By Monica Hill
Threats of war against Iran rise and fade by the hour. Aircraft carriers and destroyers and submarines steam toward the Persian Gulf. Congress almost passes House Resolution 362, whose added punishing economic sanctions are a virtual declaration of war. The U.S. is reportedly building an air base in Iraqi Kurdistan, a mere 11 kilometers from the border.
Could the United States be serious about launching a third major war, or having Israel do it for them? Yes, of course. Despite the fact that it usually picks on more defenseless countries, the U.S. will do anything to keep Iran from undercutting its domination of the Middle East.
For now, it looks like there is disagreement in ruling circles about the wisdom of such a course. But only bold opposition from working people and soldiers and youth in the U.S., as well as Iran and Israel, can halt an assault.
Not About Nukes
The U.S. claims that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction — specifically, nuclear weapons. But why should people believe that, since the government was lying when it used the same excuse to attack Iraq?
Iran says its nuclear enrichment program is for electric power, not weapons. As a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to nuclear energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that weapons are not being developed, as does the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report, which represents all 16 U.S. spy agencies.
In any case, if Iran did build nuclear weapons, it would be no more culpable than the nine countries that already have them and the five, soon to be six, NATO countries that “host” U.S. nukes. Where does the United States, the only country that has used nuclear bombs, and their largest marketer, get off waxing superior on this issue?
U.S. brinkmanship is not about protecting people and planet from weapons of mass destruction. It comes from the dominant imperialist country in the world, under extreme economic stress, desperate to keep from losing its wealth and power.
After the discovery of oil in the 20th century, the most industrially developed countries did everything to dominate the Middle East, where so much of the “black gold” that modern capitalism depends on is located. Great Britain, France and the United States invaded, occupied, bombed, terrorized, irreparably polluted, murdered, maimed and displaced millions of people throughout the Middle East.
Iran sits in the middle of this besieged region (between the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan). It possesses huge reserves of oil and gas, and controls the Strait of Hormuz through which 20 to 40 percent of the world’s oil flows. And it is expanding economic and military ties with Russia, the emerging imperialist power to the north.
Iran’s Autocratic Regime
The U.S. claims outrage over the current Islamic Republic of Iran’s authoritarian government. Nonsense. The U.S. installed the despotic Shah of Iran who was overthrown (not to mention mentoring Afghanistan’s Taliban).
Iran’s rulers are indeed religious fundamentalists who brutally reversed the thrilling 1979 revolution. They also head up a thoroughly capitalist state.
The government has adopted the International Monetary Fund’s misery-laden neoliberal policies and vigorously privatized its major state-run industries. Months of unpaid wages are commonplace. Food prices have gone up by 45 percent. Rice is up 238 percent!
Students and women have been protesting for years against state executions, stoning of women to death and extreme jail sentences for political dissent. A wave of strikes and demonstrations continues to express worker rebellion. A work stoppage at the Haft Tapeh sugar cane company in May won three months of back pay. Khodro autoworkers walked out this last June and won wage increases and an end to mandatory overtime.
The regime’s response to resistance is ferocious. Two women who participated in a May Day rally in Tehran were sentenced to lashes and many months in jail. An international effort has been mounted to free them — along with the leader of Tehran’s militant bus workers, who has been imprisoned since July 2007.
Iranians don’t need war. They need labor solidarity to keep other countries’ ruling classes from savaging them further.
The Israel Connection
Should the U.S. decide against attacking Iran now, rightwing forces in Israel are pressuring the Bush administration for more nuclear weapons and approval for Israel to start the shooting. So far, the U.S. has refused to provide the additional weapons and necessary air space for Israel to bombard Iran.
Israeli peace activists and academics who have long opposed the cruel occupation of Palestine circulated a letter in August denouncing an attack on Iran. They also called on Israel to “subject its own nuclear facilities to international inspection” and to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty instead of fomenting war with Iran.
Most Israeli workers are sick to death of war, government lies and corruption, and fighting mad about proposed 2009 budget cuts. Workers came close to a general strike in late August, but their Histradrut union misleaders backed away. Like unionists all over the world, Israeli labor needs radical leaders to confront the political, religious and ethnic bigotry that divides its Jewish, Arab and immigrant working class, and to marshal opposition to the government’s murderous international policies.
In the Belly of the Beast
The economy and military of the USA is stretched nearly to the breaking point. Generals and admirals, politicians and CEOs are split on the question of storming into Iran.
More importantly, popular support for yet another war is nearly nonexistent. Workers and vets and the unemployed are losing their health, homes and jobs. They can’t pay transportation and heating costs. Youth are without jobs or hope of a decent education, especially young people of color and immigrants who fill the jails and army, but not college campuses.
Most everyone is ashamed of what our government does in our name — here and abroad. “Stop War on Iran” was the demand at demonstrations in over 100 U.S. cities on Aug. 2, and was part of the anti-war program of protesters at both the Democrat and Republican conventions.
It is increasingly clear that the only way the U.S. is going to get out of the business of war is for workers, in and out of uniform, to put a stop to it. Rulers cannot go to war without those who produce everything and do all the fighting. They alone are capable of blocking a barbaric future.
In the United States, a country that has put so many in harm’s way, the working class has a special responsibility and opportunity to lead the way.
Demand U.S. out of the Middle East!
Call for cancellation of all sanctions against Iran!
Solidarity with workingclass and progressive struggles in Iran and Israel!
– Monica Hill contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (Originally published in Freedom Socialist newspaper, Vol. 29, No. 5, October-November 2008)