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THE US decision to send a further 1,000 troops to the Gulf brings the possibility of a disastrous war with Iran closer, but this is still a conflict we can stop.
China is right to warn the US to drop its “policy of extreme pressure” and avoid opening “Pandora’s box” in the Middle East. But the US may not heed advice from a country it considers its main strategic rival and with which the Donald Trump administration has already begun a high-stakes trade war.
China is not alone in opposing the war. US allies such as Spain, Germany and Japan have all cautioned against it. But hoping wise counsels prevail in the capital cities of imperialist countries is not enough.
US policy is being driven by dangerously reckless men. As Stop the War’s Chris Nineham has pointed out this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has regularly demanded war on Iran, and called on then president Barack Obama in 2014 to ditch talks on the nuclear deal and instead “take out” Iranian nuclear facilities with air strikes. National Security Adviser John Bolton has an equally dire record of lobbying for war.
And Trump is being egged on by the US’s closest Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, countries whose governments are also in the hands of rash characters. Benjamin Netanyahu’s accelerated colonisation of illegally occupied land, Mohammed bin Salman’s catastrophic war against Yemen, both countries’ interference in the Syrian conflict — these records give little grounds for optimism that either man would pull back from the brink.
This is why Unison leader Dave Prentis’s demand that “Britain should not follow blindly the policies and actions of the United States” is one that must be taken up as a campaigning priority by the labour movement.
Tories from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt down have lined up to deride Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for asking to see better evidence before provoking another Middle East war.
So, for that matter, has Change UK foreign and defence spokesman Mike Gapes, whose jibes about Corbyn requiring evidence from Hamas or Hezbollah are a cruder version of the Tory narrative that questioning the case for war is somehow unpatriotic.
This tirade of juvenile abuse is, to turn Hunt’s insults against him, “pathetic and predictable,” but it should not cow Labour.
Support for any conflict proposed by the United States is the default position of many MPs and much of the media. But millions of people in this country are sick of war and aware that the cases for previous wars have been based on lies. The impact of the Stop the War Coalition’s work over the past two decades should not be underestimated.
Pointing, as Prentis does, to the disastrous impact of previous wars launched against Iraq and Libya is key to building a movement for peace on the scale that we mobilised against the Iraq war in 2002-3.
That mobilisation did not prevent the invasion. But Blair’s government was much stronger than lame duck May’s and he benefited from a Tory opposition that backed his march to war.
Trust in Parliament and politicians has since been shattered, not least by the Iraq war itself, meaning government claims to have evidence of Iranian wrongdoing is already meeting widespread scepticism.
The Tory leadership candidates have harped since the start of the contest on the likelihood of the next election bringing Corbyn’s Labour Party to power.
A PM terrified of losing that election will be susceptible to a mass campaign to stay out of an unpopular war. Britain’s refusal to support the venture would in turn strengthen those elements in the US leadership who would prefer tension with Iran to be reduced.
Mobilising against war with Iran is more than a “not in my name” moral necessity, though it is that too. We can stop this war if we organise against it.
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