US vs Iran, Which Side Are You On?

by Jeff Mackler, published on Socialist Action, January 30, 2020

On the brink of war with Iran the Trump administration presented to the American public and to the world the following stated or implied theses:

  • That the U.S. was a civilized nation intent on preventing “terrorist nations” like Iran from destroying the world with nuclear weapons.
  • That as the chief spokesperson of the U.S. President Trump was a sane and rational person in pursuit of rational objectives as opposed to the insane, if not demonic and terrorist-oriented leadership of the Iranian government, which was intent on violently imposing its will on the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East.
  • That in pursuit of its peaceful objectives the U.S. had the absolute right to abrogate negotiated treaties with Iran, plan and prepare for war, murder Iranian leaders, employ cyber warfare and missiles to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, assassinate Iranian scientists, and impose crippling economic sanctions aimed at destroying the Iranian economy.
  • That U.S. intervention and war in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond was fully justified in achieving its objective of defeating Iranian influence in these nations.

Let us examine these theses with a bit of history in mind.

American satirist Mark Twain once said “A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is putting on its shoes.” Those words could be applied to Twain’s all-but-banned essay King Leopold’s Soliloquy, in which the Belgian king recounts his genocidal slaughter of 12 million Congolese during the colonization of that country. While Leopold enslaved Congo to extract its rubber and ivory resources, he was forced to concede the subterranean mining rights to two U.S. corporate behemoths, the Rockefellers and the Morgans, today united in the J.P. Morgan Chase global empire. To this day this trillion-dollar enterprise retains its “interests” in that war-torn nation. It was only a half-century later, in the early 1960s, that Leopold’s U.S.-abetted horror came to light, albeit a dim light indeed.

Similarly, former Federal Reserve Bank chairman Alan Greenspan in his 2007 book The Age of Turbulence famously admitted the true nature of the 1953 U.S. secret war against Iran, in  which CIA operatives dressed in Arab garb forcefully entered Iranian government facilities to arrest and depose the elected head of state President Mohammad Mossadegh. Explaining U.S. imperialist actions in the Middle East 54 years later, Greenspan justified this “regime change” coup by acknowledging the undeniable presence of an “800-pound gorilla” in the room: Middle East oil, which he defined as a “U.S. national security” interest. Imperialist war for oil has been front and center of U.S. policy since 1953 and long before.

A bit more Iranian history is in order to drive this point home. After undoing Mossadegh’s oil nationalizations and transferring Iranian oil rights to U.S. corporations, the U.S. invaders installed Shah Reza Pahlavi and his CIA-trained terrorizing national security agency, the SAVAK, which proceeded to incarcerate and torture 70,000 Iranians – the largest number of political prisoners in the world. With full U.S. support, the Shah amassed the fifth-largest army in the world.

Twenty-six years later, Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini announced from his exile in Paris that he would return to Tehran to depose the U.S.-installed Shah. In the face of one of the most well-armed and repressive governments on Earth, few observers at that time believed that Khomeini’s statement was anything but boastful hyperbole. All were proven wrong. Upon his arrival at Tehran airport he was met by crowds estimated at seven million people, the largest revolutionary mobilization in human history. In the face of these mobilizations, the Iranian army and police disintegrated, often turning over their weapons to the enraged masses while abandoning their uniforms and headquarters. It is not our intention here to review the details and class contradictions in this extremely popular 1979 revolution that ousted the U.S.-installed dictator, other than to note that among the new Khomeini government’s first acts was to nationalize Iran’s vast oil resources, that is, to remove them from U.S. ownership and control.

The Iran-Iraq War

The U.S. government response? Within months top U.S. officials brokered a secret deal with Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein, a deal that armed to the teeth then-ally Hussein for a war to remove the Khomeini government. This secret U.S.-financed eight-year war against Iran (1980-88) took the lives of one million Iranians and 800,000 Iraqis! It took place in the context of the corporate media-promoted demonization of the Khomeini government. Only later did it come to public attention through the Iran-Contra affair that Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser Oliver North had been selling hundreds of TOW anti-tank missiles and similar numbers of anti-aircraft missiles, not to Iraq but rather to the “arch-demon” government of Ayatollah Khomeini.

A 2019 New York Times Opinion Page editorial summarizes the matter quite clearly:

“The main details of Iran-Contra are straightforward. In 1982, the United States began backing the contras, the right-wing paramilitary opposition to Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government. Late in 1983, controversy over this assistance led Congress to pull its support. President Ronald Reagan, determined to stop what he saw as the spread of communism in Central America, directed his national security adviser, Robert McFarlane, to ‘keep the contras together body and soul’…U.S. officials would work to circumvent Congress’s prohibition on American involvement [the Boland Amendment to a House appropriations bill], first through fund-raising — soliciting $32 million from Saudi Arabia over several years — and then through illegal arms sales to Iran, spearheaded by a National Security Council staff member, Oliver North. In 1986, the scheme exploded into public view after the Lebanese magazine Al Shiraa published the story of the arms sales to Iran and Sandinista forces downed a cargo plane carrying weapons and other supplies for the contras.”

The Times continued:

“The scandal implicated top cabinet and administration officials, with strong evidence tying Vice President George H.W. Bush to the conspiracy as well. Figures with direct involvement, like North and Adm. John Poindexter (who succeeded McFarlane as national security adviser), altered records and lied to Congress in an attempt to stymie investigators and insulate the president from culpability.”

We will only add here another reason for the illegal and covert arms sale to Iran other than the funding of the Nicaraguan Contras to overthrow or destabilize the revolutionary Sandinista government: the U.S. sought to prolong the Iran-Iraq war in order to keep both nations’ oil resources off world markets, thus increasing the value of U.S.-owned and dominated fossil fuel resources.

From war against Iran to war against Iraq

Just a few years after orchestrating the Iran-Iraq War, U.S. warmakers turned their attention to the demonization of their former touted ally, Saddam Hussein. This was followed by two U.S. wars against Iraq. The first began with the 1991 saturation bombing of Iraq and ended with the U.S. imposition of massive sanctions. Some military experts have asserted that the U.S. bombing was the most intense in world history, perhaps an intentional display of the real power of U.S. weapons of mass destruction. Defenseless Iraq had virtually no military counter. The daily and nighttime bombing was televised around the world with U.S. military officials dutifully reporting to the media the number of sorties flown daily along with televised coverage of unimpeded bombs and missiles devastating Iraqi cites.

The Second Iraq War began in 2003 with yet another massive bombing campaign, followed by the military occupation of Iraq and then the U.S. imposition of a series of puppet governments—coupled with the U.S. overseeing the transfer of Iraq’s major oil rights to U.S. corporations. That war is universally understood as among the major foreign policy “mistakes” in U.S. history.

The most significant military opposition to the U.S. ground war and conquest of Iraq was led by Iraq’s Shia militias led by Muqtada al-Sadr. Qassim Suliemani’s Iranian Quds Force fighters also stood out as heroes of the resistance to the U.S. invasion and conquest. They remain so to this day. This “mistaken” U.S. war and imposition of sanctions took the lives of 1.5 million Iraqis.

Fifteen years later, a May 30, 2018 Washington Times article reported

“Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party finished first in Iraq’s national elections last year, is calling the U.S. military an ‘invader,’ raising fresh concerns that the Pentagon may face another demand to leave the country before the military mission against Islamic State and other jihadi groups is complete.”

The article continued:

“With Mr. al-Sadr scrambling to form a new government following his political bloc’s surprise recent victory in parliamentary elections, his words have carried increased weight about a nationalist backlash about the U.S. presence in Iraq. A fierce critic of the U.S.-installed government after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Mr. al-Sadr declared Tuesday that ‘the U.S. is an invader country,’ and that his newly empowered Sairoon political alliance will “not allow [the U.S.] to interfere at all.’”

This second U.S. war against Iraq was justified by falsified reports that the Saddam Hussein government was secretly manufacturing “weapons of mass destruction”—specifically nuclear weapons—that it planned to launch against the U.S. The massive U.S. initial bombing led to an agreement with the Hussein government to allow untold numbers of “inspectors” around the world to determine the truth of the U.S. accusation. The inspectors, with access to every Iraqi facility, found no such terrible weapons. The U.S. nevertheless broadcast live and nationwide Secretary of State Colin Powell’s UN presentation affirming in great detail their existence. Powell later repudiated his own report, claiming that he had been lied to by administration officials. No such weapons ever existed!

Iran and the U.S. war against Syria

We have written volumes on the U.S./NATO/Gulf State monarchy-orchestrated war aimed at toppling the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad. (See: Syria: Anatomy of Another U.S. Imperialist War, 2017, By Jeff Mackler, ). Here we will limit our commentary to noting that almost immediately after Syria’s brief 2011 Arab Spring demonstrations for democratic rights, the U.S. government orchestrated a massive intervention in Syria. This combined billions of dollars in expenditures to finance and organize a U.S.-controlled army for the overthrow of the Assad government with a reliance on Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf State monarchies to send in their own forces as well. The U.S. also collaborated with the Turkish military to organize, arm and train at U.S. bases in Turkey jihadist forces from some 70 nations to do the same.

The highpoint in this endeavor was the occupation by ISIS and other U.S.-abetted forces of almost two-thirds of Syria. ISIS, Al Qaeda and Nusra Front forces, all foreign to Syria and financed outside of Syria, were the central occupiers. Often backed by U.S. airpower. By 2016 they were poised to capture Damascus. So potent and imminent was this U.S. intervention that then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry served as the convener, if not arbitrator among the various regional forces that met in open conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to determine how Syria was to be divided between various contending factions of the anti-Assad cabal. It was in this context that the Syrian government called on its allies for support – support for its right to self-determination, that is, to be free from the U.S.-NATO “coalition” imperialist intervention.

The response of the Iranian government was immediate, sending Quds Force fighters under the command of Qassim Suleimani. Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, who had previously defeated the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, also agreed to defend Syria. Together they challenged the full-force U.S. imperialist-backed invasion. At the invitation of the Syrian government Russia too agreed to help. The combination of these forces, together with the Syrian Army, which had already lost 50,000 fighters to the U.S.-backed war, was decisive in defeating the invaders. But as with all imperialist wars, the cost was enormous. An estimated 500,000 Syrians lost their lives. As with the corporate media’s demonization of Suleimani, and all others who resist imperialist intervention and war, Bashar Assad was labeled the “Butcher of Syria.” The Gallop polling organization’s British affiliate, ORB International, which does polling for Western nations including the U.S. government, reported otherwise. ORB polls across Syria recorded that the majority of the Syrian people supported the Assad government while less than ten percent supported the U.S.-led “coalition.” This “coalition,” according to the ORB poll, included all of the reactionary forces allied with the U.S.

Today, Syria has recovered most of its historic territory, except for the isolated, routed ISIS and associated forces who remain in the Idlib province in northwestern Syria, which borders on Turkey. All Syrian efforts to remove these forces have been met with dire threats of massive retaliation from the U.S. and its NATO allies. Trump’s more recent assertions that he will withdraw from Syria have proven to be lies.

An October 29, 2019 NYT article was emphatic:

“In recent days,” said The Times, “Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country. He has declared that the United States has ‘secured’ oil fields in the country’s chaotic northeast and suggested that the seizure of the country’s main natural resource justifies America further extending its military presence there.”

The Times’ coverage continued:

“‘We have taken it and secured it,’ Mr. Trump said of Syria’s oil during remarks at the White House on Sunday, after announcing the killing of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mr. Trump went on to remind his audience of how, during the Iraq war, he called for selling off Iraq’s oil to defray the conflict’s enormous cost.”

In all these matters U.S. policy had little or nothing to do with Iran’s alleged support to terrorism anywhere in the world or Iran’s alleged intention to develop nuclear weapons. Both these U.S. pretexts for endless war have been repeatedly refuted by authoritative sources across the globe. In the case of the U.S. charge that Iran violated the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly know as the Iran nuclear deal, all the signatories, except the U.S. have refuted this accusation.  The signatories today include the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, France, China, the European Union and Iran.

Clearly, Mark Twain’s century old assertion that the truth usually lags far behind the world’s liars is far from absolute. Within days Trump’s lies have been exposed as such before the entire world.

We conclude our refutation of Trump’s and U.S. imperialism’s central theses, stated or implied, with our own theses:

  • We unconditionally support the right to self-determination of Iran and all other oppressed nations facing imperialist intervention in all its manifestations. This simple thesis is best expressed in the U.S. antiwar movement’s central demands, “U.S. Out Now!” and “Hands Off Iran!”
  • The right of poor and oppressed nations to self-determination necessarily includes their right to seek and accept the support of other nations in opposing imperialist war and intervention in their countries.
  • On nuclear weapons, we stand for the abolition of all nuclear weapons, beginning with the U.S.—whose arsenal includes more than 6,000 nuclear weapons and whose future plans include the manufacture and use of literally thousands more in the form of ”tactical” nuclear weapons. In this context, any imperialist-imposed ban on nuclear weapons, should Iran decide to embark on this project, must be rejected.
  • Socialist Action’s unconditional support to self-determination for Iran, Syria, Iraq and all other poor and oppressed nations is not at all synonymous with our political support to the governments or regimes of these oppressed nations. Socialists have no illusions that any capitalist government on Earth can be the vehicle to achieve an egalitarian society that advances the interests of the working-class and peasant majority toward socialism. In this context, the removal of any capitalist government on Earth is the sole responsibility of working people and their oppressed allies—and never U.S. imperialism and its reactionary allied forces.
  • We stand 100 percent opposed to today’s U.S. wars and threats of war against Iran, Syria and Iraq. In accord with our support to the right to self-determination of all oppressed nations, even those under capitalist rule, we are for the defeat of U.S.-backed imperialist intervention in all its forms.
  • Socialists include in this strategic orientation the absolute necessity of workers and peasants in all nations, however difficult and distant under the present circumstances, to struggle to form their own independent fighting revolutionary socialist parties, aimed not only at opposing all imperialist wars and interventions but at establishing socialist societies where capitalist exploitation and oppression are forever ended.


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