Iran: The revolution is coming

FRFI 150 August / September 1999

The overthrow of the Shah in 1979 was one of the most popular revolutions of the 20th century, with millions of people taking part. Its tone was anti-imperialist and its content democratic. The left made its mark through anti-imperialist slogans against the USA and capitalism in general, but lacked any specific programme for transformation of social and political structures. The left at the time was influenced by guerilla movements in Latin America and experiences of China and the Soviet Union, but had little contact with the workers who were the social base of the revolution.

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Imperialists try to intensify pressure on Iran

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

During a recent trip to Tehran, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw continued to ratchet up imperialist pressure on the Iranian regime, calling on it to agree by September to sign the ‘additional protocol’ demanded by the June meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This would give inspectors from the IAEA greater rights to conduct snap inspections of so-called suspect sites. Failure to meet this deadline would, according to Straw, jeopardise a European Union trade and co-operation agreement currently being negotiated. His visit came shortly after widespread student protests had taken place against the regime in Iran.

The student demonstrations had begun on 10 June at Tehran University in opposition to the privatisation of the university system but had quickly taken on an anti-regime character. The protests were militant, violently confronting the forces of the state, the police and Hezbollah (religious militia of the government) and spreading to at least eight other major cities. Slogans on the demonstrations included ‘Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran’, ‘Death to Khamenei’ (the main religious leader within Iran), ‘Death to Khatami’ (the reformist President) and ‘Death to Rafsanjani’ (the hard-line ex-president of Iran). All accounts of the protests point to the fact that many others joined the students on the streets. The Tehran Chief of Police told the media that of the 520 protesters arrested by 22 June, ‘only ten of them are students, the rest are ruffians’! Student leaders said though that more than half of those in custody were students, and 18 of them were women.

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Iran: Defying Imperialism

Over the last few months, Britain, the US and Israel have been intensifying the pressure on Iran. In scenes very similar to the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, they have made much of Iran’s supposed quest for nuclear weapons and the alleged threat it poses to world peace and security. Although Iran is clearly working for a peaceful resolution, the US has already stigmatised it as part of its ‘axis of evil’ and is threatening to use ‘every tool at its disposal’ to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear capabilities. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said recently that Iran was probably the number one challenge for the US:

‘We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran, whose policies are directed at developing a Middle East that would be 180 degrees different than the Middle East we would like to see developed.’

Iran, which is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has said that it has no plans to build nuclear weapons and that it requires nuclear energy for civilian purposes to meet the energy demands of its increasing population and expanding economy. These claims were substantiated by the International Atomic Energy Agency which after three years of investigation has found ‘no evidence of diversion’.

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Iran: divisions in the US ruling class / FRFI 204 Aug / Sep 2008

FRFI 204 August / September 2008

Iran: divisions in the US ruling class

The 19 July meeting of a senior US State Department official and European Union representative with Iranian government officials in Geneva is a significant development. Previously the US insisted that it would not engage in serious diplomatic relations with Iran until Iran ended its nuclear enrichment programme. The US also proposed opening an interests section in Tehran which would be the first US diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979 US hostage crisis. Whatever these developments come to, they reflect a serious division within the US ruling class and the ascendancy of a faction opposed to the neo-conservatives and Vice President Cheney who have been leading the call for an attack on Iran. Germany’s government has led in efforts to start negotiations.

In 2007 a combined report of 16 US intelligence agencies said that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. Key figures in the US military have cautioned against war on Iran. On 3 July the chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, said, ‘This is a very unstable part of the world, and I don’t need it to be more unstable.’ He warned against opening a ‘third front’ and called for ‘dialogue’ with Iran. The US military command is acutely aware that its forces are over-stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democratic Party US presidential candidate Barack Obama expresses their views by calling for face-to-face meetings with Iran and pledging to transfer substantial numbers of US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. US Defence Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Rice have led in seeking negotiations with Iran.

On 13 July The Sunday Times carried a report that President Bush had given approval for an Israeli bomb attack on Iran. In 1981 Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor; last year it bombed what it described as a nuclear facility in Syria, and at the end of this May it conducted a 100-fighter-bomber exercise over the eastern Mediterranean as a trial run for attacking Iran. Israel’s Transport Minister said, ‘If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it’. Such an attack was becoming ‘unavoidable’, he added. In response Iran tested missiles on 8 and 9 July, including a missile with the range to hit Israel. Senior Iranian officials said that Iran would destroy Israel and 32 US military bases in the Middle East and close the Strait of Hormuz if it were attacked. 

The Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, is a little over 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. Through it travels about 40% of the world’s oil supplies. If the Strait were closed, oil prices would soar way above their already high level with dire consequences for international capitalism. Iraq’s Shia-dominated puppet government has told the US that if Iran is attacked it will turn its Shia allies in Iraq against the US and any who remain loyal to it, thereby jeopardising plans for US military bases and multinational corporations’ control of Iraq’s oil reserves.

The struggle within the US ruling class and between US and European imperialism will continue. There is no certainty that war with Iran has been forestalled, but, for Israel, the prospect of attacking Iran looks like a big gamble, with powerful sections of the US state urging restraint. 

Trevor Rayne