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Iran Tensions are being ratcheted up in the Middle East

The recent attacks upon the Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia have seen a ramping up of tension between the West and Iran. JANE GREEN highlights the dangers of further escalation

WHEN the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year, it was a signal that the undeclared war upon Iran by President Donald Trump was entering a new phase.  

Trump had always made clear his opposition to the deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed in 2015 and made withdrawal from it one of his election pledges.

Sanctions against the Iranian regime, further restricting its ability to access international finance, were increased last November — and Trump has tightened the screw further following alleged Iranian involvement on attacks on oil facilities in the region in May.

Until this week, Britain had stood apart from the US policy position and alongside its EU allies in wanting to salvage the JCPOA. The emphasis from Europe up until now has been that Iran is best dealt with diplomatically, rather than militarily.

However, a shift has taken place with the statement of Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to the House of Commons on Wednesday in which Raab, in effect, repeated without qualifications the declaration of the Saudi Arabian government and the US in blaming Iran for the attacks on the Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Raab stated: “We are now confident that Iran was responsible. The evidence is clear and there is no plausible alternative explanation.”

Of course, if the evidence were clear, there would be no need for the qualification that there is no plausible alternative explanation. Raab trips himself up with his own phrasing.

Whatever evidence Raab is supposed to have it certainly does not appear to be “clear.”  Even the statement from the Saudi defence ministry claimed that the military components from the Aramco facilities “point to Iran” and that the attacks were “not within the range of capability” of the Yemeni Houthi forces — hardly unequivocal “evidence” of Iran’s involvement.

Added to this is the fact that the Yemeni Houthi forces claimed responsibility for the attacks, as part of their resistance to the Saudi-led coalition opposing them in Yemen, soon after the strikes took place.

Raab’s phrasing follows that of Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, who met this week at the UN general assembly in New York, and issued a joint statement on the question of the Aramco oil facility attacks stating: “It is clear for us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other explanation.”

The West purports to view this incident with a remarkable degree of “clarity” without either seeking or producing any evidence to back it up

The West purports to view this incident with a remarkable degree of “clarity” without either seeking or producing any evidence to back it up. Falling back on the pantomime villain role, ascribed to Iran by US diplomacy, the “no other explanation” argument is as substantive as any Western politician has so far produced.

This is hardly enough given the gravity of the accusations against Iran.

As ever, there is also a high degree of hypocrisy in Britain, the EU’s and the US position. They condemn Iran while saying absolutely nothing about the aggression and human rights record of Saudi Arabia.  

In addition the only proof of direct Iranian involvement in the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities is to claim that Iranian missiles were used, all the while overlooking the cold hard fact of US and British weaponry being used to slaughter the people of Yemen and impose what is dubbed as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

There is a tragic irony in the now widespread calls upon the Iranian government to conduct itself honestly and honourably — as well as in the rhetoric threatening severe consequences for Iran should it not behave accordingly as if punishment is not somehow already underway, following the US’ decision to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA, without any justification — and then reimpose sanctions which are having a devastating effect on the country’s already long-suffering population through no fault of their own.  

Since May 2018, Iran’s oil production has fallen precipitously, it is down by over 40 per cent over the last year. Other factors have also drastically worsened following the reimposition of sanctions — the unemployment rate is estimated to be 25 per cent; inflation has risen to 80 per cent and the currency has lost over half its value.  

Thus, the situation for much of Iran’s increasingly poor population is becoming unbearable.

The position of both Britain and the EU now affixes their grips to the coattails of the US. 

Furthermore, to cement British and EU compliance with US aggression in the Middle East and the Gulf, the statements depend heavily on double standards and US fabrications.  

As the US continues its self-proclaimed role as the world’s police force, the statements call on Iran to comply “with the principles and rules of the international rules-based system.” Not — of critical importance — international law.

This indicates a move away from the position taken by Britain and the EU previously in seeking to keep the JCPOA alive.

Boris Johnson effectively confirmed the shift in policy position in a Sky News interview earlier this week saying: “Whatever your objections to the old nuclear deal with Iran, it’s time now to move forward and do a new deal. Clearly the difficulty is how do we organise a global response? What is the way forward? And we will be working with our US friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region.”

Military, economic and cyber aggression by the US — with EU and British support — risks an escalation towards war and poses a serious threat to world peace

The Western position on de-escalating tensions in the Gulf region is, to say the least, a poor one and the realities of Britain and the EU aligning with the US are not a hopeful prospect.

The Committee for Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir) has issued a statement in response to recent developments re-emphasising the need for peace and diplomacy in order to find a way forward in the Middle East.  

Assistant general secretary Jamshid Ahmadi said yesterday: “The Iranian people want peace and need support for their struggle for human rights and freedoms against the dictatorship in Tehran — but on this the EU, Britain and the US are silent.

“These double standards and dangerous acts of military, economic and cyber aggression by the US — with EU and British support — risks an escalation towards war and poses a serious threat to world peace.”

The US, EU and Britain are in danger of forming an unholy trinity when it comes to the international position on Iran. It can only be hoped that in the coming weeks, before any irrevocable action is taken, a change in British government will mark a change in policy and offer the real prospect of a de-escalation of tension in the region.

In the meantime, Codir has called on peace movements internationally to mobilise the widest possible forces to ensure that warmongers on both sides of this conflict do not push the world into a devastating war. This is an absolute must.

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