Iran: a dangerous game

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A leading correspondent for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper said, ‘[Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu is playing poker for all of us. We shouldn’t call out his cards.’ He proceeded to say that Israel’s threat of a military strike on Iran was a ‘loaded gun that the made the international community impose a diplomatic and economic siege on Iran’.

The correspondent was responding to criticisms of the Israeli government from senior Israeli military figures. The former heads of Mossad (foreign secret service), the Israeli military intelligence and the internal intelligence agency, Shin Bet, have all condemned the Israeli threat to attack Iran. Contradicting his Prime Minister, who portrays the Iranian leadership as fanatical, the current head of Israel’s armed forces said that he did not believe that Iran would build a nuclear weapon and described the Iranian leadership as ‘very rational’.

Whether Netanyahu is bluffing or not, the US has stationed two aircraft carrier battle fleets in the Persian Gulf and despite 17 US agencies reporting that Iran has not enriched uranium beyond 20% purity, below the 90% required for weapons development, US President Obama repeats: ‘all options are on the table’, this is Iran’s ‘last chance’, there are ‘red lines’ which Iran must not cross or there will be war. Israel has not mounted a major military offensive without US approval since Suez in 1956 and is unlikely to do so now.

The US, Israel and the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members, led by Saudi Arabia, seek to enfeeble Iran, which they view as challenging their regional dominance. The GCC backing for the forces opposed to the Syrian government also targets Iran, Syria’s ally. In April the GCC condemned as ‘provocative’ Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s visit to one of three islands close to the Strait of Hormuz. These islands were taken by Iran in 1971, when British forces withdrew from the region. Possession is disputed by the United Arab Emirates, a GCC country. They are strategically vital: approximately 40% of the world’s ship-transported oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. At the end of April the Saudi foreign minister said that the Gulf States would increase their co-ordination of foreign policy, directed against Iran, and conduct joint military manoeuvres.

What the former and current Israeli military chiefs understand is that whether Netanyahu is bluffing or not, real danger is at hand – and it is not just from Israel.

Russia has put its forces near the Caspian Sea on alert for a US-Israeli attack on Iran. Russia views Iran as an ally. Israel is reported to have gained access to air bases in Azerbaijan that could be used to attack Iran.

Even though the European Union embargo on Iranian oil does not come into full effect until July, sanctions are beginning to hurt Iran: oil production is estimated to have fallen to a ten-year low, Iran is offering easy credit terms to induce buyers, the national currency has depreciated by 30% since December and inflation is officially 21.8%, but could actually be double this.

Talks on Iran’s nuclear programme with the P5+1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) resumed in Baghdad on 23 May, with no agreement achieved other than to meet again in Moscow on 18 June. The US and Britain will maintain pressure on Iran, whatever it may offer as guarantees over its uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of sanctions. For the imperialists the objective is regime change in Iran and, as with Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear programme serves as pretext for attacking it.

Hands off Iran!

Trevor Rayne

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012