By: Mazda Majidi
Making sense of U.S. policy towards Tehran
Plans for a U.S./Israeli
attack on Iran
have occupied much of the headlines in recent weeks. Not a day goes by when the
ruling-class media do not talk and write about the threat of a nuclear-powered Iran, along
with a host of military and political "experts"
discussing the options of what
"we" have to do about it.
In early June, Israel
conducted a military exercise involving over 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. It
was a provocative maneuver that a Pentagon official called a
"dress rehearsal" for an Israeli aerial bombardment of Iran's nuclear
plants. This was shortly after Shaoul
deputy prime minister, had made the statement, "If Iran continues
its nuclear arms program we will attack it."
On July 9
and 10, Iran
test-fired long- and mid-range missiles.
Coming on the heels of the
Israeli aerial exercise and renewed Israeli threats, the obvious purpose of the
tests was to demonstrate Iran's
capability of defending itself if attacked. The defensive nature of the missile
tests was quite clear. As stated by the Islamic Republic Guard Corps Naval
Commander Morteza Saffari, "The IRGC Navy is
carrying out this maneuver to show it is fully prepared to counter any possible
enemy aggression or adventurism."
if Iran were the aggressor
and Israel the victim, U.S.
Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice reacted by saying, "We take very, very strongly our
obligations to defend our allies, and no one should be confused of that."
Reversing the roles of aggressor and victim has been a central part of the Bush
Administration's propaganda campaign on Iran,
a campaign willingly endorsed by the U.S. mass media, an arm of the
Blockade as the means
The U.S. House is
considering a new resolution against Iran, HR 362, sponsored by New York
Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman. A parallel resolution, SR 580, is
circulating in the Senate. These resolutions, in effect, call for a blockade of
HR 362 states:
"Congress… demands that the President initiate an international effort to
immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political and diplomatic
pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by…
prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing
stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes,
trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international
movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of
Iran's nuclear program."
Despite being an oil
imports over 40 percent of its petroleum. If these resolutions pass, the United States could block the flow of petroleum
using its heavy naval presence in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Iran's economy would be severely crippled and Iran might be
forced to react. Such a blockade would be a violation of international law.
Regime change as the goal
Military threats are only
one component of the regime-change policy.
Seymour Hersh has reported on $400 million in U.S. funding of
for operations to destabilize the regime, including funding terrorist
organizations such as Jondollah and MEK.
Millions of dollars are
being spent on various U.S.
media outlets, Voice of America, Radio Farda and
others that broadcast U.S.
propaganda into Iran around the
A brief look at history
makes it clear that regime change in Iran is no innovation of the Bush
administration. After decades of having its resources plundered, when the
Iranian government nationalized the country's oil in 1951, the whole imperialist
establishment sprang into action to overthrow the regime. When sanctions did
not work, the United States
engineered a coup in 1953, the CIA's first successful operation of this
It took the Iranian people a
quarter century, at tremendous human cost, to overthrow the U.S. puppet
regime of the Shah in the 1979 revolution. So long as U.S. corporations are deprived of the ability to
plunder Iran's oil and
control its markets, regime change will be Washington's policy, much as it was between
1951 and 1953.
Will Israel attack?
Without getting the explicit
green light from Washington, Israel will not attack Iran. Israeli
jets cannot even get to Iran
without going through Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, Jordan
being a U.S.
client state and Iraq under U.S. occupation. Longer routes from
Israel to Iran would require flying through the airspace
of other U.S.
client states. Israel's past
and present aggressions against Palestine, Lebanon, Syria
and Egypt have all had the
full support of the United
acting alone in attacking Iran
is not a possibility.
Israel's maneuvering and threats
notwithstanding, if Iran is attacked, it is unlikely that Israel will
even have a direct role.
Israel played no part in the
occupation of Iraq
in 1991 or 2003.
Outspending the rest of the
world combined on military expenditure, the United
States does not need Israel's
firepower to help it attack Iran.
Thanks to bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf states and central Asian countries, and the
presence of nuclear vessels in the region, the United
States has been in a perfect position to attack Iran from all
The obstacles ahead for the U.S. ruling
There is no question that
the Bush administration would like to bomb Iran. The purpose would not just be
the destruction of nuclear facilities but to destabilize the regime and weaken an independent state that stands in the way of
U.S domination of the region. If past U.S.
bombing campaigns are any indication, an attack on Iran would be extensive, kill
thousands of people and destroy much of the country's civilian infrastructure.
What has kept Washington from attacking Iran so far are the potential
consequences of such an attack.
First, an aerial bombing, no
matter how destructive and devastating, will not bring about the regime-change Washington so desires.
Not only will the regime in Tehran
survive, it will retain some capacity to retaliate. The missile tests that Iran conducted are worrisome to Washington not just because some missiles with a
conventional warhead of a ton can reach Israel. Shorter-range missiles,
such as Zelzal and Fateh
missiles with ranges of 400 kilometers and 170 kilometers respectively, were
also tested, as well as rocket and land-to-sea missiles. Using these missiles, Iran could target U.S.
military facilities in Iraq as well as the oil facilities of U.S.
client states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
More worrisome to the
attackers is the fact that Iran
could block the Strait of Hormuz,
as it has explicitly threatened to do if attacked. The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway that connects the
Persian/Arabian Gulf to the Sea
of Oman. An estimated 40
percent of the world's oil supplies travel through the Strait. Only 21 miles
wide at its narrowest point, the shipping lanes are only six miles wide. The
numerous ships traveling daily through the Strait have to follow a Traffic
Separation Scheme, reserving a two-mile wide lane for traffic in each direction
and a two-mile wide separation median.
The sinking of even one
ship, or even missiles launched in the direction of the Strait, would cause a
serious disruption to the world supply of oil. Imperialism does not base its
war policies on short-term considerations such as the day-to-day price of oil.
Nevertheless, the managers
of the affairs of U.S.
capitalism must consider the catastrophic consequences should the Strait of Hormuz be blockaded
during the current economic crisis.
military superiority over Iran,
the U.S. Air Force will be unable to annihilate all Iranian missiles on the
ground. In the summer of 2006, during Israel's murderous aggression against
Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force was unable to stop Hezbollah's launching of
missiles despite being equipped with state- of-the-art, U.S.-manufactured jet
fighters and other high tech- equipment.
The area of southern Lebanon where Hezbollah was waging its
resistance against Israel is
a fraction of the area the U.S.
air force will have to worry about should it attack Iran. Nothing lies to the north of
the Strait other than Iran,
including mountaineous areas where missile launch
pads would be easy to hide. There is no doubt that, as a state, Iran has much
more resources than did Hezbollah, a popular resistance movement.
Although Iran is not an Arab state, its support for the
Palestinian cause, its backing of Hamas and the
Hezbollah movement in Lebanon,
and its standing up to Israel
and the United States
have made it popular in the Arab world. A question for U.S. planners is how an attack on Iran would influence the unstable situation in
or in countries run by client regimes that are deeply unpopular among their
These obstacles explain why
there are voices in the U.S.
ruling establishment that have expressed their opposition to an attack on Iran. Secretary
of Defense Robert Gates is one of those voices.
Admiral Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has gone on record saying, ''Opening up
a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us.''
`Negotiations' as another
A new round of negotiations
nuclear program is to take place in July. Javier Solana, foreign policy chief
of the European Union, will lead negotiations with Iran's top nuclear negotiator,
Saeed Jalili. It is reported that U.S. Undersecretary
of State William Burns will attend the July 19 meeting in Geneva. The topic of discussion will be the
latest package offered by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security
Council and Germany.
Not much can be expected out
of negotiations around this package, however, as it is designed to fail. Aided
by the more compliant leadership of Germany
and France, Washington has exerted great pressure to ensure all
packages offered to Iran
are essentially the same, re-branded each time to make them look like generous
Essentially, they demand
halt uranium enrichment and reprocessing before any meaningful negotiations can
happen. For Iran
to accept this condition would be to give up its right to develop nuclear
energy, guaranteed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Incidentally, it
is a concession that Iran
has made in the past when it voluntarily suspended its nuclear activities in
the hopes that the European negotiators would reciprocate the good will gesture
with a meaningful offer.
The hope was in vain. All
the Europeans had to offer, as acknowledged by negotiators in an interview with
Asia Times, was "an empty box of chocolates."
The ongoing threats of war
against Iran may be part of
a designed psychological warfare to force Iran to capitulate to the
inflexible demands of the imperialist alliance, as believed by the Iranian
leadership. This would explain the timely leaks to Seymour Hersh,
who has been reporting for years of an impending U.S.
attack on Iran.
The purpose of the war talk
could be to strengthen the hand of those in the Iranian leadership who are
willing to take a more moderate approach, give up on the nuclear program and
scale back active support for Hamas and Hezbollah,
major anti-imperialist resistance forces in the Middle East. If this is all
part of a bluff, the more imminent an attack on Iran appears to be, the more likely
the bluff is to succeed.
But there are fundamental
reasons why the whole imperialist establishment would want Iran bombed,
the potential costs notwithstanding.
It may well be true, as has been reported for some time, that a grouping in the
Bush administration, headed by Vice President Cheney and encouraged by Israel and its powerful lobby, are actually
advocating an attack on Iran
before the end of Bush's term. In that case, whether or not Iran is
attacked will be determined by the struggle between the different factions of
the ruling establishment.
Among the factors that will
impact the outcome of the ruling class in-fighting is their estimate of Iran's
willingness and capability to retaliate. Another factor will be the domestic
effect of such an attack. While working people in this country are struggling
to survive in the middle of a deep economic crisis, how would yet another
"pre-emptive" war affect the people's movement?
For those of us who have
been engaged in anti-war activities, our task is clear. It is not to work
towards getting Democrats elected in November, as they are directly
contributing to the war drive, but to organize and mobilize for building a
grassroots movement to oppose a war against Iran and all future imperialist