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Iran: the drive to war intensifies

As US rhetoric pressing for a new Middle East war with Iran intensifies, JANE GREEN assesses the issues

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump continues to ramp up rhetoric against Iran as the threat of a further Middle East war becomes greater. Trump claims that he called off air strikes against Iran recently at the last minute, after being told of the potential death toll of up to 150 innocent Iranians.

The threatened strikes were in response to Iran shooting down an unmanned US spy drone, which had “strayed” into Iranian air space.

The reality is that Trump is responding to a crisis largely of his own making. In pulling the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year, the Iran nuclear deal signed between Tehran and Barack Obama, Trump triggered increased tensions with Iran.

The renewed sanctions as a result have upped the pressure upon the Iranian economy, given the hardliners in the Islamic Republic greater prominence and squeezed the living standards of ordinary Iranians to breaking point.

Even Trump himself recognises that developments are crippling the Iranian poor. Speaking before he left for Osaka, Japan for the G20 summit, he stated, “Well, I don’t think their leadership is smart. I don’t think they have smart leadership at all. Look what’s happened to Iran. Iran’s going down the tubes. Their people can’t eat, they’re rioting all over their streets, their inflation rate is 60 per cent or something like that. Maybe even worse, actually.”

Trump may not have killed any Iranians in a direct military strike on this occasion, but the US sanctions regime, combined with the profiteering, corruption and ineptitude of the Iranian government itself, is ensuring that the people of Iran are suffocating slowly.

Recent reports indicate that US retaliation has taken the form of cyber attacks upon Iranian weapons systems. US officials claim that the cyberattacks, part of a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions, have disabled the Iranian computer systems that control its rocket and missile launchers.

The US is supported by its regional proxies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are concerned that the power and influence of Iran does not upset their own designs to be regional superpowers. The US, Saudis and Israel have a collective interest in keeping the flow of oil to the West, while at the same time ensuring the flow of weapons from the US and UK into the Middle East.

White House hawks including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have argued for military strikes against Iran. The recent attacks upon oil tankers in the Persian Gulf appear to be the first steps in a pattern of provocation in which Iran is blamed for actions which the US has to then address in order to protect its “vital interests.”

The game plan is similar to that used by the Bush administration in the build-up to the war in Iraq: a combination of provocations and demonisation of the leadership of the regime. Recent denunciations of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, combined with sanctions upon any overseas assets held by Khamenei are part of this pattern.

However, in spite of the support of regional allies the US remains keen to have greater international backing for any action.

Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt has recently made clear that he accepts unproven US intelligence blaming Iran for recent attacks in the Gulf, going so far as to suggest that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was “pathetic and predictable” for demanding credible evidence.

Hunt has even disowned a British general who questioned the intelligence. The Labour leader said the UK should “ease tensions” in the region rather than “fuel a military escalation,” saying that “without credible evidence,” the government’s rhetoric “will only increase the threat of war.”

As Foreign Secretary, Hunt can hardly deny that a British military build-up is under way on his watch, including deployments of special forces, marines, Royal Navy ships out of Bahrain and, potentially, RAF F-35 fighter jets based in Cyprus.

Given his sycophantic track record regarding Donald Trump there can be no doubt that alternative Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson would be an equally willing ally of the US should he find himself with the keys to 10 Downing Street.

The Islamic Republic has gravely offended the world’s only superpower by pursuing policies in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Yemen which do not comply with the interests of US and Western imperialism.

For this reason, the only endgame for the Trump administration is “regime change” in Iran. The economy in Iran is on its knees, protests continue to sweep the country, the credibility of the regime is lower than ever.

Oil exports and revenues have been drastically reduced, further compounding the weakness of the economy and the misery of the Iranian people. In short, Iran poses no economic or military threat to the United States.

Obviously, the current situation is unsustainable for long and the leaders of the regime in Iran are counter threatening the US and Europe that they will fully withdraw from JCPOA, accelerate uranium enrichment, and further inflame the tensions in the region.

Iran’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araqhchi stated recently: “If Iran cannot export oil, naturally it will not just sit and watch while others continue to do so. If we cannot export, then others will not be able to either. The options, choices, and possibilities open to Iran are numerous. It is not just the Strait of Hormuz. There is not only one solution.”

A last-minute effort by European powers to persuade Iran not to breach limits on its stockpile of nuclear fuel ended inconclusively last week, with the Iranians saying that Britain, France and Germany had made only modest progress in developing a system to get around tight US sanctions on trade with Tehran.

The Iranian people have suffered 40 years of mendacity, poverty and oppression under the Islamic Republic. They are undoubtedly ready for change — but not change imposed by the US or its proxies. They want change that they lead and the direction of which they determine. That is something the Trump White House will not be comfortable with, as regime change for the US always means change that is pro-US.

In the short term however, the priority remains to stop the war and organise to expose the real designs of the Trump administration. The trade union, labour and peace movements around the world are already well aware of the dangers of a further conflagration in the Middle East, not just for the people of Iran, but for the whole world.

In Britain that means putting pressure upon the British government not to join with or support any US military intervention. It means condemning any pressure from the United States designed to draw Britain into supporting military action. It means standing firm with the people of Iran and standing side by side with them in their struggle for peace, justice and democracy.

Jane Green is national officer of the Committee for the Defence of Iranian Peoples Rights (Codir).

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