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THE assassination of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist by Israel is a summary execution by executive order of two politicians who both face ignominy. Prosecution is already underway in the case of one and not unlikely in the case of the other.
Both hang on to the trappings of office to stave off a reckoning with their respective electorates and justice systems.
Both want to see a sharpened confrontation in the service of an imperialism which binds them together in blood and plunder.
Whether this provocation results in a shooting war or merely a further step over the threshold of confrontation depends very substantially on which forces in Iran end up determining its response.
We cannot always take the rational judgement of the theocratic regime’s leaders for granted but there are many countervailing forces in Iranian society which at some level understand that surviving confrontation with imperialism is served better by asymmetric warfare and diplomacy than battlefield sacrifices.
The US influence in the region meshes always with malign forces. Saddam Hussein invaded the Kuwaiti province with the encouragement of the US while the disastrous eight-year long war which followed Iraq’s US-sanctioned 1980 invasion of Iran caused the deaths of untold citizens of both countries.
Staving off war today depends critically on the global balance of forces and on the alignment of forces within the imperialist bloc to which Britain belongs.
It is already clear that Trump’s US and the European Union are not on the same page regarding Iran’s place in the world. There are a good many hopes invested in Biden with the expectation that the main circles within the US ruling class prefer a managed relationship with a non-nuclear armed Iran to unpredictable conflict.
No-one should consider this unproblematic. Whatever tactical differences exist between the forces tracking Trump and those backing Biden, the strategic interests of US imperialism remain broadly bipartisan.
Tensions exist in the British ruling elite over precisely which of these alignments are to be decisive in formulating British foreign policy. Our peace and labour movements need to be clear and active in opposing any British state support for ratcheting up confrontation. From Labour in Parliament this requires a clear repudiation of Israel’s role in this affair.
It is a sign of Israel’s increasingly precarious reliance on US patronage that Netanyahu has authorised this provocation. Biden’s accession to office may well include a recalibration of the role assigned to Saudi Arabia and other client states in the region and this is a source of anxiety.
The rational elements in Israeli society (and for that matter in the US) understand clearly that Israel’s long-term security depends more on a just accommodation with the Palestinians and regional stability rather than the US guarantee and its attendant subsidies – but in both countries these forces are not decisive.
Israel’s newspaper of record Haaretz recently reflected on Israel’s defeat in the war of words.
The irruption into the global narrative around Israel’s apartheid regime by a renewed currency of the term “bantustans” has highlighted the extent to which Netanyahu’s provocative partnership with Pompeo dramatised the Trumpian abandonment of empty formal support for a “two states” solution.
Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem combined with open support for further annexations of Palestinian land is a crude and provocative repudiation of UN resolutions and international law.
We can take an informed and rational view of this latest crisis but much more important is a mobilisation of British public opinion in forcing a breach with US policy in the region.
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