Washington has spent the whole of 2009 trying, and failing, to compromise Iranian sovereignty and drive Iran from her chosen path of development.
It did its damnedest to use the June presidential elections to replace Ahmadinejad with Moussavi, a leader more in line with imperialist interests. When America’s favoured candidate was roundly defeated at the polls, Washington claimed, without a shred of evidence, that the election was a fix, and on the back of this Big Lie sought to engineer yet another ‘colour revolution’.
When this too failed – thwarted by widespread popular support for Ahmadinejad’s policies on national sovereignty, energy security, state ownership of key economic sectors and assistance to the poor – Washington predictably reverted to its old trick of crying ‘Fire!’ outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Obama issued an ultimatum to Tehran: come to the UN and prove that you do not have, never have had and never would defend yourself with nuclear weapons. This hectoring insistence that Tehran must perform the impossible and prove a negative hogged the headlines in the West, temporarily drowning out the still small voice of the director of the IAEA himself, ElBaradei, who has always made clear that no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme has ever been established – a conclusion endorsed by Washington’s own National Intelligence Estimate in 2007!
Meanwhile, Israel remains armed to the nuclear teeth with perfect impunity.
Tehran responded calmly to this latest provocation. It made clear that, whilst its choice of domestic energy policy was nobody else’s business and was not up for negotiation, Iran was “ready to hold talks on international cooperation and ways to resolve ongoing economic and security problems in the world”.
On this basis, Tehran sent negotiators to Vienna in October. It soon became clear, however, that whilst Tehran was negotiating in good faith, Washington had no other end in view other than to isolate Iran and put a spoke in her planned development of nuclear energy.
The proposal that came up in Vienna, to exchange some of Iran’s light-enriched uranium (LEU) for some fully-enriched uranium (for use in a nuclear facility dedicated to medical research), seemed initially to have some worth. The fact that the international community was warming to such a trade-off seemed to suggest that earlier unfounded objections to Iran’s production of LEU had been quietly dropped. After all, surely nobody was proposing a trade in contraband goods!
As the Iranian foreign minister, Mr Mottaki, put it at the time, “The meetings with world powers and their behaviour shows that Iran’s right to have peaceful nuclear technology has been accepted by them.” Again, the apparent readiness of the charmed circle of the ‘nuclear club’ to let Iran buy or barter some of the fuel she needed to meet her own energy security requirements seemed to suggest a change of heart.
But Washington’s real motivation in the Vienna talks showed through when Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary blurted to journalists: “Our object is to get a sizable amount of low-enriched uranium out of the country of Iran, making the world more secure.” Other officials confided that such an arrangement “would set aside, for about a year, fears that Iran could use the fuel to produce a nuclear weapon”.
Given this clear warning that the US was solely interested in a UN-sanctioned smash and grab of Iran’s hard-won fuel stock, Tehran not surprisingly demanded guarantees over the supply to Iran of the fully-enriched fuel she required.
Such a demand for guarantees is all the more understandable in the light of Iran’s past experience. France, one of the countries proposed as a bartering partner, cut a deal with the Shah in the early 1970s to supply about 50 tons of uranium hexafluoride – which the French have never honoured. The French have also blocked access to Iran’s share of the enriched uranium produced by the Eurodif nuclear plant, despite the fact that Iran has a 10 percent share in the venture (‘UK wants Iran’s “prompt response” to N-fuel proposal’, presstv.ir, 2 November 2009)
The long and the short of it is that Iran, whilst developing the capacity to enrich her own fuel, would meanwhile be content to purchase or exchange fuel under conditions that do not compromise her independence. Such trade-offs passed by without demur from imperialism when the Peacock Throne was presiding over Iran’s nuclear development.
And even since the Islamic revolution, similar deals have been struck without all this hullabaloo, as Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh pointed out. He told a television audience, “We are ready to buy [the fuel] from any supplier under the full surveillance of the IAEA … as we bought from Argentina about 20 years ago with the cooperation of the IAEA. The core issue is assurance and guarantee for [the] supply of the fuel.” (‘Iran to seek fuel supply guarantees in next round of talks’, presstv.ir, 2 November 2009)
The sole reason that the current discussions in Vienna have become so fraught is imperialism’s frantic insistence on using the IAEA and UN as blunt instruments with which to bludgeon Iran’s national sovereignty.
They couldn’t fix Iran’s elections, so now they want to spread a panic at the UN. Here, however, they face a difficulty. Neither Russia nor China, both veto-bearing permanent members of the UN Security Council, is willing to be stampeded into stiffening the sanctions against Iran.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, rejected Washington’s demand for a blockade on Iran’s petrol imports, recognising that this would be “a step to a full-blown blockade” against “a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way”. (New York Times, 11 September 2009)
More galling still for US monopoly capital, the relative backwardness in Iran’s refining capacity (rendering her vulnerable to an embargo on petrol imports) will soon be a thing of the past, as in August China revealed plans to help Iran build seven new oil refineries!
Both China and Iran benefit from friendly relations. In the last five years, Iran has exported more oil to China than to any other single market. But the traffic is not one way. In return, Iran benefits from Chinese knowhow, as well as the machine tools, locomotives and other means of production that she can supply.
The challenge to the imperialist domination of the UN posed by Russia and China also offers an opportunity for less powerful nations to claim a hearing. For example, President Ortega of Nicaragua, a country with long and bitter experience of the export of terror from the United States, has described Iran as “the biggest victim of terrorism” in the current situation. Under these circumstances, Washington’s ‘big stick’ diplomacy is looking increasingly isolated and rudderless.
However, what US imperialism cannot and will not do is give up on its domination agenda, however many enemies this creates and however high the stakes may climb. On the very eve of the second round of October talks in Vienna, rendering Ortega’s remarks prophetic, at least five Revolutionary Guards were reportedly killed and dozens of other people left dead or wounded in two bomb attacks near the Pakistan-Iran border.
The New York Times quoted a Revolutionary Guards’ spokesman as saying “Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus, and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them.”
According to the paper, responsibility for the outrage was claimed by an armed group of sunni Baluchis named Jundallah, which Iran has claimed is bankrolled and armed by the US. Given the vicious divide-and-rule tactics employed in the Iraq occupation, it is significant that, by the IRNA (Iranian news agency) account, the bombers “struck early Sunday as the Guards prepared to bring regional shiite and sunni leaders together for a conference in Pishin to try to improve relations among the different communities”.
Further, “In one attack, a suicide bomber wearing a military uniform and an explosive belt entered a mosque where Guard commanders were organising a reconciliation meeting.” (‘Iran Blames US and Britain in attack’ by Michael Slackman, 20 October, 2009)
And however suicidal for US imperialism such a course of action would be, it cannot be ruled out that such covert operations could in short order be complemented by open military aggression, whether by Washington or by its rabid proxy Israel. Recent joint US-Israeli naval exercises have been some of the biggest ever, and Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, has recently repeated the threat of military action if Tehran fails to submit to imperialist diktat.
Whilst the capitalist press floats the story that “Mr Obama’s own aides say they cannot determine whether the Israelis are bluffing”, Israel’s Danny Ayalon specifically “rejects speculations that the warnings are just a bluff, insisting they are very real”. (New York Times, 09 November 2009; ‘Israel says threat of attack on Iran no bluff’, presstv.ir, 8 November 2009)
And in addition to Ayalon raving that “The one who’s bluffing is Iran, which is trying to play with cards they don’t have,” former deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh went on record earlier in October as follows: “If no crippling sanctions are introduced by Christmas, Israel will strike … If we are left alone, we will act alone.” (Ibid)
Whether this apparent divergence of emphasis (with Obama’s advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski even reportedly declaring that “if Israel attacks Iran, the United States should intercept its bombers”) is simply a rehash of the old ‘hard cop, soft cop’ routine, or actually represents a serious crack developing in this axis of evil, only time will tell.
What is crystal clear, however, is the urgent duty of national defence which falls to the lot of the government in Tehran. Indications are that this duty is being shouldered with seriousness, with the Iranian government recently emphasising the importance of Russia’s timely delivery of the promised S-300 air defence system, designed to shield Iran’s nuclear sites against zionist airstrikes.
Israeli Air Force commander Major General Ido Nehushtan was candid on the significance of this ground-to-air missile defence, stating “We need to make every effort to stop this system from getting to places where the IAF needs to operate or may need to operate in the future.” (‘Iran warns Russia over S-300 delivery’, presstv.ir, 8 November 2009)
Meanwhile, Iran has recently pressed on with the successful test-firing of its own existing upgraded missiles, increasing their range and reducing their launch times.
The worst possible nightmare for imperialism, worse even than the dogged national resistance its occupations have provoked in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, is the certainty that sooner or later all these struggles against national oppression will be driven onto the same path of development as that taken by China, Vietnam, Korea and Cuba.
What a chill must already be striking hearts in London, Washington and Tel Aviv when such words as these are spoken by those to whom falls the responsibility of leading the national resistance against imperialist oppression – even when the sentiments remain hedged about with the language of obscurantism, and the speaker is not remotely a communist:
“The capitalist system has come to an end and radical change is a necessity … The painful results of the capitalist system have manifested themselves in wars, divisions, terrorism and discrimination in international relations.” (President Ahmadinejad, quoted in ‘Capitalism at its end’, presstv.ir, 9 November 2009)