Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hands off Iran!

These are the notes from a talk I gave in the Summer of 2006. While some of the events and information is dated, the situation is still as tense. This talk was heavily informed by Revolutionary Rehearsals by Colin Barker, ed., International Socialist Review, and other sources. I've recently read David Barsamian's 'Targeting Iran,' and am about to start Phil Marshall's 'Revolution and Counter Revolution in Iran.' When I've completed reading that I will probably take this talk, combine it with the another Iran talk I gave in the Fall of 2007, and turn it into a proper essay when finished. ~ Robert D. Skeels

We are here to talk about the current U.S. threat to Iran. If you listen to the mainstream corporate media, this discussion takes an opposite tack, suggesting somehow that Iran poses a threat to the U.S., but as we will see this simply isn't the case. We will look at the facts about Iran's nuclear program. We will also look at some of the reasons why the U.S. is menacing Iran, Iran's importance in the region, and recent history. Lastly we will discuss what kind of anti-war movement is needed to take on the issues regarding Iran. Let's take a look at the administration's ongoing "Iran is a nuclear threat" propaganda first so that we can dispel rumors and conjecture and move on the the actual situation.

Since Bush declared Iran as part of his "axis of evil," his administration has openly talked of regime change in Iran. This is nothing new, it is part and parcel in the policies set in the 2002 National Security Strategy -- often referred to as the Bush doctrine. Nor is the fact that such calls for regime change are central to documents from the Plan for the New American Century, and similar Clinton administration strategy documents calling for full spectrum dominance and the like.

Despite strong sentiment in much of the U.S. ruling class to realize regime change in Iran, there are several things holding it back. First and foremost is the failed occupation of Iraq, which has the U.S. military completely tied down and is drawing more and more resources as time goes by {might want to mention 3,700 more troops bound for Iraq}. Another reason is that until fairly recently, the Bush administration had no compelling justification other than some strained excuses of Iran sponsoring a few groups the State Department classifies and terrorists. This alone wouldn't produce broad public support for U.S. military intervention, nor win support from the world community. As all of the initial "justifications" for invading Iraq have been proven patently false, polls overwhelmingly showing people not only against the Iraq war, but now saying it never should have be instigated, the Bush administration's desire to expand its imperial adventures in the Middle East were effectively on hold.

When Iran announced it had restarted its nuclear research work and had successfully enriched fuel grade {3.5%} level uranium, those calling for Iranian regime change felt they finally had an issue on which the could get some traction on. The Bush administration has been making ominous threats. The most memorable are John Bolton's "tangible and painful consequences," and Dick Cheney's "meaningful consequences." The far right pundits have discussed using bunker busting bombs, including the nuclear variety of such devices. Before attributing such bellicose posturing to the neocons or the right, we need to look at the leading Democrats, who not only share the same policies, but in some cases sound more hawkish than their supposed opposition. Howard Dean called for a "harder line on Iran." John Kerry insisted the Administration "has not been tough on Iran... you have to keep your eye on the target." Liberal darlings Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have strong opinions: the former calling for "surgical missile strikes," the later saying "we can not take any options off the table... they [Iran] will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons."

All this tough talk might seem understandable if Iran was actually creating weapons and threatening to use them. Problem is, it isn't. Iran, unlike its regional neighbors Israel, India, and Pakistan, is a signatory of the {sign 1968, ratify 1970} of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (henceforth NPT). Further, Iran signed an additional protocol in 2003 allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wider access and inspection abilities than normal NPT requirements. Under the NPT Iran is completely within its rights to research and develop nuclear power. Iranian officials state they want nuclear power for areas in Iran which are difficult to transport petroleum to, and so that more petroleum is available for export.

As for the threat of weapons development -- Iran has no weapons grade uranium, in fact it has very little fuel grade uranium.. As of March 6, 2006 the General Director of the IAEA {Mohamed El Baradei} reported "the Agency has not seen indication of diversions of nuclear materials to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Facts like these are all but ignored by the U.S. media, echoing government misinformation including the now famous "Iran could produce nuclear bomb in 16 days" headline based on an absurdly hypothetical 350 fold increase in production cited by an assistant secretary of state {Stephen Rademaker}. In reality Iran, assuming no technical difficulties, and that its intentions were to create a weapon, is at least a decade away from such an endeavor. In 2005 the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate cited at least 10 years, as does the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Earlier this year U.S. National Intelligence Director (and mass murderer) John Negroponte estimated 2010 to 2015 as the earliest Iran could have a weapon -- again this is assuming they are engaging in such development. Eric Ruder's article in Socialist Worker issue 592 talks of how Iran would require 16,000 centrifuges to refine for a weapon. A far cry from their existing 164 centrifuges, and well above the Iranian offer {rejected by the U.S.} to limit their centrifuge count to 3,000. He also points out that Iran doesn't have enough uncontaminated uranium to do so anyway, which would require them to import uranium or refining technologies they don't have.

At this point there can be little doubt that any talk of an Iranian nuclear weapons program is nothing more than propaganda and misinformation just like the WMD lies that were told before Bush invaded Iraq. But just like those lies, which were initially accepted because they were repeated shrilly and endlessly, the Iran lies will undoubtedly be repeated ad infinitum for some time to come. While From Iran's standpoint it would actually make sense to develop nuclear weapons in self-defense, but as we have seen, they don't have such a program. Additionally, On August 9, 2005 Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons. We've established Iran poses no threat to the U.S., so let us look at the U.S. threat to Iran.

Iran finds itself surrounded by the very power that claims its threatened by them. Currently the U.S. has colonial style military occupations both to Iran's immediate east and west in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. has countless air-bases in the region including those in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and others -- not to mention the gulf is full of U.S. carrier groups. Then there is Israel, the only real nuclear threat in the Middle East and a primary cause of regional instability, which is following the U.S. lead on the current posturing towards Iran. Dick Cheney had the Pentagon draw up plans for an all out attack on Iran if any terrorist events happen in the future, regardless if Iran had anything to do with it {I wonder what he would do if operation rescue, one of our biggest domestic terror organizations attack a clinic?}. If we can believe everything that sources including New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh have written, then U.S. special forces and operations are already in Iran targeting assets and contacting potential allies for a U.S. attack.

The ongoing U.S. and Israeli threats against Iran last year led to natural nationalist and anti-imperial feelings among Iranians, and is partly the reason for Mahmud Ahmadinejad's victory. The hypocrisy of the U.S. and Israel leading the charge against alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program is staggering. The following quote from Socialist Worker illustrates this:

THE U.S. refusal to consider Iran's proposal to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone exposes what all the U.S. hype about Iran's supposed nuclear weapons program is really about. On the surface, Iran's proposal appears to fit U.S. aims. In fact, the U.S. used U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, passed in 1991, which for "establishing in the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction" as justification for its 2003 war on Iraq. But Israel is currently the only nuclear power in the Middle East--with an arsenal of some 300 nuclear weapons. The U.S. doesn't want to eliminate nuclear weapons in the Middle East--so long as they remain in the hands of an ally.

We are back to the real reasons the U.S. is menacing Iran, a desire for regime change, American hegemony in the Gulf, and a furthering of its imperial aims. As former U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter said recently: "The Bush administration does not have policy of disarmament vis-a-vis Iran. They do have a policy of regime change." With this we need to examine exactly what the U.S. wants and why.

Iran is the largest and most heavily populated country in the Persian Gulf. It is the world's forth largest oil producer. Throughout history it has been a major player, but the only history U.S. imperialism is interested in is the petroleum era. More specifically since the 1950's when the CIA initiated a coup d'etat to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mosadeq, whose "crime" was nationalization of Iranian oil, and install the brutal regime of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi--the Shah.

During the 1970's a genuine working class movement began challenging the Shah, whose military and secret police were infamous for vicious repression. At it's high point, the Iranian working class created shoras throughout industries, workplaces, and communities. Shoras which are worker's councils, which we typically call soviets, were the organizing points from which they revolution sprung. Mass movements, protests, sit ins and work stoppages crippled and eventually toppled the Shah's brutal rein. This deserves much more time, which we don't have time to do justice here. For those of you that haven't read it, I strongly suggest getting a copy of "Revolutionary Rehearsals" and reading the Iran chapter. The worker's revolution that ultimately overthrew the Shah had some ideological and organizational weaknesses primarily because of leftist leadership which lacked a grounding in the real Marxist tradition. That left, heavily influenced by currents of Stalinism and elitism, was prone to abandoning principle and made major tactical errors including focusing solely on the overthrow of the Shah and not preparing the working class to assume rulership for such an eventuality. This left a power vacuum which allowed Ayatollah (Seyyed Ruhollah) Khomeini to place himself at the head of the the revolution. Using a combination of populism and anti-imperialist sentiment, mixed with aspirations of creating an Islamic republic, Khomeni became the de facto leader during and after the 1979 overthrow of the Shah. His spiritual beliefs aside, Khomeini was a firm believer in free market capitalism, which meant his consolidation of power required dismantling the same revolutionary powers that placed him at its head. In a short time his counterrevolutionary moves saw a total elimination of both Iran's left and the workers' organizations so effective at toppling the Shah. What remained is the current ruling class of Iran, a mix of Theocrats and capitalists who are to all intents and purposes, as repressive as the Shah was.

From the standpoint of U.S. imperialism, the revolution was disastrous. The U.S. lost one of its strongest allies in the region which was more like Israel and less like Saudi Arabia in terms of using its U.S. supplied military hardware for regional control. In interest of getting back to current time, I need to gloss over very important events including the U.S. Embassy seizure, the USS Vincennes shooting down a civilian airliner {Iran Air Flight 655}, the U.S. encouraging, funding and arming of both sides of the Iraq Iran war {1980-88}, Reagan's Iran-Contra Affair, and others.

The current situation with Iran and its relation to U.S. imperialism is complicated and I can't hope to possibly cover everything here. It is important to discuss some topics in relation to current tensions in Iranian U.S. relations outside of the nuclear issues.

Iran's importance as of late is very much an issue of globalization. It has seen major investment and economic alliances from Europe, Russia, and Asia -- particularly China. Much of this has been in energy related developments and pipelines, but also in other industries. This flurry of foreign investment, plus promises to relax social restrictions is what brought former President Mohammad Khatami to power. However, his devotion to neo-liberal capitalism, which has created unemployment and stagnant wages, also saw a revival in working class struggle. Working class dissatisfaction with Khatami, anti-imperialist sentiment, and national pride over Iran's nuclear program are all part of what brought current President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to power. However, his equal commitment to Iran's capitalist class has resulted in continued working class struggles as seen in the recent Tehran bus drivers strike. Iran's economic connections with the counties mentioned above are part of what has prevented the U.S. from securing U.N. actions like sanctions, and kept it from getting any international support for its saber rattling. In reality, this growing of Iranian influence on a world scale is what is really fueling calls for regime change.

In a true twist of irony the U.S. has further increased Iran's power and importance in the region through its failing occupation of Iraq. Following the classic colonial strategy of divide and conquer, the artificial sectarian divisions the U.S. created in trying to pacify Iraq have resulted in creating a powerful Shiite government with strong ties and sympathies to Tehran. The very reactionaries that were boasting "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad, Real men want to go to Tehran" have created conditions that have strengthened Iran and other Shiite run countries hands considerably in the region and given rise to further dissent in Arab states that serve U.S. interests. This is another reason why the U.S. ruling class is united in calls to threaten Iran, as U.S. credibility and influence in the region is seriously threatened.

All of this leads us back to the Bush doctrine and what kind of anti-war movement is necessary to combat it. The Bush doctrine makes specious claims to wanting to establish freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. U.S. imperialism has a long history of supporting democracy in the region. For example: the KING of Saudia Arabia, the KING of Jordan, and the SHAH of Iran. In a word, the U.S. isn't interested in anything other than proxies to serve its interests. U.S. handling of the democratically elected Hamas proves this, as does the carefully crafted Iraqi constitution that prevents it from voting on things like ending U.S. occupation or re-nationalizing industries.

In the last weeks the U.S. has acquiesced to calls for diplomacy and will join in the Iran Six (Britain, France, China, Russia, Germany, and the U.S.) for multi-lateral talks over Iran's rights under the NPT. It did this only after it failed to bully other U.N. members into imposing sanctions, and is predicating it on a precondition that Iran suspend nuclear activities. This far from being the end of a military threat -- Condoleezza Rice called the talks "one last excuse" for Iran to resist American demands.

The anti-war movement needs to demand that the U.S. enter talks in good faith without any preconditions at all. The movement needs to demand that Iran's calls for security guarantees be granted and the the U.S. stop its rhetoric about all options being on the table. Furthermore it needs to demand a real negotiations to see resolution 687 realized, creating a WMD free Middle East -- including those of the U.S. and Israel.

This is why I feel it is important to be a member of the ISO (if you're not--you should be), where we are able to sharpen and then present these arguments to a larger audience. To be successful the anti-war movement must be principled and make the understanding, acknowledgment, and resistance the U.S. imperialism its very foundation. The ISO argued early in favor of the Iraqi resistance, and while we were criticized by liberals at the time, it is easy to see what has prevented the U.S. from moving on to Iran and Syria is the brave Iraqi resistance. An effective anti-war movement cannot compromise on issues like Palestine, must not accept arguments in favor of "humanitarian" occupations, and cannot allow itself to be silenced to avoid offending pro-war candidates like it did in 2004. We must make our voice clear and to quote our flyer for this talk: "U.N. sanctions or U.S. bombs, we say Hands off Iran!"


Monday, March 03, 2008

Local Man Sues Government After Being Wrongly Deported

What happens in an atmosphere of racist anti-immigrant sentiments. Here's wishing the ACLU gets a huge settlement out of the Department of Faderland Security, and the funds would come directly of the xenophobic right wing's taxes only.