Maneuvers, Danger of War, and the Interests of Empire
by Larry Everest
On July 19,
William Burns, a top State Department official, attended a negotiating session
between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran over Iran’s nuclear
program. This was the first time in some 30 years that a high U.S. official
officially met with Iranian representatives. The same week there were also
reports that the U.S. may
open a consular office in Tehran.
Bush administration refused to meet with Iran until it halted its uranium
enrichment program (it hasn’t). The involvement of the U.S. in these negotiations fueled media
speculation that the meeting reflected a more fundamental shift in Bush
strategy toward Iran—away
from “regime change” and possible war. Some concluded that more pragmatic
“realists” in the Bush administration are increasingly taking charge from neocons like Vice President Dick Cheney who have reportedly
been pressing for war. The implication was that war is less likely, perhaps
totally “off the table,” and that the U.S. would now be pursuing a
better, less imperialistic policy.
Not so fast.
This isn’t the
framework for understanding the complex twists and turns now unfolding.
Bullying and War
good or positive about U.S.
moves on the diplomatic front. They’re imperialist efforts to pressure Iran to cave into great power demands and to
build support for further sanctions should Iran refuse.
hypocritical and completely in service of U.S. imperialist domination—not a
nuclear free world. The U.S., Israel and other powers claim that Iran’s
enrichment program is a cover for getting nuclear weapons, but they’ve produced
no serious proof that this is so, and the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) has consistently reported that it has found no conclusive evidence that
Iran has had a nuclear weapons program or that it has diverted uranium to
weapons production—even as it refuses to close the book on Iran’s nuclear
program by demanding that Iran further explain various claims and purported
“evidence” supplied by the U.S. and European imperialists, who overall set the
IAEA agenda (Iran has the right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty and says its program is for power generation only).
The U.S. maintains by far the world’s largest and
most advanced arsenal of nuclear death and destruction, and in the Middle East,
only the U.S.’s key ally—Israel—has 150
or so nuclear weapons. The U.S. is seeking to maintain this U.S.-Israeli
nuclear monopoly in the region and military freedom of action, and they fear
that even the possibility Iran could develop nuclear weapons could undercut
U.S. regional hegemony and provide openings for rivals.
also be critical in preparing for war by creating the illusion that the U.S. has “gone the last mile” for peace, while
also attempting to impose U.S.
terms on other powers. Barack Obama
spelled this out during his trip last week to Israel. According to Haaretz (July 25), “Obama reportedly told
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert that he is interested
in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums.” Obama is quoted as saying, “If after that, they still show
no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them
would be legitimate.” Obama’s words were barely
different than those used by Bush’s Secretary of State Condolleeza
Rice—showing that negotiations are one tool in a thoroughly reactionary arsenal
and that they can go hand-in-hand with war. Speaking in Europe, Obama warned Iran to accept the U.S.-European
offer, and not to “wait for the next president.”
What’s Just About Sanctions...and U.S. Economic Domination?
The U.S. is pushing for more sanctions on Iran, which reportedly include
“targeting everything from gasoline imports to the insurance sector,” and
“could include measures to impede Iran’s
shipping operations in the Persian Gulf and its banking activities in Asia and
the Middle East.” (Wall Street Journal, July 21)
now before the U.S. House of Representatives, “demands” that the U.S. impose a halt on all Iranian imports of
refined petroleum products and impose “stringent inspection requirements on all
persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” This is
a call for a naval blockade that would be tantamount to a declaration of war
Rice spelled out
the Bush regime’s logic in entering into negotiations, telling the Israeli
press we’re “exposing Iran’s weak spots,” and “we are in the strongest possible
position to demonstrate that if Iran doesn’t act, then it’s time to get back to
that track [of more punitive sanctions].”
Iran is a Third World or oppressed country whose development has
been skewed and twisted by imperialism. The U.S.
economy is nearly 50 times larger than Iran’s,
and it spends nearly 100 times more on its military every year than Iran does.
Iran’s people earn, on average, one-fourth as much as people in the U.S. Iran
is dependent on imports for many of its basic needs, including 40 percent of
its gasoline because it doesn’t have the refining capacity that the imperialist
countries do. Any blockade would have severe repercussions on the lives of the
So what’s good or
just about the U.S. taking
advantage of this legacy of imperialist dominance to once again impose its
interests on Iran
and the region? We’ve seen that movie for over 60 years, and it’s nothing but a
And, the drums of
war are still beating. Benny Morris’ blood-curdling oped
(see box) was one indication of that. If Iran’s initial
rejection of the U.S.-European demand that it halt its enrichment program
holds, such calls could intensify. (The U.S.
and its allies gave Iran
a two-week deadline to respond.)
The Russian press
reports that both the U.S.
will be conducting large military exercises in the near future. On July 13, the
Times of London reported that Bush had given the Israelis an “amber light” for
an attack on Iran.
One official explained, “Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by
for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready.”
As top Israeli
officials were threatening war, both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and
French Premier Nicholas Sarkozy traveled to Israel to declare their support for the Zionist
state and to condemn Iran
(even while calling for diplomacy). Brown’s was the first ever address by a
British premier to the Israeli parliament.
Institute of Strategic Studies concludes that official statements “indicate
that a conviction is crystallizing in Israel that an attack on Iran is
inevitable, the only dispute being about the timing—whether to wait until Iran
crosses some red line, or to hurry and attack while President Bush is still in
Interests and Necessities Driving U.S. Strategy
All these new
developments have to be understood in light of the many complex developments
unfolding today in the Middle East, the world, and the U.S.
itself—including changes in the regional and global political and economic
terrain. What is going on includes political, economic, and military
maneuvering and signaling by the U.S.
and Israel; by rival powers;
and by Iran’s
rulers pursuing their own reactionary interests. And current developments
reflect debates within the U.S.
ruling class itself. As the Wall
Street Journal (July 21) put it, “The talks are
part of a complex diplomatic game being played out in the region, the outcome
of which is impossible to predict.”
U.S. rulers are doing are about preserving their control of the Middle East,
which has been a pillar of their global superpower status for over six decades
and is more pivotal today than ever, including in contending with rival powers
who rely on Mideast oil. All the main “players”
charged with running the empire—and both Presidential candidates—are coming
from this perspective, whatever their particular tactical or even strategic
differences. They all agree that Iran
is biggest threat to U.S.
unchallenged hegemony in the Middle East, and
one of its biggest challenges globally.
Iran is seen as a
threat, but not because it has nuclear weapons, is bent on Israel’s
destruction, is directly attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq, or is even unwilling
to deal with the U.S. In 2003 it offered to come to terms with the U.S. on all these issues—an offer the U.S. refused to
It’s seen as a
threat because it’s a theocratic state which champions Islamic fundamentalism,
and as such, plays a certain “wild card” role, and poses a challenge, to the U.S. agenda in the region of imposing regimes
that are more directly controlled by the U.S. And this is happening in a
world where the U.S. is
increasingly contending with other powers—a situation that Iran’s rulers
perceive as an opening to seek maneuvering room to advance their own interests.
sits on the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas and third largest
oil reserves at a time of growing competition for energy resources. It’s
located at the crossroads of two key energy routes—the Persian Gulf and the
Caspian Sea—and two key regions—Central Asia and the Middle
East. And in the aftermath of the U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq,
Iran has been gaining strength—economically, politically across the region,
including in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, and by making connections
with other powers globally.
So all this is a
problem for the U.S. imperialists—not because they’re trying to liberate the
Iranian people—but because they’re seeking to deepen their control by defeating
Islamic fundamentalism, strengthening their control of this strategic region
vis-à-vis rivals, and transforming the whole region politically, economically
This is why the
U.S. has been engaging in an intensifying, full-court press against Iran—on the
diplomatic, economic, political and military fronts and why overall there’s
been an escalating trajectory toward confrontation and possible war with
Iran—including in the wake of the U.S.’s May 2006 agreement to negotiate with
Iran if the Iranians suspended enrichment, a development that was also hailed
as a step away from war at the time. Instead, since then, U.S. hostility toward and focus on Iran has
increased—as has the danger of war.
So there is nothing
just about any U.S. attempts
to bully, weaken, or attack Iran. All are
in service of maintaining imperialism’s ability to exploit and control this
region of hundreds of millions of people. And Iran’s reactionary Islamic
theocrats are no answer for the people either. A different—revolutionary, liberatory, communist—way is called for. We have an
enormous responsibility to help bring that alternative forward while joining
with many others to resist any and all U.S.,
European or Israeli aggression against Iran, whatever form it comes in.