Stung by the failure of ‘soft power’ to overturn the popular elected government of Iran, US imperialism and its partners in crime in Whitehall are pushing hard again on the economic war front, with the further prospect of war plain and simple never far down the agenda. But the harder they press on with their aggression, the deeper the hole they are digging for themselves.
US pushing for oil embargo
Hoping to capitalise on the gap between Iran’s plentiful oil resources and her relatively undeveloped refining capacity, the US now hopes to cow everyone else into endorsing an embargo on gasoline exports to that country. However, Obama has a problem. Whilst the Senate and Congress, miraculously unified on issues that involve the permanent interests of US imperialism in seeking to exploit and dominate the world, may see fit to give the green light to ramping up the economic war against Iran, it’s another matter when it comes to selling it internationally.
The New York Times recently noted that “enforcing what would amount to a gasoline embargo has long been considered risky and extremely difficult; it would require the participation of Russia and China, among others that profit from trade with Iran. Iran has threatened to respond by cutting off oil exports and closing shipping traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, at a moment that the world economy is highly vulnerable,” adding that “Iran has enormous leverage over companies and countries dependent on its oil production”. (‘US weighs Iran sanctions if talks are rejected’, 3 August 2009)
And bearing unintentional witness to the courageous independent stance Iran has adopted (refusing either to dismantle the important sectors of the economy that remain state-owned or to abandon the country’s long-held commitment to securing her energy security needs through the development of atomic power), an ‘Iran expert’ from the Brookings Institution had the following warning to deliver on Capitol Hill: “The Iranians are not terribly good at capitulation. This is a regime that tends to believe the best defence is a good offence.” This accurately expresses the imperialist view, which naturally finds ‘offensive’ any and every assertion of national sovereignty that runs counter to its own domineering agenda. (Quotation cited in ibid )
Need we add that Iran offers no “offence” to any other sovereign nation, however much the ‘international community’ (the brotherhood of imperialist thieves) may protest to the contrary. It is the aggressive policy of US imperialism that offers grave offence to any known code of international law, not Iran’s stalwart defence of her own national independence.
Russia refusing to play ball
The chances of whipping everyone behind a concerted gasoline embargo look thinner given Russia’s stance. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and therefore able to veto whatever it sees fit. The world is therefore obliged to listen hard when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, is reported to be “brushing aside growing western concerns that Iran had made significant progress in recent months in a bid for nuclear weapons ”, believing that the “new set of proposals that Iran gave to European nations … offered a viable basis for negotiations to end the dispute”.
Added Mr Lavrov: “Based on a brief review of the Iranian papers, my impression is there is something there to use. The most important thing is Iran is ready for a comprehensive discussion of the situation, what positive role it can play in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region … Some of the sanctions under discussion, including oil and oil products, are not a mechanism to force Iran to cooperate … They are a step to a full-blown blockade, and I do not think they would be supported at the UN Security Council … Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way.” (‘Russia says sanctions against Iran are unlikely’, New York Times , 11 September 2009)
Obama’s arrogant ultimatum to Tehran – go back to the UN by mid-September in order to prove you do not have a nuclear defence policy, or else face the consequences – has met a calm and statesmanlike response. Challenged for the umpteenth time to do the impossible – that is, to prove a negative – Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, got on the phone to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to fix a meeting with the Security Council on 1 October.
President Ahmadinejad told the world: “We are ready to hold talks on international cooperation and ways to resolve ongoing economic and security problems in the world as we believe that such issues cannot be settled without collective participation,” but made it clear that Tehran will not hold talks on its nuclear energy programme. (Press TV, 14 September 2009)
Stripped of international consensus, a Washington bent on unilateral imposition of a gasoline embargo would run the risk of having to display more of the same brand of ‘hard power’ that has it already so bogged down and humiliated in Iraq and Afghanistan, igniting a huge conflagration in the region.
The New York Times tiptoed around this prospect with delicate understatement, pointing out that “true enforcement would require patrols off the Iranian coast, and that could lead to confrontations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”– that is to say, the Iranians might have the audacity to defend the free passage of shipping in their own waters!
StW wades into the fray
Meanwhile, whilst it appears to be dawning even on Washington that their campaign of lies about Iranian electoral ‘fraud’ (yet to be backed up by even a shred of evidence) and post-electoral ‘repression’ (of demonstrations provoked by comprador and feudal elements taking direction from imperialism) is wearing out the credulity of world opinion, necessitating a change of tack, the Stop the War Coalition still doggedly preserves upon its national website the ‘draft’ statement that it first posted on 20 June 2009, at the moment when the velvet revolution rhetoric was going full blast.
To its credit, the statement opened with the correct assertion that the “crisis unfolding in Iran must not become the pretext for renewed intervention by the USA or Britain in the region”, going on to add that “the responsibility of the anti-war movement is first of all to oppose the role of the British government in the region, and to prevent its posturing being used as a pretence to justify a US or Israeli military attack against Iran, an attack which would have catastrophic results for the whole Middle East and the Iranian people”.
Yet having entered this caveat, the statement went trampling on to add fuel to the propaganda fire the CIA had ignited. Well yes, it said: “It would be wrong for us to take any position on the disputed outcome of the Iranian presidential election.” As an aside, would it actually be “wrong” to welcome the electoral success of a leadership which owes its relative popularity to its identification with the interests of the poor and the defence of national independence? Has not this result in fact strengthened the independence of Iran, weakened the forces ranged against her, and diminished the threat of war (insofar as any action on Iran’s part could achieve this end)? Is not Washington and Tel Aviv’s isolation at the UN in part a consequence of this very development?
Be that as it may, the least that could be expected from those pledged to oppose aggression against Iran was silence on all the ballyhoo got up around the election. Instead, this is how Iran is ‘defended’: “ We do, however, support the right to demonstrate peacefully, just as we support the Iranian people’s right to political, trade-union and other civil freedoms and to struggle to achieve them. We unequivocally condemn the shooting of protesters and other violations of democratic liberties by the Iranian government.”
So much for being even-handed! And this ‘draft’ statement, which a small footnote informs us “will be put for endorsement to Stop the War’s National Steering Committee on Saturday 27 June 2009”, still (15 September) greets any chance visitor to the website with the bold headline “ Stop the War statement on the crisis in Iran ”.
The good intentions of Stop the War are not in doubt. The work carried out under its banner is important and deserves the support of every communist and progressive worker. What such a blunder as this underlines, however, is just how easy it is to stray over to the wrong side of the class-struggle lines when we fail to give spirited and consistent support to the anti-imperialist resistance, be it from a country already under occupation (Iraq, Afghanistan) or from one as yet ‘only’ under threat – like Iran. The better the anti-war movement understands this, the stronger it will grow.
Hands off Iran!
Death to imperialism!