Iran: America Plays Imperialist Roulette in the Gulf
Putting Millions of Lives at Risk



Editor's Note: As we go to press, it has come to our attention that Trump has escalated his threats, tweeting Sunday that “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" This represents a significant escalation and potentially implied nuclear threat which should be taken seriously.

Last week we reported1 that the U.S. ratcheted up its military and economic threats against Iran, including tightening crippling economic sanctions and dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group and four nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf. All this raised the specter of U.S. war against Iran.

Since then, there has been a flurry of conflicting U.S. moves and reports. On one hand, according to the New York Times,2 the Pentagon has prepared war plans to send 120,000 troops to the region if needed. The U.S. has provocatively blamed Iran (without hard evidence) for damaging four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and circulated reports that Iran was loading missiles on boats and planning attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

Then, later in the week, on Friday, May 17, the New York Times carried a major report that Trump, after previously threatening that Iran would “suffer greatly” if it or its allies attacked U.S. “interests,” had met with his generals and told them he didn’t want war with Iran, and that he wanted to talk with Iran. This was reportedly in sharp contrast to the reported warlike stances of National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

These contradictory statements and moves show there are deep divisions among the U.S. rulers—including within the Trump/Pence regime—over how best to maintain their global empire, and dominance in the Middle East, in the face of a host of vexing challenges. In particular, there are grave concerns regarding the consequences of a military attack on Iran, and its potential escalation into a regional war. The Persian Gulf is global capitalism’s oil artery, accounting for a third of world oil shipments.3

Some Basic Points of Orientation

1. These divisions among America’s rulers are like bitter arguments between bloodthirsty vampires over how best to sink their fangs into their intended victims. All factions of the U.S. ruling class understand that dominating the Middle East and the Persian Gulf has been a key pillar of America’s global power and capitalist-imperialist empire, and see Iran’s Islamic Republic as an obstacle, to varying degrees, to U.S. control of the region. But there are sharp divisions over how to deal with Iran and maintain U.S. regional hegemony, while dealing with other global challenges like Russia and China. Spearheaded by Bolton and Pompeo, the Trump/Pence regime has been pursuing a strategy aimed at “regime change,” directly overthrowing the Islamic Republic or forcing its removal through massive economic pressure and political upheaval, if it does not fully capitulate to U.S. demands.4

2. Heightened conditions of confrontation remain. Last week we wrote that U.S. moves in the Persian Gulf were an escalation of its “regime change” strategy and an acceleration of the trajectory toward a U.S. confrontation with Iran.

This complex of moves has resulted in a dangerous situation with explosive “trip wires” where accidents and miscalculations can lead to significant escalation towards all-out war.

The U.S. is the world’s most powerful and dangerous imperialist superpower, armed to the teeth with thousands of nukes. It’s threatening Iran—a much less-powerful Third World country with no nukes that is ruled by a reactionary Islamic theocracy.5 The Trump/Pence regime’s extremely threatening, bellicose moves against Iran, including designating parts of Iran’s government as “terrorists” and waging economic warfare in the form of sanctions aimed at cutting its oil lifeline, all remain in effect and are threatening the lives of millions of Iranians. Trump hasn’t backed off any of that!

These U.S. actions, threats, and charges against Iran have created a situation that could spark a tit-for-tat escalation that could spiral out of control.

The Wall Street Journal 6 reported that because of U.S. moves, Iran’s leaders “believed an attack was coming and prepared possible counterstrikes,” which the U.S. in turn responded to with further threats and escalations.

Now there are reports that the U.S. and Iran may be taking steps to reduce tensions. However, a certain momentum toward confrontation has already been unleashed, and there remains a real danger that miscalculations or accidents could spark a military clash. For example, how will the U.S. react if Iran carries through on its promise—prompted by U.S. aggression—to resume a higher level of uranium enrichment if it doesn’t get economic relief from sanctions?

The situation is further muddied—and made more dangerous—by Trump’s response to reports of divisions within his regime. He tweeted: “Iran can have no idea what is actually going on”—as if all the uncertainty and heightened danger of miscalculation was a good thing! This amounts to literally playing roulette with the lives of millions—and bragging about it!

The U.S. Rulers Have NO Right to Threaten, Bully, or Attack Anyone, Anywhere

The U.S. imperialists have been intervening, threatening, sanctioning, and fomenting attacks on Iran since 1953 when a CIA coup overthrew an Iranian nationalist and installed a hated U.S. puppet, the Shah.7 They’ve done even worse to neighboring Iraq, invading, waging war, and imposing crippling sanctions that have led to the deaths of at least four million Iraqis since the 1960s.

And right now, the U.S. is arming, fueling, and facilitating Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war on the people—including children!—of Yemen, which has already taken 233,000 lives in the last four years. According to UNICEF:

Each day, another eight children will be killed, injured or recruited to the fighting. Every 10 minutes, another child will die from a preventable cause. Like a lack of food, with 360,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In fact, half the children under five years old in Yemen—2.5 million—are stunted. And stunting is irreversible.... Yemen is a test of our humanity. And right now, we are badly failing this test.

Given the blood-soaked track record of enforcing imperialist domination no matter the cost in human life, no one should accept America’s “right” to threaten and strangle a country and gamble with the lives of millions and millions... even if it doesn’t come to all-out war—any more than one should accept the Mafia’s right to murder and extort! Instead, people should be actively speaking out against, protesting, and resisting every manifestation of U.S. aggression against Iran—and anywhere else around the world.

And more fundamentally, why should anyone tolerate a system where wars and crimes against humanity are built into its very functioning and occur over and over and over?

This System Cannot Be Reformed, It Must Be Overthrown!

1. See “Who Is Actually Threatening Who in the Iran-U.S. Conflict? Six Basic Realities the U.S. Media Downplays, Obscures, or Lies About” and “ U.S. vs. Iran: How the New York Times Twists Reality,” both at, May 13, 2019. [back]

2. “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War,” New York Times, May 13, 2019. [back]

3. For example, on May 18, the New York Times carried an extensive analysis: “Saudi Oil Infrastructure at Risk as Small Attacks Raise Potential for Big Disruption,” detailing the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil production system—the world’s main oil spigot—in the event of war. [back]

4. See “Pompeo Issues Ultimatum to Iran: Only America Can Have Troops in Syria, Bully Iraq, Bomb Yemen, Support Reactionary Thugs, Wield Nukes, and Dominate the Middle East!”, May 28, 2018. [back]

5. For background on the history of U.S. intervention in Iran, the reactionary nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the dynamics of the clash between these “two outmoded” forces, see Bob Avakian’s 2006 talk, Bringing Forward Another Way. [back]

6. Intelligence Suggests U.S., Iran Misread Each Other, Stoking Tensions,” Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2019. [back]

7.  See “American Crime Case #98: 1953 CIA Coup in Iran: Torture and Repression—Made in the U.S.A.,”, May 16, 2016. [back]


The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Suez Canal, May 9, 2019. Photo: AP


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