Things in and around the Islamic Republic of Iran have changed significantly since the last article on this topic. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been inaugurated for his second term as President of the state, despite the widespread prior protests alleging voter fraud. It is clear now that the rebellion following the elections of this summer has been defeated, and that power has been restored by the ruling clique of the country, although that clique has been much divided and destabilized as a result of the events. In the meantime, the main topic is the Iranian nuclear programme, which has caught the gaze of the international community.
While it is widely recognized that Iran cannot much longer rely on oil exports for its main income, the attempts by the ruling class of Iran to gradually replace oil with nuclear energy have given rise to a chorus of condemning voices on the part of the Western nations, in particular the United States. They accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory. The nuclear program of Iran is undoubtedly part of a modernization program and also involves a significant amount of prestige for the state, which seeks to portray itself as strong and modern vis-a-vis the outside world while at the same time it maintains theocratic, reactionary social structures by paramilitary force inside its borders. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does permit peaceful construction of nuclear energy sources, but requires they be opened for inspection to IAEA for the purposes of verifying they are not used to make nuclear weapons. So far, Iran has done so, there has been found no evidence of production of nuclear weapons, and the American accusations are considered unfounded even by their own national intelligence chiefs.(1)
We can leave aside for the moment the issue whether Iran would be justified in seeking nuclear weapons for purposes of self-defense, given the ‘public secret’ that its archenemy Israel possesses them, as well as the reality of Pakistan and India possessing such weapons, both countries close to Iran and heavily involved in the geopolitics of the region – not to mention the United States itself and its largest arsenal in the world. If Iran were to undertake this, it would have to renounce the Non-Proliferation Treaty and declare its aims openly so that they may persuade the people of the world that they are acting in good faith and self-defense, as is necessary when such weapons of mass death and destruction are involved. There is no doubt that the goal of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a world without such weapons of doom, is a noble and just one – but it is unclear how effective it can be given a world of constant imperialist tension and nationalist and religious strife. The best way to reduce acquisitions of such weapons is to remove the causes of countries acquiring them, which is to be done by lessening the threat of war more generally. If the Western nations are truly concerned about nuclear war and weaponry, they would do well to lessen their own threatening pose against other nations and reduce their own stockpiles, so that good faith is shown and can be reciprocated.
Be that as it may, there being no evidence for Iran’s ill intent in this regard, the American-led campaign of aggressive rhetoric against Iran must be seen as part of the next step in the continuous American imperialist takeover of the Middle East. Instead of loosening its forceful grasp on the region after the dramatic results it has had over the past decades from Egypt to Afghanistan, the current American governments seem ever more inclined to squeeze the life out of any possible opposition in this region. Given that the United States has in the past ten years invaded and occupied Iraq as well as Afghanistan, both countries directly bordering Iran, and that it has in these countries not only caused massive death and destruction but also installed vassal governments under pretense of liberal democracy, there is every reason for any Iranian government, whether progressive or reactionary, to be concerned about it being the next target. Indeed, precisely the manner in which the United States and its allies have shown themselves remarkably lax on the point of actually maintaining the ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’ aspects of their newly created states, and seem more concerned about reducing the potential for attacks on their soldiers and resistance to their strategies, shows that Iran is justified to take the American-led rhetorical offensive for what it is: a declaration of hostilities.
It is all the more galling that Iran is accused of irrationality, dangerous behavior and so forth for its nuclear energy program and its testing of missiles, as well as because of its support for pro-Iranian groups in Iraq and in Lebanon against the machinations of Israel and the United States (as well as its own local strategic enemies for much less noble reasons). The United States itself is financing the ‘Communist’ Mujahideen e-Khalq, an organization seeking a left-wing dictatorship but idiotically using terrorist bomb attacks and support for Iraq in its strife against Iran as the means, as well as the Baluchi nationalist movements in Iran.(2) The latter of these groups has just undertaken a devastating suicide bombing against paramilitary leaders in the province, killing several important figures, according to the Iranian state television PressTV.(3) Since such attacks have been undertaken before, and several American congressmen have called for more of the same, there is every reason to believe them.(4)
Indeed, no serious Communist appreciates in any way the reactionary Iranian government, its theocratic repression, its vile stifling of the liberties of free citizens in its country, nor its opportunistic beating of the nationalist drum directly after the widespread protests following controversial election results. But at the same time, one cannot expect the Iranian people to accept being blown up at random for the ‘greater cause’, especially not by outside groups that have had little contact with Iran for decades and that have a parasitical relationship on other imperial powers, such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the United States. Under such circumstances, the Iranian government, no matter what its political stripe, is justified in defending itself and rejecting accusations of ‘sponsoring terrorism’ when its opponents are doing precisely that in their very own country. Imagine the American response if an Iranian-funded nationalist Californian group blew up the commanders of China Lake Naval Weapons Center and Camp Pendleton! Indeed, given that the American response to Al Qaeda’s ‘9/11′ terrorist attack was an immediate invasion of Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the American rhetoric against Iran on this point is yet more evidence that imperialism has one law for the empire and another law for the rest. The same is also evident given Israel’s continuing aggressive posturing against Iran and its own persistent violations of all norms of nonproliferation.
It is therefore imperative that progressive people resist as much as possible the imperialist call for strikes on or sanctions against Iran. Aside from its immediately aggressive imperialist nature and the death that would undoubtedly result among the Iranian people, who are innocent of their theocratic rulers’ wrongdoings, such actions would have several very negative repercussions:
– It would strengthen the hold of the reactionary regime in Iran, because when threatened from outside, any government can appeal to patriotic sentiment and so build up support it would otherwise have to do without.
– It would strengthen the imperial rivalry of China and Russia, which support Iran, against the Western nations, which like all imperialist brinksmanship can only result in more war and conflagration. There is absolutely no reason to favor Russian or Chinese imperialism over American imperialism, and every reason to reject any ouvertures toward imperialist states on the part of anyone.
– It would give the ultrareactionary states in the region such as Saudi-Arabia and Israel an opportunity to strengthen themselves at the expense of the peace of the region and the anti-imperialist forces.
– It would be yet another move in what has been called the “sequential destruction of muslim nations” of the post-Cold War period.(5) This sequential destruction has had a crusader-like effect, whereby a religion of a billion people is increasingly arrayed against the West in a struggle that is horrifyingly damaging to both sides. Destroying the fledgling postcolonial states in the Middle East creates and strengthens large numbers of religious fanatics and reactionary elements, it kills hundreds of thousands of people, destroys the already weak chances of systematic progress these nations have for the foreseeable future, and by inciting countless against a general demonized idea of the West, endangers even the opponents of Western imperial policy.
Telling is the fact that recent polls indicate that only 28% of Americans oppose military attacks against Iran, while 61% of Americans supported such attacks. Even the hopeless war in Afghanistan still has evenly divided support, after 8 years of occupation, with 43% in favor and 43% against.(6) The American people know all too well that their advantage lies for now in the suppression of the freedom of others, just as for the British workers their advantage in the 19th Century lay in the oppression of Ireland and the colonies, as Marx and Engels pointed out. No systematic resistance against the imperialism of our own nations can be expected in the West as long as the broad mass of the population generally benefits from it. It is important nonetheless that consistent progressive people keep sabotaging our own war efforts and warmongering as much as possible, even if we are in a minority position. But since our own people, including the working class, cannot be counted upon, it is necessary and correct that Communists also support the targets of our imperialism arming and equipping themselves as necessary to defend themselves from the aggression of our governments. This includes those states whose governments are in political terms domestically as bad or worse as our governments, since just as our governments are an affair of our people, their governments are an affair of their people. We must support the peoples of the Third World in their efforts to rid themselves of the reactionaries, priests, compradors and plutocrats sitting on their backs, but they can only do this if they first get rid of the imperialists that are sitting on their backs. As in the familiar IWW propaganda poster of the pyramid of oppression, where on the worker stands the idle class, and on the idle class the soldiers, and on the soldiers, the priests, and so forth, with the bourgeois ruling class on top; so it is with the international order, where on the Third World worker stands the Third World ruling class, and on the Third World ruling class the First World worker, and on the First World worker stands the First World ruling class, which exploits and dominates all. Shall we not jump off and take our rulers with us in our fall, so the man on the bottom has a chance to stand up?
(1) “Iran lacks weapons-grade nuclear material -U.S.” Reuters (March 10, 2009).
(2) “Seymour Hersh: US Training Jondollah and MEK for Bombing preparation”. CASMII Press Release (July 8, 2008). http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/5551.
(3) “Jundullah claims responsibility for terror attack in Iran”. PressTV (Oct. 18, 2009).
(4) Charles Davis, “US Lawmakers Call For Supporting Terrorists In Iran”. http://original.antiwar.com/charles-davis/2009/07/02/us-lawmakers-call-for-supporting-terrorists-in-iran/.
(5) Liaquat Ali Khan, “Now Pakistan – Sequential Destruction of Muslim Nations”. MWCNews (Oct. 17, 2009). http://mwcnews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33831&Itemid=42.
“Telling is the fact that recent polls indicate that only 28% of Americans oppose military attacks against Iran, while 61% of Americans supported such attacks. Even the hopeless war in Afghanistan still has evenly divided support, after 8 years of occupation, with 43% in favor and 43% against.(6) The American people know all too well that their advantage lies for now in the suppression of the freedom of others, just as for the British workers their advantage in the 19th Century lay in the oppression of Ireland and the colonies, as Marx and Engels pointed out.”
If this were true, why is it necessary for the political elite to spend so much money and time propagandizing Americans that attacking Iran and escalating in Afghanistan are good ideas? If the American working class were naturally in favor of these positions because of their class, couldn’t capitalists save themselves a lot of money?
Also those polling numbers from Fox News are a lot different from numbers I’ve seen elsewhere, like in this poll from the Post/ABC: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-the-numbers/2009/10/post-abc_poll_few_partisan_fis.html?hpid=news-col-blog. Considering Fox’s record I’d trust ABC’s numbers more. The opposition to bombing is pretty weak, 54-42, and it shows Americans are strongly in favor of sanctions, 78-18, but it still paints a much rosier picture.
Of course the questions in both polls accept unquestioningly that Iran’s nuclear program is non-peaceful. I think if people were told that the IAEA has a full accounting of Iran’s fissile material, the numbers would be a lot different.
Besides for that I fully agree with your entry.
It seems like you’re trying to have it both ways. The reactionary clerical-military clique ruling Iran would be strengthened by an American attack, yet their opponents, Israel and Saudi Arabia, would be strengthened at their expense. Or smashing religious fanatics with American military power strengthens the religious fanatics — it’s the American, imperialist, etc. opposition to religious fanaticism that causes religious fanaticism. Then I suppose the United States should just take it easy, since their enemies only exist because the US opposes them. Or we must defend Iran, which is not a threat, there is no evidence that it is a threat, because it is such a threat any attempt against the regime will lead to general war.
“The nuclear program of Iran is undoubtedly part of a modernization program and also involves a significant amount of prestige for the state, which seeks to portray itself as strong and modern vis-a-vis the outside world while at the same time it maintains theocratic, reactionary social structures by paramilitary force inside its borders.”
And outside its borders.
“It is all the more galling that Iran is accused of irrationality, dangerous behavior and so forth for its nuclear energy program and its testing of missiles, as well as because of its support for pro-Iranian groups in Iraq and in Lebanon against the machinations of Israel and the United States (as well as its own local strategic enemies for much less noble reasons).”
Indeed, against the machinations of Israel in Lebanon. But the method Iran does this is by maintaining a theocratic, reactionary social structure backed up by paramilitary force.
I think the big mistake you on the Left make is believing that by defending, say, Iran, you’re defending the preconditions of some kind of human liberation. I really see no evidence of this at all. Regarding Israel, opposition to Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinian national liberation movement and Hezbollah sounds good in the abstract, but what’s being called for is the replacement of one mad ethnic nationalist state with another — the preconditions of further exploitation and oppression. I understand that from a practical point-of-view my position is helpless and futile, so I throw up my hands and retire.
A: Propaganda is necessary even if a material interest exists – if it exists, people should still be made conscious of it. If that happened automatically, all politics would be redundant.
B: It is quite possible to say that an attack would relatively strengthen the mullahs within Iran, while relatively strengthening Israel and Saudi-Arabia c.s. against Iran in the international sphere. I disagree strongly with your point regarding national liberation: it is impossible for any left-wing movement to succeed in these nations if they do not have the breathing space to govern their own affairs. If these nations are under the constant control of Western governments and corporations or their compradors, they have no means to determine their own affairs; and the West will never permit them to develop in a socialist direction to begin with, as all evidence shows. That alone is a strategic reason to oppose imperialism. Emancipation of individuals requires emancipation of peoples.
“A: Propaganda is necessary even if a material interest exists – if it exists, people should still be made conscious of it. If that happened automatically, all politics would be redundant.”
But the media doesn’t make people aware of material interests. During the run up to the war on Iraq it focused on security, and after it was clear that there were no WMD’s, on spreading “democracy”. On Afghanistan, it talks about preventing terrorist attacks or protecting the women of Afghanistan. If someone actually brings up the material interests that are keeping the United States engaged in those countries, like oil fields or pipelines, they’re shouted down and called crazy.
Yeah, of course any propaganda chooses the particular form in which it will be best received. Empires have always claimed to defend peace, order, progress and what have you. I do think that they are more and more having to rely on this because people are getting more skeptical over time about their governments and the way they represent popular interests and their activities, so the traditional sort of shameless superiority claims don’t work as well any more. Compare the average person now to the average person in the 1920s, let alone the 1880s, in terms of how likely they are to believe that politicians know best, are honest, have the best interests of the nation at heart etc.
In fact I suspect it’s only because of the labor aristocracy factor that they can still get away with imperialism at all.