Workers Vanguard No. 902

9 November 2007


Republicans, Democrats Ratchet Up Threats

U.S. Hands Off Iran!

Down With Imperialist Sanctions!

On October 25, the Bush administration announced new unilateral sanctions against Iran, targeting the regime’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and in particular the Quds division, which Washington accuses of “supporting terrorism.” The sanctions also include four state banks. The sanctions against the elite Revolutionary Guard, which has 125,000 active troops and controls key sectors of the Iranian economy, mark the first time that the U.S. has taken such steps against the armed forces of another government.

As revolutionary opponents of U.S. imperialism, the Spartacist League opposes any economic sanctions against Iran. The 2003 war against Iraq, which has led to the death of upwards of a million Iraqis while unleashing communalist slaughter on a mass scale, was prepared by UN-imposed sanctions that killed 1.5 million people. Sanctions are an act of war and a step toward a full-fledged conflagration. Indeed, nearly half of the U.S. Navy’s 277 warships, including two aircraft carrier groups, are in waters near Iran, with new military exercises already underway.

We say that in the event of military attack against Iran by the U.S. or by Israel—the only nuclear-armed country in the Near East—operating on behalf of the U.S. imperialists, it is in the interest of the international proletariat, not least the U.S. working class, to stand for the military defense of Iran without giving an iota of political support to the reactionary Tehran regime. Every victory for the imperialists in their military adventures encourages more predatory wars; every setback serves to assist the working people and the oppressed the world over. U.S. hands off Iran! All U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!

The Democrats as well as the Republicans, with their kept media in tow, are straining every nerve to foment hysteria over Iran’s nuclear energy program. The Iranian government says that it does not plan to develop the bomb. In fact, given the threats by the imperialists, it would be perfectly reasonable and necessary for Iran to pursue getting nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter attack. In today’s world, possession of nukes has become a necessary means of maintaining 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 ever more openly wielded their military might, which dwarfs that of their rival imperialist powers, to maintain their dominance in the world.

The latest round of sanctions against Iran comes after two prior rounds imposed last December and this spring by the United Nations Security Council demanding that Tehran halt its uranium enrichment program. But this time, while Britain and France have supported the U.S., there has been opposition by China, a bureaucratically deformed workers state and one of Iran’s main trading partners, and by Vladimir Putin, the president of capitalist Russia, who accused the U.S. of running around “like a madman waving a knife.”

Imperialist Madmen on the Loose

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, part of an “axis of evil.” This was accompanied by a declared policy of “pre-emptive” nuclear attack against any country the U.S. deems a “threat,” with Iran, North Korea and China among the countries listed as potential first-strike targets. Last year, Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iran: “Your desires for a weapon are unacceptable.”

There have been numerous reports of new plans for U.S. air strikes. In the New Yorker (8 October), Seymour Hersh details how the current emphasis “is on ‘surgical’ strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.” According to Hersh, this plan “is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon.” Israeli air strikes in September against what the Israeli rulers claimed was a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria could be in line with what the U.S. imperialists seek to do in Iran. The Bush administration has announced plans to provide additional billions in weaponry for Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt to beef up regional bulwarks against Iran.

Speaking for Democratic Party strategists, liberal columnist Frank Rich noted in a New York Times (4 November) column:

“The reason so many Democrats believe war with Iran is inevitable, of course, is that the administration is so flagrantly rerunning the sales campaign that gave us Iraq. The same old scare tactic—a Middle East Hitler plotting a nuclear holocaust—has been recycled with a fresh arsenal of hyped, loosey-goosey intelligence and outright falsehoods that are sometimes regurgitated without corroboration by the press.”

The U.S. attacked Iraq precisely because it knew it had no “weapons of mass destruction”—i.e., a means to defend itself. Iran is a larger and far more populous country that sits on 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And, as Hersh notes, “the crux of the Bush Administration’s strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shi’ite-led government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene.” Any attack on Iran would further enrage Iraq’s Shi’ite majority. Moreover, with Iraq in ruins, the threat of a Turkish invasion to go after Kurdish fighters can only serve to destabilize Iraq’s Kurdish north, the one relatively stable region in the country.

Meanwhile Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the “war on terror” and in supporting the occupation of Afghanistan, is in a major political crisis, with military strongman General Pervez Musharraf having declared a state of emergency on November 3 and arresting up to 2,000 political opponents. On November 5, Pakistani police bloodily attacked thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Lahore and other cities to protest the imposition of martial law. The Bush administration, while expressing “concern” over the situation, has made clear that billions in aid will continue to flow to the Musharraf regime, particularly funds slated for “counterterrorism.”

While the Democrats (and some Republicans) criticize the Bush administration for its handling of the Iraq occupation, there is bipartisan consensus to go after Iran, though with some falling out over the details. Senator Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, voted in September to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization, for which she was condemned by rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama, who accused her of giving Bush a “blank check” against Iran. Obama, interviewed by the New York Times (2 November), declared that if elected president he “would offer economic inducements and a possible promise not to seek ‘regime change’ if Iran stopped meddling in Iraq and cooperated on terrorism and nuclear issues.” It takes some chutzpah for U.S. politicians to complain about Iranian “meddling” in Iraq when U.S. troops have devastated that country in enforcing a vicious occupation. Meanwhile, both Obama and Edwards have emphasized that they would keep “all options,” including the threat of military attack, “on the table” in dealing with Iran.

Widespread sentiment against the Iraq occupation in the American populace redounded to the benefit of the Democratic Party during last year’s midterm elections, in part thanks to the services of the reformist left, which tried mightily to build an “antiwar movement” premised on pro-Democratic Party “Anybody but Bush” politics. Now, however, even mainstream Democratic voters are bitterly complaining that electing Democrats has not made a dent. The Democratic Party is the other party of blood–drenched U.S. imperialism. During his presidency, Bill Clinton oversaw the murderous sanctions against Iraq and bombed Serbia into submission in 1999 while conducting the same type of bloody “surgical strikes” in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and the Balkans that the Bush gang is planning against Iran.

In no small part, the Democrats and other opponents of Bush’s policies worry that the Iraq debacle has damaged U.S. imperialism’s interests in the Near East and beyond, including by overstretching the military, which continues to have trouble finding new recruits. The Iraq occupation has diverted the U.S. rulers’ attention from more strategically important areas, in particular China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining bureaucratically deformed workers states and the imperialists’ key target for capitalist counterrevolution. We stand for the unconditional military defense of the Chinese, North Korean, Cuban and Vietnamese deformed workers states against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution. We support North Korea’s testing and development of nukes as a deterrent against imperialist blackmail.

Defeat Imperialism Through Workers Revolution!

Democrats and Republicans both portray Iran’s Islamic regime as a bunch of demented fanatics, and Bush has even ludicrously accused the Shi’ite government in Iran of arming Sunni fighters in Iraq. According to Frank Rich’s New York Times column, some 52 percent of the U.S. population now supports a “pre-emptive” strike on Iran. But the real nuclear crazies are the U.S. imperialists, who have not only acquired the means to destroy the world many times over but have actually carried out nuclear terror, incinerating some 200,000 Japanese people in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 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.”

As for Islamic reaction, the U.S. rulers fostered its growth for decades as a bulwark against “godless” Communism and even secular nationalism. In 1950, John Foster Dulles, who was later Secretary of State during the Eisenhower presidency, wrote: “The religions of the East are deeply rooted and have many precious values. Their spiritual beliefs cannot be reconciled with Communist atheism and materialism. That creates a common bond between us, and our task is to find it and develop it.” This policy found its highest expression in the funneling of vast quantities of arms and money to the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

At the request of a modernizing nationalist regime in Afghanistan besieged by fundamentalist forces, the USSR intervened in 1979 to defend its southern border. The Soviets intervened on the side of social progress in Afghanistan in the only civil war in history in which the question of the rights of women played a central role. While most of the international left howled along with the imperialists against the Soviets, we said, “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Extend social gains of October Revolution to Afghan peoples!”

U.S. policy has been to back the forces of Islamic reaction, except when these forces have been arrayed against America’s client regimes, like the Shah of Iran, who was overthrown in 1979. What culminated with an “Islamic Revolution” in fact began with a major proletarian upsurge that in particular involved Iran’s heavily Arab and strategic oil workers. But the prospect of workers revolution, which would have radically changed the political terrain in the Near East and beyond, was betrayed as most of the left in Iran and internationally lined up behind the reactionary Islamic forces of Ayatollah Khomeini in the name of “anti-imperialism.”

In contrast, the International Communist League (then the international Spartacist tendency) gave no political support to Ayatollah Khomeini’s forces. We said: “Down with the Shah! Don’t bow to Khomeini! For workers revolution in Iran!” We warned that absent a decisive break by the working class with the Islamic forces, the 1978-79 upheaval would have a disastrous outcome. And indeed, 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.

Today, Iran is a cauldron of discontent. The regime of reactionary president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is increasingly unpopular. Fanatical decrees against “Western haircuts,” music and culture continue to stifle social life, especially for the country’s women and youth, while repression against opponents of the regime and trade unionists intensifies. The New York Times, cognizant of the restlessness in Iran, warned in an October 29 editorial that an American bombing campaign would more likely result in the mullahs and Ahmadinejad being “turned into national heroes than hung from lampposts.” Students, women, trade unionists and national minorities in Iran must have no illusions that their liberation will come from a “regime change” engineered by the imperialists. 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. Such parties must be built throughout the Near East—forged in struggle against all forms of fundamentalism and nationalism—to unite the proletariat in struggle against the imperialists as well as the region’s capitalist rulers. For a socialist federation of the Near East!

In the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries, the rapacious imperialist rulers must be swept away through workers revolutions. Imperialist war is not an issue of narrow policy concerns of one capitalist politician or another, but rather the function of the capitalist system in its decay. The struggle against imperialist war must be part and parcel of a struggle against the entire system of exploitation and oppression. This requires a fight to build a multiracial workers party by breaking the political chains tying the working class to its capitalist class enemy, particularly through the labor bureaucracy’s support to the Democrats. The Spartacist League is committed to forging the revolutionary workers party needed to lead the struggle for workers power to victory in the heartland of world imperialism.