Iran on collision course

A new round of UN and US sanctions against Iran and the insertion of US and Israeli naval vessels to patrol off the Iranian coast suggest that a confrontation between imperialism and Iran is imminent. The US and Israeli governments are adamant that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, despite the US’s own 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that it was not. The US ruling class recognises that its inability to secure victory in Iraq and Afghanistan threatens its control of the Middle East and Central Asia, and it sees regional rivals challenging its plan to achieve global hegemony, especially Iran. This may spur the US to use its military power to try and reverse this deterioration in its position.

The 2003 attack on Iraq was preceded by 13 years of sanctions against that country and a growing barrage of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. The US used sanctions and the United Nations to mobilise international support for its attempts to depose the Iraqi government, which it eventually achieved by force. Sanctions passed in the UN, with British government support, were critical in paving the way to the armed assault.

In May Brazil, Turkey and Iran reached an agreement on exchanging Iran’s enriched uranium to ensure that it was monitored and controlled. The US rejected this agreement and on 9 June pushed new sanctions through the UN with Turkey and Brazil voting against and China and Russia voting for the sanctions. On the face of it the sanctions appear unimportant; a partial arms embargo and vigilance in transactions with Iranian banks, such as the central bank. China insisted that energy was left out of the measures. However, the US followed up with unilateral sanctions of its own passed into law on 1 July, to be followed by further penalties. All non-US financial institutions that deal with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and 16 targeted Iranian banks will be barred from doing business with US banks. Any firm anywhere that sells petroleum to Iran will have restrictions placed on its bank transactions, foreign exchange dealings and property in the US. Iran imports about a quarter of its oil from international markets. Shell, Italy’s ENI, France’s Total, Spain’s Repsol and Russia’s Lukoil have all either pulled out of contracts with Iran or delayed them. BP has stopped supplying Iran airlines with fuel. Iran received many of its imports through Dubai; now many Iranian-owned businesses in Dubai have been closed and shipments destined for Iran have been stopped. Russia has cancelled a contract to supply Iran with air defence missiles.

In June the Sunday Times reported that Saudi Arabia had conducted tests to allow Israeli jets to pass through its airspace, shortening the flying time from Israel to Iran. This was followed by reports that Israel has stockpiled equipment in the Saudi desert near Jordan and that Israeli warplanes have been stationed in Georgia and Azebaijan, close to northern Iran. We do know that two US aircraft carriers and over a dozen support vessels are in the Strait of Hormuz and that the US base on British-owned Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean has received submarines armed with nuclear and ‘bunker buster’ missiles.

Iran has responded to these threats by refusing admittance to two International Atomic Energy Agency officials whom it accused of previously writing ‘utterly untruthful’ reports. It has said it will retaliate if any of its cargo ships are stopped and inspected and announced that it was continuing to produce enriched uranium.

Should the US and Israel attack Iran the consequences would be dire and unpredictable; the Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula is a little over 21 miles at its narrowest point. Through it travels some 40% of the world’s oil supplies. If the Strait were closed, oil prices would soar with dire consequences for international capitalism. Iran’s allies in Iraq would be mobilised and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas can be expected to act. The ruling powers of the Middle East and Central Asia would be turned against each other and the masses enraged. The US, Israeli and British ruling classes could find that they have ignited an inferno that finally consumes all their ambitions in the region.

Trevor Rayne

FRFI 216 August/September 2010


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