by Nick Baker, published on Socialist Action, July 9, 2019
As U.S. imperialism ceaselessly spreads its tentacles around the globe, its latest victim, yet again, is Iran, the strategically located oil-rich Middle Eastern nation that has resisted U.S. and British colonial domination for over a century.
Since its 1979 Revolution that ousted the murderous dictatorship of Shah (meaning “King”) Reza Pahlavi, imposed by a 1953 U.S. coup against the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh government, the Iranian people have been subject to unending imperialist onslaughts. As former President George H. W. Bush once wrote in a classified National Security Directive,
“U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf are vital to the national security. These interests include access to oil and the security and stability of key friendly states in the region.”
Former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan called this “the eight-hundred-pound gorilla” that U.S. capitalists avoid mentioning in public.
As punishment for ridding itself of overt U.S. imperial domination in 1979, the U.S. secretly orchestrated the eight-year Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), wherein the U.S. backed its then ally, Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein, whose U.S.-funded army invaded Iran, leaving one million Iranians dead and 800,000 Iraqis. The U.S. wanted to pave the way for the return to power in Iran of a U.S.-allied government and, in the interim, foment a war wherein both nation’s vast oil-producing capabilities were either destroyed or sufficiently crippled to keep their oil from competing on world oil markets.
Since withdrawing in May 2018 from the imperialist-imposed “nuclear deal” the U.S. has continuously increased its aggression against Iran, accompanied by apocalyptic threats to destroy the country from many top U.S. officials. On June 20, President Trump, conjuring up yet another imperial pretext for war, came within 10 minutes of launching a deadly assault on Iran. The warmongering corporate media dutifully reported Trump’s proclaiming himself a “dove” as opposed to a “hawk,” as he publicly removed his deadly presidential finger from the “Go!” button. The attack had been set in motion to punish Iran for alleged attacks on two oil freighters in the region.
Meanwhile, U.S. warfare in all its modern-day manifestations—cyber war aimed at crippling Iran’s infrastructure, devastating sanctions, as in Venezuela, aimed at bringing on misery and deprivation to the broad population, secret assassination teams targeting Iranian scientists, and the massive military preparations—continue unabated.
The most recent U.S. war moves include sending an additional 2500 soldiers—on top of the thousands already in Iraq and Syria and 70,000 across the Middle East—B-52 bombers, F-22 fighter jets and surveillance equipment to the area, and stationing a carrier fleet in the Persian Gulf whose warships provocatively sail back and forth along the coast of Iran. While the capitalist press bleats that “both sides in the U.S.-Iran standoff say they don’t want war,
” we note that only one side has gathered its armies at the door of the other and threatened it with “obliteration,”
in the words of Donald Trump. Need we assert that a person threatened at gunpoint with annihilation is not engaged in a “standoff?”
The U.S. calls what it is doing to Iran merely the exertion of “maximum pressure.” An essential part of that is all-out economic warfare. After breaking its own “deal” last year, the U.S. has implemented ever-harsher sanctions against Iran with the stated goal of “bring[ing] Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” to quote an April 22 White House statement, a goal that the U.S. has since repeated many times. Roughly half of the Iranian government’s revenue comes from oil exports, with gas exports providing most of the rest.
The U.S. is following the same “make the economy scream” playbook in Iran that we have seen in Venezuela. Iran’s economy contracted 3.9% in 2018 as a result of Trump’s massive imposition of sanctions. It is predicted to contract another 6% this year for the same reasons. By contrast, in April 2015, one month before the U.S. withdrew from the “deal” and re-imposed sanctions, the IMF was forecasting 4% growth for both years. The partial lifting of U.S. sanctions in late 2015 led to 13% growth the following year.
Now, U.S. imports of Iranian oil have again been reduced to zero, as they were under the Obama administration from late 2010 through late 2015, while the U.S. was pressuring Iran ahead of the nuclear deal. The U.S. initially issued some waivers for countries who were purchasing Iranian oil at a significant discount, but last month the Trump administration announced the end of those waivers as the U.S. proceeds to try to choke off all Iranian oil revenues.
In both Iran and Venezuela, the U.S. has used cutting off the government’s access to oil revenues as a key tool in its economic warfare in preparation for “regime change.” In Venezuela, the U.S. government literally demanded that its “allies,” threatened with U.S. sanctions if they did not comply, seize Venezuelan government assets in banks around the world and transfer them to accounts established by the U.S. These stolen billions of dollars would then be payable to the U.S.-orchestrated coup plotters, who the U.S. called the new Venezuelan government.
In Iran, the U.S. has similarly acted through its influence or control of various world financial institutions to impose sanctions against Iranian banks and the Iranian government. Any nation or corporation that trades with Iran, including transporting its oil, is subject to U.S. reprisals. Venezuela and Iran have the world’s first and fourth largest proven oil reserves, respectively, which represent a massive amount of potential wealth for both countries.
Moreover, Iran has the lowest combined production and transportation costs of any oil-producing country. Excluding these nations from the world’s oil markets is deeply imbedded in U.S. imperial policy; it’s in the very nature of the imperialist beast. According to the White House statement of April 20, the U.S. proposes that when Iranian oil has been completely removed from the market, oil from the U.S. and its Gulf State allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will fill the gap. Today, U.S. production is at an all-time high and rising, at nearly 11 million barrels per day (bpd) for 2018, up 68% from 2012. In April, it hit a record of 12 million bpd. Add to this the U.S.’s fracking of its massive shale oil reserves, and a monstrous doomsday scenario emerges: endless wars to ensure the domination of U.S. oil mega-monopolies, combined with a catastrophic increases in greenhouse gases.
As is always the case, U.S. sanctions have hit working people in Iran the hardest. Food prices have soared, medications prices have increased and access to medicines and medical devices has become more difficult, killing an untold number of Iranians. The value of the rial, Iran’s currency, has plummeted. Inflation in 2018 was 31%, according to the International Monetary Fund. The prices of meats and vegetables have risen nearly 50%, with youth unemployment reaching over 25%. The Financial Times reports that wealthy Iranians are stockpiling goods and converting their falling currency into gold.
U.S. hatred of Iran goes well beyond oil. Iran has been a key supporter of the Syrian government as it has successfully fought back against the U.S. attempt to overthrow it through U.S.-backed Gulf State monarchy proxy armies and associated NATO forces. Trump campaigned claiming that he would end the war in Syria. Then he said the U.S. would leave when ISIS was defeated. Now the Trump administration says the U.S. military will remain in Syria until Iran leaves. “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” John Bolton said. As we go to press, Israel is yet again attacking Iranian forces in Syria. Iran has also backed the Houthis in Yemen against Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war of destruction.
The U.S. is now thrashing about for “justifications” for its war moves, putting out a variety of pretexts, lies, and deceptions as its causus belli. The Trump administration’s ham-fisted way of doing it embarrasses some in the ruling class, and has resulted in The New York Times in a June 20 editorial invoking the long-exposed Gulf of Tonkin and U.S.S. Maine pretexts for the Vietnam and Spanish-American wars. No doubt, The New York Times editors/publishers want war; they just want it to be presented more palatably, to make waging imperialist war appear as a respectable last resort. But it was The Times that championed George W. Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction”-justified war against Iraq that killed 1.5 million Iraqis!
After two oil tankers were damaged in the Gulf of Oman, Trump and other top U.S. officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (former head of the CIA), and National Security Advisor John Bolton, immediately claimed, giving no evidence whatsoever, that Iran had attacked the ships with mines. Soon afterward, the president of the Japanese shipping company Kokuka Sangyo, which operates one of the tankers, stated that the crew had said the ship was attacked by a flying object, and not mines.
More recently, when Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that was flying over its territory, the U.S. claimed that the drone had been in a different location over international waters, and prepared to launch missiles but instead decided on a cyber attack against Iranian computer systems, part of a long history of U.S. cyber attacks against Iran.
The biggest false claim is that Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon. Of course, Iran has every right to build a nuclear weapon as a matter of self-determination in a world in which it is constantly threatened by imperialist powers with nuclear weapons—in the case of the U.S., 6185 of them, to be exact. However, the fact is that Iran has never attempted to build a nuclear weapon, has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to build a nuclear weapon, and has consistently submitted itself to inspections in order to prove those facts. Unfortunately, no level of proof will ever be sufficient to keep U.S. imperialism from its intended ends.
Today, the capitalist warmongers insist that Iran is surpassing the amounts of enriched uranium it can have according to the now-voided nuclear deal. In other words, having broken with the pretense of its imperialist “deal,” the U.S. still demands the right to tell Iran what to do. The so-called “stockpiling” of uranium refers to Iran’s accumulating more than the 300 kilograms of energy-grade uranium it was allowed to have under the nuclear deal. If it produced more, it would have to sell anything over that amount. Buried in a June 20 New York Times article is this:
“the [Trump] administration has curtailed Iran’s options for disposing of its excess energy-grade uranium. In May, it revoked authorization for Iran to sell the uranium abroad, as it had done under the nuclear agreement.”
This “negotiated” nuclear deal amounted to nothing less than the world’s superpowers’ imposing on a poor nation conditions and restrictions as to how it will operate with regard to world political economy. The essence of the deal was that to avoid Iran’s total exclusion from the world’s oil and trade markets, it would have to comply with imperialist demands, with the latter based on imperialism’s insistence that the “uncivilized” Iranian government aimed at launching nuclear war against the world’s nuclear-armed “civilized nations,” the same national chauvinist pretext aimed at North Korea today.
Not a day passes when the U.S. war machine is not ratcheted up to advance its imperial interests. In the Middle East, its prime agent has been the Zionist, colonial settler state of Israel, whose prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in the July 2 New York Times during a recent conference in Jerusalem as stating that Israel had bombed Syria “hundreds of times.” Like Trump, Netanyahu insists that Syria is in Israel’s “backyard” and justifies Israel’s “covert” bombing war on the pretext of eliminating or reducing Iran’s presence in Syria. Both Israel and the U.S. today insist on their “right” to conduct their never-ending wars against Syria, citing ad nauseum their “national security” interests, including Israel’s claim to Syria’s Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since its infamous June 1967 war.
As with Venezuela, and any poor and oppressed nation facing imperialist war and intervention, Socialist Action unconditionally defends the right to self-determination, that is, to be free from U.S. imperialist intervention and to call upon allies to help support this right. Both Venezuela and Iran today are in the immediate gun sights of U.S. imperialism and it allied forces. Both have legitimately called on Russia and China and other parties for aid. In fact, Russian and Chinese aid to Venezuela, their intentions aside, has proven to be decisive with regard to thwarting U.S. efforts to ban Venezuela from the world economy. In a similar fashion Syria’s calling on Russia, Iran and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah, proved to be decisive in preventing a U.S.-backed takeover of the entire Syrian nation.
Despite being called a “Marxist theocratic regime” by U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, Iran is and has always been a capitalist state, wherein a tiny ruling-class elite dominates the economic and political life of the country. At times, Iran’s capitalist rulers, under pressure from the Iranian masses and in the course of challenging imperialist threats of intervention—as was the case following the heroic 1979 Iranian Revolution that included unprecedented mass mobilizations of some seven million people in Teheran to oust the U.S.-backed Pahlavi dictatorship—have conceded significant gains for workers, including the mass unionization of workers across the country and the formation of revolutionary-minded workers’ councils (shoras) to advance working-class interests.
Tragically, these were undermined and set back in the post-1979 years, largely due to the absence of a mass revolutionary socialist party aimed at challenging capitalist rule. Socialist Action’s Trotskyist co-thinkers in Iran valiantly struggled to build such a party, but their forces, impressive to be sure, proved insufficient to the task. During the 10-year U.S.-orchestrated Iraq war against Iran, our Iranian comrades were in the front lines of Iran’s military, opposing this U.S. effort to overthrow the Iranian government. That task, they correctly argued, was the job of Iran’s working-class masses, not the imperialist-orchestrated interveners.
In Iran today, as in Venezuela, only those who stand in the forefront of opposition to U.S. imperialist threats of intervention and war will prove capable of assembling the mass forces capable of challenging capitalist rule.