Statement on the US-Iran crisis

Trump’s reckless drone assassination has actually strengthened the reactionary theocratic regime in Tehran, states Hands Off the People of Iran

Hands Off the People of Iran unequivocally condemns the United States assassination on January 3 of the commander-in-chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Soleimani – the culmination of the latest bout of sabre-rattling between the two countries. It is not enough, however, to simply denounce Trump’s perilous manoeuvres in this volatile region. We must understand the underlying political dynamics of the face-off between two mismatched reactionary regimes – the US world hegemon and the Islamic State of Iran.

In truth, the killing of Soleimani – and Trump’s subsequent threat to bomb 52 targets in Iran – was a godsend for the rulers of the Islamic Republic. After the targeted strike, a mood of patriotism grew in Iran and rival factions within the government converged in the face of external threat. Even some outright opponents of the regime have rallied to ‘defend the nation’. More worryingly, the mood of cross-class outrage against the American attack will have a dampening effect on workers’ struggle against the regime’s neoliberal domestic economic policies.

According to Trump, he ordered the killing to prevent more wars in the region. In stark contrast, most of the world’s media predict an escalation of tension and military conflict as a result. Beyond Iran’s borders, Trump’s foolish raid has been a spectacular failure, strengthening Iran’s position in Iraq and Lebanon. In the recent past, citizens of Shia Iraqi cities were setting fire to Iranian consulates; the demand for Iran to keep its hands off Iraq had been one of the main slogans of protestors in Baghdad and elsewhere. Last week Shia Iraqis were chanting the slogan often heard in Iran’s Islamic Republic: “Death to America”. Similar sentiments have been expressed in Lebanon, where Christian Maronite and Druze politicians are echoing Hezbollah’s claims that it was Soleimani who saved the country from Islamic State.

Hopi likewise condemns the ‘revenge’ exacted by the Iranian regime, which in any case was deliberately ineffectual – Iran having informed both Norway and Iraq, if not the US directly, that missiles were incoming. The effective state of war on both sides and likelihood that missile launches would invite US retaliation meant that Tehran’s air defences were on the highest alert, but the regime did not cancel civil air traffic. This resulted in the mistaken shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet and the death of all 176 people on board, including many Iranian dual nationals returning to Canada via Kiev.

For three days the regime blamed the crash on a technical fault, and denied any missiles had been launched. Only when the mountain of evidence became insurmountable did they admit the truth; many in Iran have questioned whether an admission would ever have come, if foreign and dual nationals had not been involved. Within Iran at least, this avoidable catastrophe and subsequent attempt to escape blame has undermined the regime’s narrative. Demonstrations, beginning at two of Tehran’s historically most political universities, spread quickly around the country, participants chanting anti-regime slogans such as “No leader, no shah! Down with the Islamic Republic!”

The unstable nature of the period that has opened makes it difficult to formulate perspectives with any degree of certainty. However, there are points that all consistent democrats should be clear on:

  • The rationale that prompted the US attack is hard to understand – unless it is simply related to domestic politics and Trump’s impeachment in a presidential election year. While the Iranian state is episodically drawn into conflict with the West, it is not an anti-imperialist force. There is nothing defensible about the nature of the regime and those political forces who attempt to sow illusions in it should be condemned.
  • If there is escalation and the threat of war between the USA and Iran becomes palpable, many on the left will automatically defend the Islamic Republic. Feeble arguments will be advanced for this; no doubt we would be treated to the poisonous logic of ‘the enemy of my enemy must be a friend’, also known as the anti-imperialism of fools. We have implacably rejected this in the past and we will stay loyal to internationalist principle.
  • The only consistent force for peace in Iran and the wider region is the working class. We condemn US imperialism’s war-mongering in Iran and the region, though we refuse to defend Iran’s Islamic regime. We will continue to support the struggles of Iranian workers against the oppressive, neoliberal economic policies of the religious state that oppresses them.
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