The disclosure on September 18 by the Iranian government that it has built a uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom has become a pretext for increased threats of sanctions and war by the United States and Israel. Israel’s government is openly threatening a bombing campaign against Iran. The U.S., whose own imperialist interests in the Middle East could be significantly compromised by an Israeli attack, is seeking international support for severe sanctions on Iran, in order to extract concessions from Iran and curb Israel’s drive. The example of Iraq shows that sanctions are themselves acts of aggression, often serving as preparation for a shooting war.
The League for the Revolutionary Party of the U.S. and the Internationalist Socialist League of Israel/Occupied Palestine stand together in opposing all threats and attacks on Iran, whether bombing or sanctions. It is in the interest of the working class and oppressed peoples to take a stand against these threats, which aim to secure the imperialist domination of the region.
The Iranian government insists that its uranium enrichment efforts are directed toward research and energy production, not weapons. Whether that is true or not should make no difference in opposing the imperialist attacks on Iran. In objecting to the possibility of Iran nuclear weapons, the hypocrisy of both the U.S. and Israel is galling. The U.S. remains the only state ever to have used nuclear weapons, having committed the twin atrocities of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Israel’s own nuclear stockpile, though never openly acknowledged by its government officials, is an open secret and a standing menace to all the peoples of the Middle East. Like Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, Israel’s bomb was developed in defiance of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and Israel’s was built with the full support of U.S. and French imperialism. Mordechai Vanunu, the former nuclear technician who heroically disclosed the existence of the program to the international press, has been legally harassed and returned to prison by the Israeli authorities.
While the increase in the number of nuclear weapons is certainly not in the interests of the human race, in the world we live in, non-proliferation means confirming the monopoly privileges of the handful of imperialist butchers (plus China, India and Pakistan) comprising the “nuclear club.” We defend the right of Iran to develop nuclear weapons because it has the right to defend itself against the incessant imperialist threats.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that they had known about the Qom site for several years. According to reports, the site itself is several months from being completed. U.S. officials claim they were planning to confront the Iranians about it later and were “surprised” by Iran’s disclosure. Iran insists that its disclosure was within the time frame required by the non-proliferation treaty. It was not until four days after Iran’s disclosure that President Obama began railing against Iranian “deception.” That the charges against Iran are a pretext is apparent – which raises the question, what do the U.S., Israel and the other imperialist powers feel they have to gain by pressing the issue now?
For Israel it is a bit more clear. The defeat by Hezbollah of its invasion of Lebanon severely dented the perceived effectiveness of the Israeli military machine. The failure to win a clear-cut victory by severely weakening Hamas in its recent onslaught on Gaza served as further confirmation, calling into question Israel’s ability even to police its immediate neighborhood and thus its utility to the U.S. as a junior partner. (See www.lrp-cofi.org/statements/gaza090702.html.) Furthermore, the Goldstone report on Israel’s war crimes during the Gaza massacre threatened to chip away even further at its declining standing in international public opinion. Provocatively raising the Qom issue enabled Israel to divert attention toward Iran from its own failures and crimes, while threatening a show of strength designed to prove its continued value as a regional enforcer. and to box the U.S. into supporting it.
The issue is more complicated for the United States. The recent financial crisis, combined with the repeated setbacks in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, have diminished its ability to dictate terms as the acknowledged leader of the imperialist order. By toppling Saddam and ending Sunni rule in Iraq, the U.S. has strengthened Iran as a regional power, a development the U.S. would like to reverse. By hyping the charges against Iran, Obama can also put on a show of bringing Britain, France and Germany behind U.S. leadership, while pressuring Russia and China to fall in line with a U.S.-brokered international consensus. The recent decision by the U.S. not to install missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, which would have been a serious irritant to Russia, suggests that the U.S. was hoping for Russia to return the favor and endorse sanctions against Iran.
In addition, the new threats against Iran coincide with Obama’s efforts to revive the moribund “two-state solution” for the Palestinians and the interminable “peace process” between Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The rulers of most Arab states are highly distrustful of the Iranian regime, both because of longstanding ethnic and religious rivalries, as well as the fact that Iranian displays of defiance of U.S. and Israeli demands contrast so unfavorably in local public opinion with the Arab rulers’ habitually capitulatory attitudes. Having backed down on the demand that Israel agree to freeze construction in the West Bank settlements, it is likely that Obama and his foreign policy advisors, like the Netanyahu government, would like to highlight the supposed Iranian menace as protective camouflage for attacks on the Palestinians. But this is a dangerous game that could lead to a military confrontation the U.S. is trying to avoid. Opening another war front would further stretch the U.S.’s military resources at a time when its ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are becoming increasingly unpopular at home.
We remain fully opposed politically to the Iranian regime – not only the Ahmadinejad government, but the whole structure of the “Islamic republic” that resulted from the hijacking of the 1979 revolution by a reactionary, clerically-dominated bourgeois leadership that engineered a bloody counter-revolution against the working class and its allies. (On these events, see the LRP’s analysis at the time at www.lrp-cofi.org/PR/iran11.html and www.lrp-cofi.org/PR/iran14.html.) Not the least of the dangers of the imperialist threats against Iran is the likelihood that they will help the rulers to stifle opposition and win popular support by burnishing their anti-imperialist credentials.
To support Ahmadinejad, as some leftists have done, on the basis of his rhetoric against the U.S. and Israel and his demagogic and populist economic policies, is an insult to the workers, women, national minorities, gays and other oppressed people who have suffered under three decades of theocracy, and who would suffer most from any imperialist attack on Iran. The defense of Iran from imperialist attack is a prerequisite for building the strength and consciousness of the masses, which is indispensable for the regime’s overthrow.
Thus we defend the mass protests in Iran, which first erupted after the June 12 election that was so flagrantly fixed in Ahmadinejad’s favor. The official leaders of these protests, most notably opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, remain loyal to the Islamic republic—and in Moussavi’s case, once presided over a bloody repression of oppositionists in its service. Yet the rapid endorsement by “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei of the election result and the harsh repression that followed show that the regime cannot tolerate the masses’ democratic demands. Nor does Moussavi differ from Ahmadinejad in support of large-scale privatizations and the austerity measures that go with them, promising only to manage economic questions more responsibly. Their shared commitment to the capitalist economic order marks a limit to how far either would ever go in confronting imperialism. The economic needs of the great majority of Iranians are no more compatible with capitalism than their social revolt is with the rule of the mullahs.
After some months of having apparently died down, these protests re-emerged on September 18, Qods (Jerusalem) Day. Conventionally an occasion for the regime to boast of its support for the Palestinian cause – and to undermine that cause by mixing it up with reactionary, anti-Semitic rhetoric – it instead became an opportunity for the masses to once again take to the streets against their rulers. In an article in the Weekly Worker, the Iranian socialist Yassamine Mather reports that the dominant slogan in Tehran was internationalist: “Whether in Gaza or in Iran, stop killing people; Iran has become like Palestine,” and attributes this to “the presence and effective role of the left.” The same article reports on several recent workers’ struggles in Iran, explaining that “although most of these protests started off in support of economic demands and against closures, whenever the security forces appeared this prompted the use of the now familiar slogan of ‘Death to the dictator.’”
Such events are hopeful signs for the future, and point to the necessary solution for Palestine and Iran alike. The Iranian working class was strong enough to overthrow the Shah in 1979, bringing down the U.S.’s strongest ally aside from Israel. But lacking a revolutionary party capable of providing leadership and socialist solutions to the insurgent masses, the fruits of the workers’ uprising were harvested by the mullahs and their allies. The result has been, not freedom from imperialism, but the reorganization of capitalist rule for the enrichment of a well-connected elite. Iran’s history provides a confirmation, through a negative example, of the central thesis of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, that the masses democratic demands cannot be attained without the independent leadership of the workers, in a socialist revolution transcending national boundaries. Now, three decades later, the Iranian working class is many millions stronger, and has been through the politically educational experience of Islamist rule. Yet a revolutionary party that embodies the lessons of the last generation and works toward the seizure of power remains to be built.
The test of war shows this most clearly. In a clash between imperialism and Iran, even under its present reactionary rulers, revolutionaries take a side: against the imperialists and in defense of Iran. We champion the right of self-determination in order to side with any dominated nation against its oppressors. That the working class is the only consistent defender of democratic rights shows that proletarian revolution is the only way to defend the masses against imperialism. (For the general Marxist method on the question of self-determination, see www.lrp-cofi.org/PR/MethodPR59.html and www.the-isleague.com/the-isl-position-on-wars-english.php.) We urge the working class to establish and maintain its political independence and continue to work for the overthrow of the capitalists’ state, in order to better carry out that defense. Yet much of the Iranian left, motivated perhaps by an understandable horror at the regime of their tormentors, but misguided nonetheless, refuses to take such an unequivocal side – or takes the wrong side. For example, the Worker-Communist Party of Iran, after the June election, encouraged people to demand that the UN and EU call for new elections – in effect, calling for intervention by imperialist institutions. (For a further example of the WCPI’s accommodation with imperialism, see the LRP’s correspondence with a WCPI representative at www.lrp-cofi.org/PR/wcpi_correspondence80.html.) Others, like the International Marxist Tendency, take a neutral position, which amounts to criminal abstention in the face of a mounting imperialist war campaign. In our view, whether in an imperialist country or a non-imperialist country, the struggle against imperialism is inseparable from the struggle to overthrow capitalism. One is impossible without the other.
An Iran under workers’ rule would destabilize the whole system of states that keeps the Middle East under U.S. hegemony, with Israel as a critical cornerstone of the regional structure. It would serve as an inspiration to the oppressed and exploited throughout the region, transcending the ethnic and sectarian divisions that have been so assiduously cultivated by the rulers. But we feel confident that events will show that the Zionists and the other imperialists have far more to fear from a workers’ revolution than from an Islamic A-bomb. Accomplishing that will require the building of working-class revolutionary parties in each country, as part of a revived world party of socialist revolution, the re-created Fourth International.
As revolutionaries in the U.S. and Israel, we stand against our ruling classes’ war drives. We call on revolutionary-minded workers who share our views to join with us in working towards building the international revolutionary party of the working class.