the religious fanatics in the White House to the Democratic Party, that Iran has to be “dealt with.” In fact, a common criticism of Bush by the Democrats is that the occupation of Iraq has been a distraction from dealing more forcibly with Iran, as well as with the North Korean deformed workers state. Senator Hillary Clinton recently denounced Bush for being soft on Iran, declaring, “I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats” (Washington Post, 20 January).

Another group of belligerent fanatics arrayed against Iran are Israel’s Zionist rulers. The British Sunday Times (11 December 2005) reports that Israel’s armed forces have been ordered “to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran.” And on January 21, Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz threatened: “Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing” (Spiegel Online, 23 January).

In the event of military attack against Iran by U.S. imperialism or by Israel, or by any other force operating on behalf of the imperialists, we Marxists declare: The international proletariat must stand for the military defense of Iran against imperialist attack. At the same time, we give not one iota of political support to the reactionary Tehran regime. Our defense of capitalist Iran is conditional: In military conflicts between an imperialist power and a dependent semicolonial country, our policy is revolutionary defensism. We defend the oppressed country against the oppressor country and promote class struggle in the imperialist centers, as well as in the oppressed country. Every victory for the imperialists in their military adventures encourages more predatory wars; every setback serves to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed.

The U.S. bourgeoisie, with its media in tow, is straining every nerve to foment hysteria about an Iranian “threat.” They portray Iran’s Islamic regime as a bunch of demented fanatics. But the real nuclear crazies are the Christian fundamentalists at the head of U.S. imperialism, who may not feel constrained from attacking Iran by whatever obstacles are in their way. The true enemy of working people, minorities and the oppressed in the U.S. is the U.S. bourgeoisie. The ruling class that is today threatening Iran is the same capitalist class that has slashed the pensions, health care and jobs of America’s working people while shredding democratic rights through the reactionary “war on terror.”

A letter to the New York Times (29 January) by the head of the press section of the Iranian Mission to the UN emphasized, “Iran has no ambition to build nuclear weapons,” and noted that Iran’s nuclear research work “is completely in accord with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” The fact of the matter is that in the context of threats by the nuclear-armed imperialists, Iran desperately needs nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to defend itself. In today’s world, possession of nuclear arms has become the only real measure of national sovereignty. The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92 removed the primary military and political counterweight to U.S. imperialism. Since then, the U.S. rulers have developed a policy of using their overwhelming military might, which dwarfs that of even the rival imperialist powers, to prevent the rise of any perceived challenge to U.S. dominance.

A letter to the New York Times (17 January) aptly noted in response to an editorial by the paper:

“You write that ‘no one has yet come up with any very good ways of deflecting Iran from its nuclear course.’ But it is obvious that Iran seeks a bomb principally to counter the barely concealed ambition of Bush administration hard-liners to force ‘regime change’ there.

“After seeing what has happened in Iraq, and listening to the ‘axis of evil’ rhetoric, any patriotic Iranian military leader must be advising his government that only a bomb will deter the United States.”

The reactionary nature of Iran’s mullah regime does not in any way diminish the duty of proletarian revolutionaries to stand on the side of Iran against U.S. imperialism. When Mussolini’s Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky addressed the concerns of proletarian militants who objected to defending Ethiopia because of Haile Selassie’s reactionary regime, which maintained slavery in that country:

“If Mussolini triumphs, it means the reinforcement of fascism, the strengthening of imperialism, and the discouragement of the colonial peoples in Africa and elsewhere. The victory of the Negus, however, would mean a mighty blow not only at Italian imperialism but at imperialism as a whole, and would lend a powerful impulsion to the rebellious forces of the oppressed peoples.”

—Leon Trotsky, “On Dictators and the Heights of Oslo”
(April 1936)

Iran today needs nuclear weapons to fend off a U.S. threat no less than Ethiopia in the 1930s needed Mausers to fend off the Italian imperialists. U.S. hands off Iran! For the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops and military bases from Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia!

For Class-Struggle Opposition to Imperialism!

The only nuclear-armed state in the Near East today is key American ally Israel, whose rulers have repeatedly made clear that they are prepared to use nuclear weapons. The demented Zionist rulers have a policy—dubbed the “Samson Option” by journalist Seymour Hersh—of plunging the whole region into nuclear holocaust if Israel were threatened with military defeat. In 1986 Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu proved to the world that Israel had nuclear weapons—over 200 nuclear warheads at the time, many of them aimed at the Soviet Union. For his act of courage, Vanunu spent nearly two decades in Israel’s dungeons.

While the U.S. and Israel openly threaten to use their nukes, the current Iranian regime has said that the use of nuclear weapons is contrary to its Islamic beliefs. A 1989 book, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict, by Dilip Hiro noted that when Ayatollah Khomeini was approached by Iranian military officials about launching chemical weapons in response to Iraq’s extensive use of such during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War, “he reportedly reiterated his earlier refusal based on the argument that Islam prohibits its fighters from polluting the atmosphere even in the course of a jihad, holy war.” At the end of the war, which was reactionary on both sides, United Nations investigations turned up no evidence that Iran used chemical weapons. In contrast, after Germany used poison chlorine gas during World War I, France and Britain responded with their own poison gas attacks. Thus Iran has credibility in a way the imperialist powers do not.

A 15 March 2005 draft Pentagon paper that was leaked last fall, “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations,” called for giving “joint force commanders” the authority to launch nuclear attacks under a number of scenarios. “It is essential,” the document asserts, “that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use.” Under such guidelines, the commanders would have had authority to launch a nuclear strike against Iraq in 2003. Those who would be given such authority include the likes of retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, who once declared in reference to a 1993 battle in Somalia with a Muslim warlord, “I knew my God was bigger than his.”

The irrational, anarchic, profit-driven capitalist system has been made even more irrational in this epoch of imperialist decay. Mass slaughter is the concentrated expression and ultimate logic of the “normal” brutal workings of the capitalist system, which daily condemns countless numbers around the world to death by malnutrition, lack of medical care and industrial murder.

What is necessary is class-struggle opposition to U.S. imperialism by the multiracial proletariat in the U.S. The primary obstacle to this course is the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, whose acceptance of the capitalist profit system and promotion of U.S. imperialism’s interests internationally chain the working class to the class enemy. The working class needs revolutionary leadership. If there is to be a future for the working class, minorities and youth other than one of grinding exploitation, joblessness, repression and war, if the impoverished masses of the world are to have a future other than starvation and imperialist subjugation, then this whole system must be torn up by its roots through socialist revolutions and replaced by a rational, planned economy internationally. The Spartacist League fights to build a revolutionary workers party—a U.S. section of a reforged Fourth International—that will lead the U.S. proletariat in a fight to sweep away the bloody imperialist system and establish workers rule.

Defend China!

The U.S. saber rattling against Iran also poses a serious threat to China. Having emerged victorious from the Cold War against the USSR, U.S. imperialism now has as a strategic target the Chinese deformed workers state, where capitalist rule was overthrown through the 1949 revolution. The imperialists have pursued a two-pronged strategy for capitalist restoration in China: economic penetration and military pressure.

An Asia Times (2 December 2004) article noted: “Increasingly, the image of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a sort of frontline state in a post-Cold War global lineup against US hegemony is becoming prevalent among Chinese and Russian foreign-policy thinkers.” China gets 14 percent of the oil for its growing economy from Iran. In late 2004, China signed a $70 billion deal with Iran for oil and natural gas for some 30 years, under which China’s state-owned oil company Sinopec will get a 51 percent stake in Iran’s Yadavaran oil field and its estimated three billion barrels of reserves.

U.S. imperialism has placed military bases in Central Asia, aiming toward a strategic encirclement of China as well as enhancing U.S. efforts to control oil resources against both capitalist Russia and the Chinese workers state. While the U.S. has been bogged down in Iraq, it has pursued a “containment policy” against China, including by strengthening military ties with Japanese imperialism—for example, through last year’s U.S.-Japan pact to defend capitalist Taiwan against Red China. Last year, the U.S. agreed to provide nuclear-armed India with additional nuclear technology in an attempt “to improve ties with India, in part as a counterweight to China” (New York Times, 19 July 2005). Simply put: It’s OK for allies of U.S. imperialism to have nukes, but not for so-called “rogue states.”

As Trotskyists, we fight for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states—China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba—against military attack and capitalist counterrevolution. Thus we support China and North Korea’s testing and possessing nuclear arms as a necessary deterrent against imperialist nuclear blackmail. China’s modest nuclear arsenal is an important measure of such deterrence.

It is vital that China oppose the imperialist drive to disarm Iran. However, while verbally opposing UN sanctions against Iran, the Beijing Stalinist regime is collaborating with the imperialists. Along with Russia, China has just agreed to U.S. and European demands that Iran be hauled before the UN Security Council. Similarly, China helped broker imperialist “negotiations” aimed at stopping nuclear weapons development by North Korea, which last year announced that it had developed nuclear weapons. Beijing’s role was particularly criminal given that anything that undermines the defense of the North Korean deformed workers state will redound against the Chinese deformed workers state.

The Beijing Stalinists’ policy of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism undermines China’s own defense. We fight for workers political revolutions in the deformed workers states to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies and replace them with regimes based on democratically elected workers and peasants councils. Such revolutionary regimes must be guided by a program of revolutionary internationalism, fighting to extend proletarian rule through international socialist revolution, particularly in the imperialist centers of the U.S., Japan and West Europe.

Nuclear Cowboys on the Loose

Since 2003, Iran has been subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. After Iran announced on January 3 that it would restart its enrichment facility at Natanz, Bush pushed to bring Iran before the UN Security Council to impose sanctions. Economic sanctions are an act of war. Both the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq were preceded and prepared by UN-imposed sanctions.

The Bush White House has embraced many of the positions of the Zionist “neoconservative” think tank “Project for the New American Century,” which has long advocated “regime change” in Iran as well as Iraq as part of securing U.S. control of the Near East. Central to that perspective is the carving of a “cordon sanitaire” around Israel through installing pliant regimes in surrounding countries.

As reported by Seymour Hersh in a 24 January 2005 New Yorker article, “The Coming Wars”:

“The [Bush] Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids.”

Israeli politicians have hinted that Israel, which bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981, might bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. With the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative elections, the Zionist rulers will likely further whip up hysteria about “Islamic terrorism” to both ratchet up threats against Iran and step up repression of the Palestinian people. The U.S., which last year supplied Israel with 500 “bunker buster” bombs, might give Israel the go-ahead to attack Iran. But unlike Iraq in ’81, Iran today has at least nine different facilities, mainly underground, making such an operation far more difficult. Iran has warned that it would respond to an attack by hitting Israel and Western forces in the Persian Gulf, with one Iranian general pointing out, “The world knows Iran has a ballistic missile power with a range of 2,000 km” (London Observer, 29 January).

There are a number of obstacles to a U.S. assault on Iran. Since Iran sits on 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, an attack would propel oil prices even higher internationally, likely sparking an international economic crisis. Moreover, the U.S. military is severely stretched in enforcing the savage occupation of Iraq. Under such circumstances, the U.S. cannot occupy a country as large and populous as Iran without re-instituting a draft, which would not go down well with a U.S. populace that increasingly opposes the Iraq occupation. Meanwhile, as an unintentional consequence of the U.S. occupation, Shi’ite parties that have historically had close ties with the Shi’ite regime in Iran now hold power in Iraq. An attack on Iran would enrage Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and rally much of the Iranian population behind the fundamentalist regime in Tehran.

France and Germany support the U.S. demand that the UN Security Council “handle” Iran, which could lead to sanctions. Bush has found an ally with the new, right-wing German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who declared at a January 29 press conference in Jerusalem that a nuclear-armed Iran “is not just a threat to Israel, but also to the democratic countries of this world” (New York Times, 30 January). Meanwhile, French president Jacques Chirac launched a political storm in Europe by announcing his own doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear war. Threatening “the leaders of states who use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction,” he said that the “response” by nuclear-armed France “could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind.”

But Germany, which trades heavily with Iran, and France, which has large investments there, have also sought to balance U.S. belligerence by pushing “negotiations” and diplomatic pressure. Even the staunchly pro-American British Labour government has declared, in the words of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, that “there isn’t a military option.” Hedging its bets, the Bush administration has announced its support for a recent Russian proposal that would allow Iran to operate civilian nuclear facilities as long as uranium enrichment takes place on Russian soil. While not rejecting the proposal, Iranian officials have complained that it is “not sufficient for Iran’s nuclear energy needs.”

Workers to Power!

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who won office in June, is a reactionary who spreads poisonous anti-Semitism. In November he called the slaughter of six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust a “myth” and said that Israel should be “wiped out from the map of the world.”

The 1979 Iranian “Islamic Revolution” that overthrew the CIA-backed Shah was supported by the bulk of the left internationally in the name of “anti-imperialism.” This included the pro-Moscow Tudeh (Masses) party in Iran, which had a base in the country’s strategic, heavily Arab oil workers. The International Communist League (then the international Spartacist tendency) uniquely warned from the outset of the 1978-79 upheaval that, absent a decisive break by the working class with the Islamic forces, the struggle would have a disastrous outcome. We said: “Down with the Shah! Don’t bow to Khomeini! For workers revolution in Iran!” After taking power, the mullahs enslaved women in the veil, slaughtered thousands of leftists and trade unionists and intensified repression against Kurds and other minorities.

It is the task of the working class in Iran, leading all the oppressed behind it, to overthrow the Persian-chauvinist Islamic regime. Key to this perspective is the forging of a Marxist workers party. Such parties must be built throughout the Near East to unite the proletariat—Arab, Persian, Kurdish and Hebrew, Sunni and Shi’ite, Muslim and Christian—in struggle against imperialism and against the Zionists, mullahs, colonels, sheiks and all the other capitalist rulers. The fight for workers rule in the Near East crucially includes shattering the Zionist garrison state from within through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution. The Stalinized Communist Parties of the Near East, which made a mockery of this revolutionary perspective, share responsibility for the growth of Islamic fundamentalism among the working and oppressed masses. Marxist workers parties are essential to break the proletariat of the region from fundamentalism and all forms of nationalism in the struggle for a socialist federation of the Near East.

The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the socialist revolution, but only opens it by changing the direction of social development. Short of the international extension of the revolution, particularly to the advanced, industrialized imperialist centers, that social development will be arrested and ultimately reversed. Defense of those subjugated by the imperialists around the globe demands the pursuit of class struggle in the U.S. and other imperialist centers, and ultimately requires a proletarian struggle for power. If the imperialists are not to plunge humanity into nuclear Armageddon, they must be overthrown through socialist revolutions internationally. This underscores the urgent need to reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution.