U.S. Threats Against Iran
Nuclear Hypocrisy and Global Ambitions
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The pace of diplomatic maneuvers, political charges, and military threats by the U.S. against Iran is quickening. This crisis has been building since George W. Bush, in his State of the Union speech four years ago, made Iran a target in the so-called "war on terror" by declaring it part of an "axis of evil" (along with Iraq and North Korea) and accusing the Iranian government of pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Tensions escalated dramatically several weeks ago when Iran reopened its Natanz nuclear facility, which can produce enriched uranium.
As we go to press, the next juncture in this intensifying situation is shaping up to be the February 2-3 meeting of the 35-country board of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. The U.S., along with France, Germany and Britain, wants to use the meeting to condemn Iran and declare it in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The matter may then be taken to the UN Security Council, where economic sanctions and/or other measures could be taken. Bush recently made clear that sanctions are not the only option the U.S. is considering when he said, "We are going to...make sure that when we get in the Security Council, we will have an effective response."
The Bush regime sees the UN as a means for galvanizing an anti-Iran coalition and legitimizing possible military aggression against Iran (just as the U.S. has used and attempted to use the UN in two previous wars on Iraq). Bush's campaign against Iran has so many striking parallels with the propaganda and diplomatic run-up to the invasion of Iraq that it feels like deja-vu all over again.
"War on Terror" and the War for Unchallenged U.S. Domination
On January 27, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning Iran, citing its "many failures ...to comply faithfully with its nuclear non-proliferations obligations." The hypocrisy of the U.S. government's charges against Iran around nuclear weapons is monumental and deadly. The Bush regime has trampled on one international treaty after another, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Bush represents an imperialist ruling class that right now possesses some 10,000 nuclear warheads. And Israel, the U.S. enforcer in the Middle East, has an estimated 300 to 400 nuclear weapons.
When Bush warns, "The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon," what he means is that the U.S. wants to maintains its military and political superiority in every corner of the globe--including by claiming for itself the right to attack anyone, anywhere with its own nuclear arsenal.
This gets to the reality behind the U.S. "war on terror." As we have pointed out previously (see "U.S. War Machine...Heading Toward Iran," Revolution #31, at revcom.us), "The so-called 'war on terror' is in fact a war for unchallenged U.S. domination of the planet, even while it takes the form, now, of targeting Islamic fundamentalist forces, and is focused on the Middle East. A key element of this is to lock down strategic control of the main source of world oil. In addition, Bush and his inner circle have identified the potential and need to radically tear up the status quo in the region to create more stable and reliable conditions for more brutal and efficient exploitation of the people and resources (this being the essence of Bush's calls for bringing U.S.-managed democracy to the Middle East)."
Bush's war on Iraq is part of this global war for unchallenged U.S. domination, and the moves against Iran should also be seen in this light. The U.S. rulers do want to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran, which would present a major problem for the U.S. agenda by affecting the balance of power in the region and potentially challenging Israel's regional monopoly on nuclear terror. But the U.S.'s fundamental goal is not disarming Iran--any more than disarmament was its main objective in Iraq. The U.S. goal is "regime change" as part of restructuring the Middle East, thwarting potential rivals, and deepening U.S. global hegemony.
Global dominance is impossible without dominance over the Middle East because of the vast petroleum reserves there, as well as its strategic location at the intersection of Africa, Asia, and Europe. There's general agreement within the U.S. ruling class that tightening control over the Middle East is an especially crucial component of post-Soviet "grand strategy." As two former Clinton officials put it shortly after the invasion of Iraq, "A consensus is emerging in Washington that the greater Middle East constitutes the primary strategic challenge of our time."
In this context Iran--a country with three times the population of Iraq and major oil reserves--is considered a key "prize." And the current Islamic regime is seen as an impediment to the U.S. plans, because of the regime's ties to other powers like Russia and China, and also because Iran's regional and domestic agendas clash in various ways with U.S. goals (e.g., its support of forces in places like Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, which have contradictions with the U.S. and Israel). For these reasons, even if Iran were to back down on the nuclear issue, it would remain a target of U.S. imperialist bullying, threats, and military attacks. (Just as in Iraq, which was invaded even after Saddam Hussein had backed down and ended major weapons programs.)
Adding complexity and unpredictability to this whole situation is that the U.S. moves in the region have been challenged not only by Islamic fundamentalist forces but in the form of complex contention with European powers like France and Russia as well as China. These other powers have been maneuvering in this mix by pushing Iran to accept inspections of its nuclear facilities by international agencies, while Bush has been issuing more blatant gangster threats.
But on January 19 the French imperialists stepped up their own nuclear threats when President Jacques Chirac, during a visit to a French nuclear base, warned that if any state launched "terrorist" strikes on France, the French "response could be conventional, it could also be of another nature." Chirac also extended his definition of "vital interests" to be defended by nuclear force to "strategic supplies," referring to the possibility of Iran refusing to sell its oil in the world market and disrupting the oil lifeline.
Danger of U.S. Aggression
The contention with other powers is one factor pushing the U.S. towards a clash with Iran. Another is the situation in Iraq. As we have analyzed, "The U.S.'s goal is an Iraq that is thoroughly under U.S. domination but with enough stability and internal cohesion to act as a counterweight to Iran and something of a base area for the U.S. in the region. To say that this is not going well for them is an understatement. The scope and ferocity of resistance has compelled the U.S. to rely on and unleash Shi'a fundamentalist militias. These militias, and the puppet Iraqi army in which they play a major role, have a dual nature. They are working under U.S. sponsorship to carry out attacks on Sunni forces opposed to U.S. occupation. But they also have ties to the Shi'a theocratic regime in Iran.
"Within the bigger context of conflict between the U.S.'s wild ambitions in the Middle East and the rise of Iran, the increasing influence of Iran in Iraq is a factor tending to push Bush to up the ante, roll Iran and Iraq into a big ball, and try to settle the whole situation decisively with an attack on Iran." (From "U.S. War Machine...Heading Toward Iran")
One form that attack might take is for Israel, the U.S.'s regional attack dog, to carry out air strikes against Iran. But even in that form, there are obvious dangers for the U.S. in attacking Iran--a much larger, stronger country with a much more powerful military than Iraq had before the U.S. invasion. And this, along with the rising concerns about the U.S. situation in Iraq (including Congressman Murtha's warning that the U.S. military in Iraq is "broken"), has some forces within the ruling class very nervous about the emerging possibility of military conflict with Iran.
But at the same time, powerful forces within the Bush regime, as well as a powerful underlying logic of world events, are driving things toward a direction where such a conflict is a real danger. Republican Senator John McCain expressed some of this compulsion when he recently said, "There is no good option and it is probably the most difficult challenge we face. There's only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option, and that is Iran having nuclear weapons."
Such a "military option" by the U.S. would be a major act of criminal aggression, with potential to cause widespread suffering, destruction, and chaos, not only in Iran but throughout the region, in the service of an agenda of strengthening U.S. imperialism’s grip on the Middle East and the whole world. People in the U.S. have a great responsibility to oppose the U.S. moves against Iran.