Iran: threat after threat

Israel says it will not notify the US before striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Rival US Republican Party presidential candidates vie to utter the most bellicose statements. President Obama says the US will ‘use all elements of American power’ to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon and British Foreign Secretary Hague said ruling out military force against Iran would be ‘irresponsible’. The air is thick with threats; danger is at hand.

Israel’s threats serve to pressurise other countries to impose harsher sanctions on Iran and to distract from its attacks on Gaza and settlement expansion programme. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries urge the US to attack Iran, while supporting fundamentalist groups in Libya, Syria and Iraq. Destabilising Syria is tied to the US and European objective of regime change in Iran. Imperialism is turning the Middle East and North Africa into a battle zone where local proxies are mobilised to try and subordinate the region.

The US has stationed two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and the US Air Force has sent plans for attacking Iran to the US President. On 15 February Iran told the European Union that it was willing to resume talks on its nuclear programme but also announced that it had increased the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges. On 17 February two Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean, for only the second time since the 1979 revolution. They docked in the Syrian port of Tartus. Tartus is being renovated by Russia and is staffed by Russian naval personnel. By the end of 2012 it will berth heavy Russian warships. Russian President Putin said, ‘Russia is worried about the growing threat of a strike on Iran ... If it happens, the consequences will be truly catastrophic. The real scale is impossible to imagine.’ Brazil’s foreign minister, Antonio Patriota, told the UN that an attack on Iran by Israel or the US would be ‘contrary to international law’ – a statement ignored by the millionaires’ media.

Interviewed by the Daily Telegraph Hague said that, ‘If [the Iranians] obtain nuclear weapons capability, other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons’ and he warned of a ‘new cold war’. What hypocrisy: one Middle Eastern nation, Israel, already has nuclear weapons and arms sales to the Middle East increased 17% between 2002-2006 and 2007-2011, with the US and Britain the biggest arms suppliers. On 20 February Parliament debated a motion put by Conservative MP John Baron opposing an attack on Iran. Malcolm Rifkind, Conservative chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, proposed an amendment leaving ‘all options on the table’ for dealing with Iran. This was passed with cross-party agreement with just six MPs voting against. The great majority of Labour MPs voted for the amendment.

The full range of sanctions passed by the US and EU against Iran will not come into effect until July. Within Iran sanctions are already having an impact: the price of rice has doubled in recent months, inflation is officially 22.5% and youth unemployment 26%. However, one Iranian official described the sanctions as a ‘strategic blunder’. Iran possesses the world’s third largest oil reserves and second largest natural gas reserves. Sanctions could remove 2.5 million barrels of Iranian oil a day from world markets, if successful. Oil prices have risen 12% in two months on fears of what sanctions and threats against Iran could lead to. Higher oil prices compensate Iran for reduced sales. China buys 22% of Iran’s oil and India 12%. Both countries have said that they will not join the anti-Iranian camp and that they will continue buying Iranian oil. What will the US and EU do? Impose sanctions on Chinese banks? (Granma International 22 January 2012).

In April the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany will resume talks with Iran – which denies that it is building a nuclear weapon. The imperialists may continue fabricating evidence of Iranian nuclear intentions, rather than reach a deal, in their determination to force regime change. The role of socialists in Britain must be first and foremost to oppose the machinations of the British ruling class. Hands off Iran!

Trevor Rayne

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012


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