Hands Off the People of Iran unequivocally condemns the ratcheting up of sanctions on Iran in the aftermath of the much-heralded report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on that country’s nuclear capability on November 8. The report did little more than confirm the assessment that Hopi arrived at some time ago: that at worst Iran may be interested in the so-called ‘Japanese’ option. This is nuclear development that stops just short of the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon – but only by a month or so. But this is something that has been commented on many times before.
Despite the fact that this report contained little or nothing that was new (it was little more than a compilation of UK satellite pictures and the pre-existing reports of the CIA and other western intelligence agencies), imperialist leaders have fallen over themselves to express horror and outrage at these ‘new’ findings:
- French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged “unprecedented” sanctions on the country.
- Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced that from November 28, all UK credit and financial institutions were obliged to cease trading with Iran’s banks, a move that apparently represented “a further step to preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons”. This is the first time the UK has cut off an entire country’s banking system from London’s financial sector.
- US secretary of state Hillary Clinton welcomed the opportunity the report presented for a “significant ratcheting-up of pressure” on Iran through the imposition of new sanctions. US actions include measures to limit Tehran’s ability to refine its own fuel, as well as targeting the financial interest of the Revolutionary Guards.
Even this was not enough for the rabid Israeli regime, which frothed about Iran having a nuclear weapon within a year and made ominous noises about military action. Israel feels politically vulnerable, given the current upheavals in the Arab world. An Iran with nuclear capability challenges its regional hegemony in a broader sense, but there is also a very practical concern. Iran’s missile delivery system is sophisticated enough to deliver a conventional payload to Tel Aviv – hence the November 7 explosion/assassination at the military base in Bid Ganeh, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of Tehran. Amongst others this killed major-general Hassan Moqaddam, a key figure in Iran’s ballistic missiles programme: according to Time magazine, a “western intelligence source” laid the blame at the door of the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, and warned that “there are more bullets in the magazine”.
On one level, the western powers are in a weak position when it comes to convincing the wider population that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The debacle of Iraq – and farcical claims around Saddam’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction” – have prompted many commentators to dub the IAEA’s report “Iran’s 45-minute moment” (a reference to the nonsense peddled about Iraq’s supposed capability to drop bombs on strategic European targets in that time frame). Of course, from the point of view of Iraq’s barbaric rulers, if such weapons had existed it would have been a fairly obvious military response to the invasion of their country to use them. Similar claims today about Iran’s nuclear ambitions will raise many a sceptical eyebrow.
The veracity of the report will also be called into question when it is recalled that the current IAEA director general, Yukiya Amano, has often been accused, on solid grounds, of pro-US bias. According to diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks last year, US diplomats favoured his nomination, as he was “in tune with the US position regarding Iran’s nuclear programme” – a revelation that will help undermine the US/Britain’s charges against the regime.
However, on another level the case for imperialist intervention has undoubtedly been bolstered by the relatively ‘clean’ regime change in Libya (so far …). The overthrow of Gaddafi by western-backed insurgents is widely perceived of as a ‘good war’, in stark contrast to the quagmire of Iraq; the inability of the anti-war movement in this country to mobilise large numbers onto the streets in opposition to the intervention is a mark of this.
The current low level of anti-war mobilisation is a big problem for all those who oppose the imperialist interference in the Middle East, for we should be clear that the war on Iran has already started. It is unlikely to take the form of military invasion and occupation at any stage – the experience of the running sore of Iraq has chastened the imperialists on that front. What we will see – are seeing – is war pursued by other means:
- Cyber warfare with its unforeseen consequences (last year’s attack on Iran’s nuclear plants and a number of major industrial complexes by the sophisticated piece of malware, Stuxnet).
- Political assassinations of Iranian physicists/scientists allegedly involved in the nuclear programme (murders that are used by the Iranian regime to justify its own political executions).
- Swingeing sanctions that, while barely troubling the rich and powerful, dramatically impoverish ordinary Iranians and actually endanger their lives (sanctions have affected everything from aviation to surgery and dentistry).
These sorts of tactics betray the strategic goal the US and its allies have in mind. Ideally for them, a repetition – in a ‘tidier’ form – of the Libyan scenario. That is, that pressure from imperialism engenders splits in this deeply discredited regime and its possible collapse/paralysis. Then indigenous opposition forces spearhead regime change, with the active aid and encouragement of the west. Clinton has spoken openly of her administration’s hopes for the implosion of the regime. There is solid ground for her optimism. Fraught divisions exist at every level of the theocratic regime, most dramatically in its top echelons with the ongoing conflict between supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei and president Ahmadinejad, and continued joint conflict with timid reformists such as Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
The Obama administration would have been encouraged in this by recent developments in the Iranian opposition movement. A pro-war/anti-war-pro-sanctions debate is now dominating Iranian political discourse generally and has engendered a split into two major trends in this opposition. First there are those such as Mohammad Khatami who totally oppose the war, despite their criticisms of the regime. However, this does not flow from any sort of principled or consistently democratic position; rather, it is inspired by nationalism. Khatami has called for “national unity” in the face of this crisis and offers the supreme leader advice about ‘changing course’.
Far more worrying has been the significant section of the opposition (including some who could be politically designated as ‘soft left’, but mainly composed of liberals) who appear to be almost egging the Americans to launch a military strike. The example of the Nato bombing of Libya is looked to by these forces as a positive example of ‘humanitarian intervention’. Although there does not appear to be the appetite in Washington for air strikes, the US’s ally in the region, Israel, remains politically unstable and bellicose: witness the recent statement by Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak that “We do not expect any new UN sanctions on Tehran to persuade it to stop its nuclear defiance. We continue to recommend to our friends in the world and to ourselves not to take any option off the table.”
The stance of Hands Off the People of Iran is crystal-clear. We implacably oppose the sabre-rattling of the imperialists and demand that all sanctions on the country are lifted, that all threats of military action be rescinded. We call for this not because we have any illusions in the loathsome regime in Iran. It starves its own people; it denies them basic human rights; it endangers their lives through its elaborate games of brinkmanship with the US and its powerful allies. Unlike some politically demented leftists, we say that nuclear weapons in its hands would be a defeat for the forces of democracy and radical social change, as well as a profoundly destabilising development in the region.
No, we oppose the warmongering – whether it takes the hard form of assassinations, threats of military action, or the ‘soft’ option of sanctions – because we do not have any illusions in the loathsome regimes in place in Washington, London or Tel Aviv either. The intervention of these powers and their allies has nothing whatsoever to do with the promotion of ‘democracy’ – indeed, the regimes the imperialists impose often have features that are significantly worse than the previous team of oppressors of the people. Hopi insists that democracy can only come in Iran from below – from the struggles of the workers’, women’s and students’ movements. It will never fall from the sky in the tip of a US or Israeli bunker-buster.
We look to those like the working class and anti-capitalist activists, left intellectuals and students who met in an anti-capitalist conference in Iran on November 4. Many of the contributions emphasised the need to strengthen the workers’ struggles, the underground left/workers’ groups and the fight for left unity – “It is a shame that hero worship of certain intellectuals acting as semi-gods has harmed unity amongst the forces of the Iranian left,” said veteran labour activist NA. Military action against Iran, whether overt or covert, whether air strikes or sanctions, only acts to disorganise and disorientate these forces for change. This is why the threatening military backdrop to the conference was discussed by participants and Clinton’s bellicose statements noted. This is why Hopi contributes to their struggle for freedom by fighting against any imperialist attack on their country.
The imperialists want change in Iran via a palace coup or politically neutered opposition movement. Hopi says genuine democratic change must come from below, through the initiative, elan and thirst for change of the masses themselves! l
- No war, no sanctions on Iran!
- For a nuclear-free Middle East as a step to a nuclear-free world!
I condemn the despotic islamic regime in Iran. Their persecution of communists and other democrats is horrible. This must, however, not lead us to support the imperialistic sanctions and threats of war against Iran. I therefore fully agree to the statement of Hopi posted on November 24, 2011.
Regi Theodor Enerstvedt, professor emeritus
University of Oslo