None of our readers needs reminding that Bush, in his notorious State of the Union Address in January 2002, depicted Iran as part of an ‘axis of evil’ along with Iraq and North Korea. The world’s biggest terrorist, US imperialism, then declared that these countries were the ‘terrorist states’ against which the US had the right to commit unprovoked aggression in order to bring about ‘regime change’. So why now, nearly four years later, has Iran become a high priority target for the US?
Iranian regime change
In 1979, the overthrow of the Iranian Shah, a faithful servant of imperialism, constituted a major upset to the then existing neo-colonial system for the exploitation of the Gulf region. This bourgeois-led revolution aimed at putting a stop to the exploitative relationship between the imperialist powers and Iran, so that Iranians could have a chance to develop and control their own resources.
As Iran possesses 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and also has the world’s second largest natural gas reserves, there have inevitably been massive contradictions between Iran and imperialism, especially US imperialism, particularly since the 1980s.
The situation was summed up succinctly in a recent edition of anti-imperialist journal Lalkar: “The Islamic unity of the Iranian ruling class should not blind us to the fact that there are two factions within Iranian ruling circles – one which wants to continue the fight against imperialism, strengthen national independence and the national economy, maintain a strong public sector and improve the living conditions of the masses through public service provision and subsidisation of essential commodities, and the other which wants to compromise with imperialism, indulge in wholesale privatisation, open the Iranian market to unhindered imperialist access and let market mechanisms decide the level of all prices, including those of essential items. In effect the recent presidential election [June 2005] was between Rafsanjani, the representative of the compromisers, trying to reach an accommodation with imperialism, and Ahmadinejad representing the hardliners whose sentiments are decidedly anti-imperialist.” (‘Iran elections – disaster for imperialism’, Sep/Oct issue)
In particular, Ahmadinejad pledged to use the country’s oil wealth to improve the lives of ordinary Iranians, which had not happened either during the 1980s or under the cautious ‘compromisers’ of the 1990s – starting with Rafsanjani and then Khatami, who “prised the country open to foreign trade”. (Colin Freeman, The Telegraph, 26 June 2005).
Thus the election of the nationalist Ahmadinejad was the shock that has brought about the present imperialist sabre-rattling. As the Daily Mail put it: “in the four months since the capital’s former mayor exploited his powerful populist appeal among poor and ultra-religious voters to win the presidency, he has moved Iran sharply away from its previously cautiously reformist approach to relations with the West” . (‘Why we must wake up to the threat of Iran’ by Philip Jacobson, 28 October 2005)
Ahmadinejad himself is clear: “Our nation continues on the path of progress and on this path has no significant need for the United States.” (Cited in ‘Conservative Tehran mayor wins upset victory in Iran run-off presidential election’, 27 June 2005, www.democracynow.org) And, whereas imports from EU countries had been escalating in recent years, in October the new president imposed trade sanctions against Britain in protest at its stand against Iran’s nuclear programme, thus not only curtailing the economic benefits to British imperialism of trade, but also sending a powerful political signal of Iranian defiance.
It is imperialism’s scream of pain at seeing its economic and political domination being curtailed that has sent both US and British politicians and media into a torrent of anti-Iranian propaganda, which is furnishing the ideological preparation for a new strategy of intervention in Iran.
Opponents of western imperialism join hands
In order to survive, imperialism strives for world domination; which means it is seriously threatened when potential victims join forces to resist it. The emergence of other trading partners with Iran is the second important reason for imperialism’s current hysteria. The following example from the Nov/Dec issue of Lalkar makes this crystal clear:
“Iran is vigorously pursuing not only trading partners, but also military allies. On 26 October 2005, Iranian Vice President Parviz Davudi attended a meeting of The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), at present a six-member organisation that includes Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tadjikistan. The Christian Science Monitor (‘Russia, China looking to form ‘NATO of the East’ by Fred Weir) reports that the purpose of the meeting was ‘to take a step closer to forming a Eurasian military confederacy to rival NATO’ and that ‘This group, which started in 2001 with limited goals of promoting cooperation in former Soviet Central Asia, has evolved rapidly toward a regional security bloc and could soon induct new members such as India, Pakistan and Iran.’” (‘Iran’s struggle against imperialist domination’)
The prime motivation for this military alliance is the protection of common economic interests, principally their protection from the predatory aspirations of western imperialism. It is not surprising, therefore, that Iran should find itself drawing closer to other powers that also have major contradictions with the US and EU imperialists. Those whom imperialism seeks to bully are joining hands against the bully – and the imperialists are naturally extremely worried about this development.
It is hardly surprising that US imperialism has strong objections to SCO calling on “the US to set a date for withdrawing forces from the two former Soviet Republics [Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan]” . (Al Jazeera, 20 July 2005) General Richard Myers, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, had the cheek to call this demand an attempt to “bully” the two US clients. Since then, Condoleezza Rice has been kept busy shuttling around the region trying to do deals to keep the military bases in place!
Billions of barrels of the world’s oil reserves are located in countries like Iran, which are hostile to the US. So long as US sanctions prevent American oil companies getting hold of this oil, then other nations, particularly those associated with SCO, are transforming the region. For instance, China has a 50 percent stake in the sprawling Yadavaran oilfield of Iran, and last year signed deals worth an estimated $70bn for 250m tonnes of Iranian liquefied natural gas. India too has a multi-billion dollar project to pipe in Iranian gas via Pakistan.
Iran’s main ‘offence’ – WMD
US imperialism has now stepped up its aggressive diplomacy against Iran by challenging the country’s right to develop a nuclear industry on the pretext that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction (even though there is absolutely no evidence that Iran is doing anything of the sort, but on the contrary is allowing inspectors to verify that it is not). In fact, Iran has every right to develop nuclear weapons should it wish to do so, yet President Bush has stated that he is prepared to take military action to prevent this. It is quite possible that Israel will be encouraged to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations in the same way that it destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981.
Just 10 days before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting on 24 November, the New York Times ran a ‘story’ claiming that “American officials who did not want to be identified showed to a group of officials from the IAEA a portable computer that contained more than 1,000 pages of valuable information demonstrating serious efforts by the Iranians to develop a nuclear warhead to be fitted on the Shahab missile, capable of reaching Israel.” (New York Times, 14 November 2005)
This mysterious information was on a laptop “stolen” last year (we were not told who from) and allegedly shown to unidentified officials in mid-July this year “somewhere in Vienna” . But the New York Times still claimed that this was “sound proof that they [the Iranians] are lying when they claim that their atomic projects are for civilian use” . The contents of the laptop, we were told, have been shared with America’s “close allies” .
As the nuclear experts interview by the Iran Press Service noted: “making such things, ie, a computer containing nuclear datas, simulations and photographs, is child’s play”. They continued by recalling the “things that former US State Secretary Colin Powell exhibited during a stormy debate of the UN’s Security Council before the American-British invasion of Iraq, explaining they were nuclear devices possessed by Saddam Hussein, the devices Mr Powell admitted recently that have become ‘stains’ on his political career and also discredited badly the CIA, which had produced them”.
This ‘information’ is conveniently produced in time to increase pressure on Tehran as the IAEA is being asked to consider moving hostile motions on Iran at the UN Security Council, a step that, for the time being, Britain, France and Germany, who have been engaged in negotiations with Iran, have opposed.
The talks between the European Three (EU3) and Iran were halted in August after Iran resumed work at the uranium conversion facility near Esfahan. However, on 6 November, Ali Larijani, Secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council, wrote to the foreign ministers of the EU3 offering to reopen talks about Iran’s nuclear programme. The letter “assessed the past exchanges and welcomed rational and constructive negotiations in the framework of international regulations” . (Quoted from Fars news agency)
Imperialism has a need for profits and a thirst for oil, so its interests dictate intervention in Iran. Whether Anglo-American imperialism will embark on a new war while it still has military forces and heavy financial budgets sunk in the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan is not certain. Various means of sowing internal dissension (between Iranians and Kurds; between Iranians and Arabs; between ‘hardliners’ and ‘reformers’; even between young – a huge proportion of the population – and old) may still be the imperialists’ preferred option, especially if the Iranian economy does not deliver on the promises that Ahmadinejad has made to the masses of Iran. The first test of the new regime’s popularity will be gauged during the municipal elections next year.
A full-scale military invasion/occupation involving ground troops is not favoured even by the so-called hawks in the US at present. Military intervention is more likely to consist of targeting nuclear facilities or limited ground raids to try and take hold of Iran’s coastal oilfields, which would have the double advantage to the US of giving it control of the oil and creating a base from which to launch any future attack on the rest of Iran.
Either way, imperialism, and US imperialism in particular, in its attempts to dominate this rich region will have to deal not only with a determined and large resistance force (Iran’s population is three times the size of Iraq’s), but also with powerful adversaries organising themselves through the SCO, and even workers in the imperialist heartlands who are beginning to learn from the Iraq war that our young people should not pay with blood for the bloodthirsty expeditions ‘our’ ruling class carry out in order to fill their pockets with oil profits.
Our message must be clear: no wars for oil; no interference of any sort in the sovereign state of Iran; oppose imperialist war by all means necessary.