Tag Archives: Protest

Video: Syrian Khamenei supporters attack anti-war Iranians

On January 28 around 300 protesters gathered at the American embassy to oppose the increasingly bellicose rhetoric against Iran and Syria. Called by the Stop the War Coalition under the title of ‘Stop the war before it starts: don’t attack Iran/Syria’, the protest was in many respects something that seasoned activists in the anti-war movement would be all too familiar with. Well-meaning, if often slightly tedious and repetitive speeches, a few chants and the promise to build an enormous opposition that could finally scupper the imperialists’ plans once and for all. However, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be simply ‘business as usual’. In a somewhat embarrassing indictment to the approach of ‘as broad as possible’ typified by the coalition, several speakers were booed or chanted down, and fights broke out between protesters. At one point a group of Iranians from the London Green movement lined up against supporters of the Syrian Baathist regime under the sway of Bashar Al-Assad. It was not pretty.

The first indications that something was not quite right came when I was handing out Hands Off the People of Iran leaflets (‘Make your voice heard’: see here). The leaflets were readily snapped up, but it soon became apparent that several of the people I had handed leaflets too – particularly young men – were sporting baseball caps emblazoned with the Syrian flag (not that of the Syrian opposition) and a picture of Al-Assad in all his despotic glory.

At the same time, about 40 Iranian protesters were gathering behind banners reading ‘Free Iran’. From afar, this demonstration must have seemed like the prelude to some conflict, not a demonstration to oppose one.

When the rather compromised figure of Abbas Eddalat of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran spoke, noise erupted from the ‘Free Iran’ contingent. In the din it was not all clear what he was saying – though he went out of his way to assure the protesters that the theocratic regime in Iran was not interested in building nuclear weapons. It was obvious that the Iranians wanted their voices to be heard in a different fashion, by somebody else.

This angered the Syrians, and soon both groups squared up. They were separated only by police barriers and four or five rather dumbfounded police constables. Some of the younger male Syrians initially managed to get quite close to the Iranians. Wrapped in Syrian flags and with bandanas reading “labeik Khameni – I worship Khamenei” around their heads, they meted out some quite heavy blows to some of the Iranians leading the chants. Adding to the absurdity of the situation, the handful of Iranians waving the Islamic Republic of Iran flags then joined with their Syrian comrades. One woman joined the two together and waved them proudly. The Iranian Khamenei supporters were in a distinct minority – most were young men from Syria. Yet the Iranian Islamists were not coy, with one pushing Hopi chair Yassamine Mather as she was being filmed. This sets a rather distasteful precedent.

Chants of ‘Long live Syria’ were met with ‘Down with Hezbollah’. Some of the chanting being lead from the stage was utterly drowned out. Keen to find out just who some of these people were, comrades working with Hopi managed to speak to some of them, and were informed that it was actually acceptable for women wearing bikinis to be stoned.

There was a fleeting moment of humanity, however, when the clashes temporarily were broken off to remove a small girl from the crowd, who had been hurtled to the floor.

But from this point on things were really out of control. The stewards were quite rightly at a loss, and some of the protesters were calling in the police to break up fights.

Speeches from the platform were constantly interrupted: it seemed that the Syrians wanted to talk about Syria. Indeed, this demonstration was also supposed to be about Syria too. But the organisers were keen to play down the Syrian aspect and none of the platform speakers really discussed Syria at all. This obviously upset the al-Assad fans, leading to them disrupting the demonstration and letting loose on the Iranian oppositionists. They did their best to make it known just how much they loved al-Assad, instigating attempts by rather embarrassed Iranians to stop them .

One of the main organisers of the Syrian contingent could be seen handing out copies of the CPGB-ML’s publication, ‘Proletarian’. I therefore wondered whether some of the hostility towards StWC speakers also stemmed from the latter organisation’s unceremonious ejection from the coalition for their veneration of former Libyan despot, Colonel Gaddafi.

Opportunism is the handmaiden of inconsistency. After all, just a few months ago the leadership of Stop the War booted out these very same people for their fawning praise of Gaddafi, supposed man of the people.

So it was fine (indeed a precondition of membership!) to oppose imperialist intervention in Libya while supporting protesters against their own dictator, but when it comes to Iran … No, no comrades, we cannot allow forces to affiliate to the coalition (like Hopi) who have the temerity to oppose imperialism AND criticise the theocracy. Many platform speakers were absolutely correct to chastise the double standards of the West when lecturing Iran on the perils of nuclear technology. But we also have to look at our own movement’s double standards once in a while.

The organisers did their best to calm the situation. But the arguments of the main speakers Lindsey German, John Rees and Andrew Murray were, as with their arguments against Hopi, largely mendacious.

“You are making the biggest mistake of your lives if on the basis of opposition you support the war”, Lindsey German shouted over the noise.

Quite right. In the past, the Iranian left has, of course, been tainted by the presence of all sorts of useful idiots lining up with the war drive. But the 40 or so Iranians at this demonstration were clearly, visibly anti-war. Most were keen to take a Hopi leaflet, and many carried official Stop the War placards reading ‘Don’t attack Iran’. Some of their supporters held up signs making the obvious point: ‘Sanctions and war kill Iran’s democracy movement’. If there is a criticism that can be made of the ‘London Green movement’, it is that their opposition to the entire regime came far too late. But now is the time to organise. The Iranians present on the demonstration should affiliate to the StWC and fight for basic internationalist principles.

German, Rees et al are actually going to fairly desperate lengths to dodge the issue at hand, ie the fact that they have consistently – both in the SWP and their new setup – opposed the affiliation of anti-imperialists critical of the Iranian regime. Hopi does not to make it a condition of entry that the StWC adopts the same policies as Hopi. We are in Britain and thus – yes – our main duty is to stop the warmongers. But we reject the notion that we must silence ourselves if we want to take part. Given that a section of the Iranian regime are not exactly indifferent to the prospect of war (desperate times, desperate measures!) this matter is hardly a mere trifle.

Indeed, I am also a bit perplexed by the notion that ‘the Iranian regime is a matter for the Iranian people themselves’. On one level this is obvious. Even though the clashes between Hezbollah supporters and Iranian democracy protesters may have made it feel like Tehran, the demo took place in London.

But is not the struggle against war in the Middle East – a powder keg of war and revolution – bound up with the strength and success of radical movements for change from below? Is it so heinous a crime to have platform speakers who have politics beyond ‘let’s all stop the war’? Fresh from a trip to Cairo, John Rees made this very point: the unfolding Egyptian revolution stood as an indictment of the arguments made by liberal and social imperialists about how US intervention brings democracy: the Egyptian military are shooting democracy protesters with US bullets! Indeed, but why does such a fundamental point only apply to US client states, and not those at odds with imperialism too? His logic shows something that far too many of the left (and on the far right) still cling too – the notion of an ‘anti-imperialist camp’ led, however imperfectly, by those like Al-Assad, Nasrollah or Khamenei.

Yet this flawed logic is increasingly at odds with reality. Indeed, there are encouraging signs that Counterfire’s erstwhile comrades in the SWP seem to be gradually turning away from their previous approach. (We should not forget that in 2006 SWP members Somaye Zadeh, Alys Zaerin and Casmi’s Abbas Eddalat led the charge against Hopi’s affiliation to StWC with very dubious, pro-theocracy arguments – see here: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker2/index.php?action=issue&issue=695).

But back in December, an Iranian SWP member, comrade Ali Alizadeh, gave a talk on ‘The lessons of Islamism’, in which he ended with a call to oppose any imperialist intervention without falling into the trap of allying ourselves with the regime. (His talk can be viewed online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn3__XoTlTk). For the moment his comrades do not seem to be doing much about fighting for this line in the StWC. Curiously, the report of the demo by Sian Ruddick in Socialist Worker online does not mention the stand-off at all (http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=27366). SWP comrades obviously pretend this did not happen.

After all, Saturday’s sorry mess is just another tragic testament to the perils of popular frontism, of the poverty of political vision manifest in the StWC leadership over the years.

Hopefully there will be a rethink. But for the moment, the signs are few and far between. Chris Nineham could only roll out the usual call: put aside our differences and build the ‘broadest possible movement’. Always absurd, this message was rendered slightly more absurd by the fact that only state intervention could prevent what appeared to be a full-scale fight between the Iranians and the Syrians.

We in Hands Off the People of Iran have constantly pointed out the dangerous waters the anti-war movement will get itself into by putting narrow sect manoeuvering over politics and principles. We do not rub our hands in glee at the mess that unfolded before us on January 28, because it discredits our movement as a whole. Yes, we want the broadest, most militant movement of opposition possible. But we also want a movement that thinks and debates, that does not leave its politics outside of the movement, and that welcomes a whole range of critical views and ideas – not just those that are not too unpalatable for German, Rees and Murray.

We are potentially heading into extremely dangerous times. More than ever, a clear message of working class internationalism is needed in our movement. We call upon all anti-imperialists to fight for the right of Hopi to affiliate to the StWC – and for a clear change of strategy. The times demand nothing less. Join Hopi’s campaign and fight for anti-imperialism in the anti-war movement.

Ben Lewis

Hopi Annual General Meeting 2011

HOPI AGM
Lisa Goldman, Chris Strafford and John McDonnell MP

This successful meeting on February 12 2011 agreed to launch the campaign ‘Free Jafar Panahi and all political prisoners in Iran!’

  • For a report (first published in the Weekly Worker) , click here
  • For videos of the event, click here
  • For John McDonnell’s speech which launched the campaign, click here

Find below information on the motions that were passed and who is sitting on our new steering committee.

Continue reading

Yassamine Mather: Sanctions take their toll

Yassamine Mather calls for international solidarity with Iranian workers

Over the last two weeks the number of strikes in Iranian factories and workplaces has risen considerably. Workers have taken action in major plants such as South Pars Gasfields, Alborz Lastic Sazi, Ghaem Shahr textiles, Safa Louleh (pipe manufacturers), as have city council workers in Abadan. Demands have also been raised by nurses and other hospital workers, teachers and civil servants.

Some of the most important oil and gas plants have been hit, as well as key manufacturing industries. In other words, both the traditional and modern sectors. In addition to these strikes, we have also seen the first protests by retired workers opposed to a reduction in price concessions for pensioners, reduced from 15% to 9%. Retired employees demonstrated outside the majles (Islamic parliament). In some ways this was as important as the strikes by workers in employment.

How should we analyse the fact that so many workers’ protests have occurred simultaneously? Is it just a coincidence? Of course, it is impossible to predict how things will evolve, but, given the level of repression against workers and the left, these events mark a significant development in the current stage of economic and political struggles inside Iran. So what are the factors behind this new wave of labour unrest?

There is no doubt that sanctions are creating widespread economic devastation, to a degree that is unprecedented over the last 30 years. The drop in the price of oil on the world market, the reduction of production levels for both oil and gas (itself a result of the failure to renew productive capacity), the fall in non-oil exports, bankruptcies and closures in production and manufacturing, the rise in the rate of inflation in housing and essential goods, the plunder of the country’s economic resources through the expropriation of privatised industries and services by factions of the regime, the colossal rise in the price of medical services and drugs – all this points to an escalation of the economic and social crisis.

By November 9, long queues were forming at petrol stations, as motorists expecting a 400% price rise were trying to fill up their tanks. But low-paid workers are the main victims of the current situation. According to an employee of Ghaem Shahr Textile Industries, many of his colleagues have been forced to remove their children from education (both high school and university) so that they can feed their families on the meagre income from their temporary jobs.

Many small and medium-sized firms have already been bankrupted. However, what we are witnessing now is the effects of the crisis on some of the country’s major industrial units, exposing the extent of the problems facing the whole economy. In the past the Islamic regime could rely on oil income and unbridled imports to deal with the demand for basic consumption goods. But now the ruling elite is faced with two important problems: a fall in the price of oil and a regime of suffocating sanctions.

The new round of sanctions has not only made it difficult to import many items, leading to spiralling price rises for most goods: it has also become a serious political weapon threatening the survival of the regime. The regime cannot ignore the problems of production in major industries and this has given the workers in such plants an opportunity to raise demands regarding wages and working conditions.

All this has occurred at a time when the government has been pushing through the abolition of price subsidies – or promoting ‘targeted subsidies’, as it prefers to say. Despite threats to punish shopkeepers who increase prices charged for essential goods, such as bread, meat, sugar, cooking oil and dairy produce, prices for these items are rising daily. Compared to last year, the cost of bread is likely to have increased five or six times by the end of this Iranian month, while cooking oil will have more than doubled and cuts of lamb tripled.

This week, after months of denial, Iran’s Central Bank admitted the true extent of the rise in the rate of inflation. Statistics issued by the bank and other government organisations, including for the cost of living, are given in dollars, even though Iranian workers are paid in tomans (1,000 tomans = one dollar). Last week the price of imported meat in Tehran supermarkets was $30 a kilo – more than in most stores in London or New York. The average wage is $400 a month.

We should not forget that the removal of subsidies on essential food items was part of a $100 billion cuts programme; an integral component of the regime’s adherence to neoliberal economic policies under the terms of its five-year plan. However, uncertainty over the changes was one of the factors behind a $6 billion slide in the value of Tehran’s stock exchange two weeks ago, with trade volume plummeting 63% and share prices dropping by 43% in just one week.

All this will inevitably lead to increased unemployment. Official figures put Iran’s jobless rate at 14.6%. However, this is far below the true figure. The government of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has revised the definition of what constitutes unemployment a number of times. Currently someone doing just one hour of paid work per week is not considered unemployed. But no-one doubts that for many the prospect of finding a job is non-existent.

The government’s fear of food riots following the abolition of subsidies is so real that even before the deadline for full implementation it stationed special military units in poor districts to ‘maintain security’ – in other words, prepare for potential confrontation with the masses. The police presence in Tehran and other cities was also increased and many were deployed on major streets and outside supermarkets. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guards’ Tehran commander announced that a special task force has been formed to deal with any economic protests. On November 8, several underground rap musicians were arrested in Tehran, and last week hundreds of young men and women were detained in what the police termed a “security cleansing”. The press has been warned to steer clear of any controversial coverage of the subsidy cuts.

In working class districts, everyone is clearly worried about Ahmadinejad’s plans for ‘reforming’ the economy. Of course, a combination of workers’ protests and riots in shanty towns would be a nightmare for the Islamic regime, but the key element is the strength and organisation of the working class. Given the weakness of the left, we cannot expect the working class to be in a position to take full advantage of the current situation. However, there is no doubt that in these exceptional times the success of the shanty towns struggles, the defeat of the abolition of subsidies and the struggles of pensioners all depend on the proletariat.

As in 1979, Iranian workers are in a position to make their mark in the fight against poverty and exploitation and for democracy. In pursuing these goals they need international solidarity and it is part of the role of Hands Off the People of Iran to mobilise such support.

Manchester solidarity demo against executions in Iran

On May 13th around 30 members of Hands Off the People of Iran along, Iranian students and exiles demonstrated in support of the general strike in Iranian Kurdistan and protest the executions of five political prisoners on May 9th in Evin prison. Those executed were school teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian. We rallied outside the University of Manchester Students’ Union and the BBC building spreading leaflets and literature on the situation. There were speeches by Iranian refugees who explained the situation in Iran the recent repressive measures in both English and Farsi.

Chris Strafford from HOPI’s national steering committee condemned the executions and the ongoing torture and incarceration of political prisoners within Iran, he also spoke about the negative impact of sanctions and that the key task for socialists in the UK is to oppose sanctions and military threats whilst building solidarity with the truly democratic movements. Afterwards he read out a letter by Farzad Kamangar sent to other prisoners titled ‘Be Strong Comrades’ you can see the videos here and here.

Hands Off the People of Iran demands:

* The immediate end to executions in Iran
* The unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
* An end to the sanctions regime and imperialist threats

Below are some pictures of the day:

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Threats over uranium enrichment aid regime

We don’t want nuclear power - we don’t want huge salaries. We work so that we can live - we don’t live to work.
We don’t want nuclear power - we don’t want huge salaries. We work so that we can live - we don’t live to work.

Ahmadinejad uses the ‘enemy without’ to justify increased repression, arrests and the torture of the ‘enemy within’, writes Yassamine Mather

The dramatic statements by Obama, Brown and Sarkozy about Iran’s undisclosed nuclear enrichment plant, made in a ‘breaking news’-style press conference on the first day of the G20 gathering in Pittsburgh, were clearly intended to prepare the world for a new conflict in the Middle East. The presentation of the ‘news’ and the language used in delivering the threats were reminiscent of the warnings about Iraq’s ‘45-minute’ strike capability.

According to Obama, “Iran is on notice that when we meet with them on October 1 they are going to have to come clean, and they will have to make a choice.” The alternative to sticking to ‘international rules’ on Iran’s nuclear development, would be “a path that is going to lead to confrontation”.

Yet in some ways the existence of a second uranium enrichment plant is old news. By all accounts US and UK secret services had known about this plant for at least three years – Israel and France also knew about it for some time and had delivered their finding to the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year. The ‘dramatic’ disclosures came at a time when Russia was already on board regarding further sanctions. Given its billion-dollar trade with Iran, China – one of Iran’s major commercial partners – is unlikely to change its opposition to further sanctions.

So what was the main purpose of the Obama-Sarkozy-Brown show on September 25? Could it be it was directed mainly to audiences in the US, UK and France, to convince them that, at a time of economic uncertainty, western leaders have to deal with a ‘major external threat’ posed by Iran’s nuclear development?

But the elephant in that press conference room was the Israeli nuclear programme. While Iran might be approaching nuclear military capability by 2010-15 (no-one is claiming it has such capability now), another ‘religious’ state in the Middle East is exempt from IAEA regulations and possesses between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads (this according to US estimates), yet it maintains a policy of ‘deliberate ambiguity’ on whether it has nuclear weapons.

Former IAEA director general Mohamed El Baradei regarded Israel as a state possessing nuclear weapons, but there has been no IAEA inspection, hence the ambiguity over the number of warheads it possesses. Strictly speaking, as a beneficiary of the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II, Israel is not supposed to have any. Yet every year the US congress approves billions of dollars of US military aid to Israel. For the fiscal year 2010, Obama is requesting $2.775 billion.

The Symington and Glenn amendments to foreign aid law specifically prohibit US aid to nuclear states outside the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran has signed the NPT. Israel has not.

Of course, none of this justifies the Iranian rulers’ obsession with reaching a stage where they can produce nuclear weapons. Unlike middle class nationalist Iranians, who even in their opposition to the regime, favour the government’s nuclear programme, the Iranian working class has been clear on this issue, as shown by placards on recent demonstrations: “We don’t want nuclear power – we don’t want huge salaries. We work so that we can live – we don’t live to work.”

Millions of Iranian workers have not been paid for months, while capitalists and the religious government keep telling them of Iran’s economic crisis and shortfalls in both the state and private funds, yet the Islamic regime seems to have sufficient funds to equip one more nuclear enrichment plant, paying billions – presumably to dubious sources – for black market equipment. The current escalation of the conflict also exposes the stupidity of the Iranian rulers who only admitted to the existence of this ‘secret’ plant after its existence was ‘exposed’.

Of course, Iranians have become so used to hearing total lies from the leaders of all factions of the Islamic regime that the revelation of the existence of this facility, hidden not far from the capital, did not come as a surprise. After all, this is the same government that used Photoshop to pretend a failed rocket did succesfully launch, the same government that cheated in the presidential elections, then lied about the number of people killed in the subsequent protests, and the same government whose president claims to have seen a white light descending from another world while he was addressing the UN assembly in 2007.

Further sanctions will bring more poverty for Iranian workers and it will be the Iranian people who will pay the price for the foolishness of the very leaders they have been protesting against for over two months. The US is keen on sanctions against companies exporting refined oil to Iran (which imports 60% of its requirements). It now looks like France and Germany are sceptical about such sanctions. They refer to the Iraq experience and the ease with which petrol can be smuggled across land borders.

The Iranian government has already indicated that it will cut petrol subsidies. It is blaming the west and hopes such a move will unite the country against the ‘foreign enemy’. Contrary to the pessimism of sections of the Iranian left in exile who ‘despair’ of the growth of the ‘Green’ movement or who have joined the bandwagon behind ‘reformist’ presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi, workers in oil refineries in Iran are well aware of the historic role of their class in the current situation and there have been discussions regarding strikes in this industry for the last few weeks. These workers have two valid concerns: (1) that their strike should not benefit Moussavi (he is hated by these workers, some of whom remember his time in power); and (2) that their strike should not help US efforts for regime change from above.

Western countries are also considering options including an embargo on investment in Iran’s oil and gas sector, an end to loan guarantees to all companies investing in Iran, a ban on Iranian businesses trading in euros, and a ban on foreign companies insuring Iranian shipping and air transport. All of these measures will target the Iranian people, the majority of whom hate the clerical state.

UN lies

If the Iranian government lied about its nuclear installations, Ahmadinejad’s speech last week at the UN was also full of deceit. His holocaust-denial comments, repeated in every interview he gave while in the US, were a deliberate attempt to divert attention from mass protests at home and to heighten the tension with the rest of the world. This regime and this president rely on foreign crises to survive – he desperately needs enemies abroad to divert attention from problems at home, and the Obama-Brown-Sarkozy trio gave him that.

However, his speech contained other lies. The man who has printed money in an attempt to solve Iran’s economic problems told the world: “It is no longer possible to inject thousands of billions of dollars of unreal wealth into the world economy simply by printing worthless paper assets, or transfer inflation as well as social and economic problems to others through creating severe budget deficits.” He also criticised “liberal capitalism” (as opposed to clerical capitalism?). After all, this is the president of a government that is busy privatising every industry in Iran, from services in the oil industry to car plants and Iran’s national telecommunications. The telecom company was privatised and sold to the ‘revolutionary guards’ in the last week of September, although Iran’s ‘monopoly regulatory commission’ is now said to be investigating this.

However, such actions by Iran’s Sepah Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) do not imply that the country is under military capitalist rule: they are controlled by the most conservative sections of Iran’s clerical elite. The Pasdaran ownership of the telecommunication services is only another success for supreme leader Ali Khamenei, his son and the clerics around him, as this ideological military force has no life and no significance without clerical rule.

The few delegates in the UN assembly hall who heard Ahmadinejad condemn the excesses of “liberal capitalism” might have thought Iran is an egalitarian religious society. Nothing could be further from reality. After 30 years in power Iran’s Islamic regime has created one of the most unequal, corrupt societies of the region, where the gap between the rich and the poor is amongst the highest in the world. As Ahmadinejad was speaking, Iran’s car workers (amongst the best paid sections of the working class) were protesting at long shifts causing ill health and workers throughout Iran were on strike or demonstrating against non-payment of wages. While factory closures due to privatisation continue, Aryaman Motors, a Tehran-based company specialising in reproducing classic cars, launched a new series of replica vehicles based on the original design of the earliest Rolls Royce models at $120,000 each – wealthy Iranians have already pre-paid for the first models that will be finished later this year.

In his speech Ahmadinejad also referred to the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, failing to mention Iran’s role in support of US aggression in both – as leaders of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran keep reminding us! The Iranian president then referred to breaches of human rights in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Of course, it is inevitable that abuse of human rights by the ‘torch holders’ of liberal democracy in the US and the UK will be used by every tinpot leader in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere to justify the torture and execution of opponents. The Iranian president is the leader of a government that has killed at least 72 civilians and tortured hundreds in the last two months alone, yet the actions of western governments allow him to stand up in New York and give moral lectures about ‘human right abuses’. We truly live in irrational times.

Protests and divisions

The first days of the new university term in Iran saw major protests on campuses throughout the country – the largest being at Tehran University on September 27-28. Students shouted “Death to the dictator” and booed the new minister of higher education. Security forces retreated from the campus. On Tuesday September 29 students protested at Sharif University, once more causing the minister for higher education to abandon plans to speak. Meanwhile, security forces are warning football crowds not to chant political slogans at the Tehran derby between Esteghlal and Persepolis on October 2.

As former president and leading ‘reformist’ Ali Akbar Rafsanjani continues his efforts to find a compromise between the regime’s warring factions, the first signs of a rift amongst ‘reformists’ has appeared. In an open letter addressed to Rafsanjani, another ‘reformist’ presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, writes: “What is your answer to the people who, under dangerous conditions, question the actions of the Assembly of Experts under your leadership? … By what measure have you preserved the ideals of the revolution in your role as chair of the Assembly of Experts, whose first duty is fighting injustice?”

Moussavi’s latest statement on September 28 is also predictably uninspiring. Its repeated references to the “wisdom” of Iran’s first supreme leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, confirmed his continued allegiance to the ‘imam’s line’. But this will not gain him much support amongst young Iranians, who will not accept any solution short of the overthrow of the entire regime. Moussavi’s call on his supporters to “avoid any radical measures which could damage the achievements so far made by the opposition” expose once more his fear of radical change and his determination to save the religious state.

All this is very good news for the revolutionary forces. However, the threat of sanctions and war only strengthens Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. In the words of UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, any “rush to punitive sanctions – tightened to the point where ordinary Iranians, already suffering the effects of chronic unemployment, had to endure petrol shortages or big fuel price hikes – could backfire spectacularly”.

Hands Off the People of Iran has always condemned sanctions and threats of war against Iran. We oppose them not only because we want to see imperialism defeated, but because they increase patriotism and nationalism, thus helping the reactionary regime. The government will use the ‘threat of the enemy without’ to increase repression, to arrest and torture its ‘enemy within’. Sanctions disorganise the working class, as people are forced to squander their fighting energies on day-to-day struggles to keep their jobs and feed their families – Iranian oil workers are right to be concerned about going on strike at a time when sanctions will also target ‘imported refined oil’.

The proposed US-European sanctions dramatically degrade the ability of the working people to struggle collectively on their own account, to organise and to fight. In other words, for the sake of Iranian working class we must continue our opposition to war, sanctions and regime change from above, while increasing our solidarity with the revolutionary movement inside Iran.