Iran under pressure

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During October 2012 the US and Israel held a three week joint missile and air defence exercise with 4,500 soldiers, making it the largest joint military exercise between the two nations. On 2 November The Independent reported the British government to be considering stationing warplanes adjacent to the Persian Gulf to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes 35% of the world’s seaborne oil. British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said that European countries must be ‘prepared, if necessary, to take a bigger role in relation to North Africa and the Middle East...Europe, as a whole, needs to do more.’ The Royal Navy maintains ten ships, including a nuclear submarine, in the Persian Gulf region. Hammond was issuing a threat to the peoples of the Middle East, North Africa and Iran, in particular, not to challenge imperialist domination of the region.

In October the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran, including a ban on Iranian gas exports, a freeze on transactions with Iranian banks and prohibitions on a range of exports to Iran. Britain, France and Germany are leading the EU sanctions campaign and claim they are demanding that Iran negotiate its nuclear energy programme. The EU and US sanctions are hurting Iranian people: oil exports have halved since July 2012 and are a third of what they were a year ago. This has driven the Iranian rial currency down against the US dollar, it dropped 30% in a week, which in turn has fuelled inflation. There is also a shortage of medicines, including for treating cancer and other life-threatening diseases; some six million people are believed to be affected.

In early October there were street protests against the Iranian government and the Tehran bazaar went on strike. Police have shut down currency shops and confiscated hard currency and gold coins to try and prevent speculation against the rial, but an illegal market in dollars is growing. Tensions are surfacing among Iran’s ruling circles: on 4 November 77 parliamentarians signed a petition summoning President Ahmadinejad to answer questions on the economy.

The US and European ruling classes would prefer to remove the Iranian regime by sanctions rather than all out war, which is unpredictable and potentially devastating for the region and the world economy. However, recent developments demonstrate that the covert war already underway could escalate quickly into a regional conflagration. At the end of October two Iranian warships docked at Port Sudan on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. This was one week after the Sudanese government accused Israel of sending eight warplanes to bomb an arms factory in the capital Khartoum. Iranian made Fajr-5 rockets are being fired from Gaza at Israel. Iran then announced that it had developed a drone that can take off vertically without a runway.

On 16 November 2012 the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was now equipped to increase production of enriched uranium. The purpose of such reports and their presentation in the bourgeois media is to suggest that Iran already has a nuclear weapons programme, which it does not have. Surveys show the majority of US people do believe that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme. Former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband co-authored an article in the Financial Times entitled ‘Iran can be disarmed if we learn the lessons of the cold war’ (13 April 2012). Such propaganda is intended to prepare the public for war. We must get Britain out of the Middle East and North Africa.

Trevor Rayne

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