IRAN & THE G20 MEETING: Creating a Crisis to Cover Divisions

By Sara Flounders

The G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh gathered the finance ministers, top bankers and political leaders of the world’s largest economies, ostensibly to take up the most serious economic collapse of capitalism in three generations. Instead, they attacked Iran.

Without proposing measures to ameliorate the suffering of the hundreds of millions of workers who have lost their jobs, without announcing jobs programs or infrastructure construction, U.S., British and French imperialism joined together with bombast to threaten Iran on totally fabricated charges. They have demanded that the United Nations Security Council and members of the G-20 collaborate on a new round of sanctions against Iran.

Emergency economic proposals were not even on the agenda.

In a theatrical press conference on Sept. 25, flanked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel delayed but on her way, President Barack Obama declared that Iran was threatening the stability and security of the region and the world. Refusal to “come clean,” he said, “is going to lead to confrontation.”

Sarkozy and Brown denounced Iran and explicitly demanded harder sanctions.

They threatened a military strike, saying that “all options are on the table with regard to Iran.”

This whole scenario shows that these bankers, finance ministers and politicians have no solutions for the crisis wracking the globe. They used the summit to justify the bailout of the banks and to give vague assurances of future economic recovery. The trillions of dollars handed over to the banks is the greatest redistribution of national treasuries in human history.

Unable to reach agreement on regulating international banking, trade or any aspect of international finance capital, which has spread chaos through the entire world, the imperialists gave the appearance of unified purpose by making ominous threats against Iran. All the corporate media loyally fell in line. No journalists dared to ask about the havoc arising from the capitalist economic system or what solutions the imperialists proposed. All the media snapped to attention and joined in demonizing Iran.

Iran in full compliance

In the face of such an onslaught of war propaganda, it is important to review the facts.

Iran is fully in compliance with all international agreements, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines and reporting regulations. The IAEA is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees all nations the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. According to IAEA reports, Iran is enriching uranium to less than 5 percent. At this level of purity, the uranium is useful for peaceful nuclear-based electricity generation but is well below the 90-percent U-235 needed for nuclear weapons. Iran possesses no facility with that capacity. (www.iaea.org)

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, told Press TV on Sept. 27 that IAEA safeguard agreements call for nations to inform it of the existence of a new enrichment plant at least six months or 180 days before the introduction of nuclear materials into the facility. Iran notified the IAEA on Sept. 21, which is 18 months in advance.

This second, smaller facility outside Qom, Iran, is an empty building. It has no nuclear material at this time and no equipment for enrichment has been installed yet. The small-scale site is meant to house no more than 3,000 centrifuges–many fewer than the 8,000 machines at Natanz, Iran’s other enrichment facility.

“It is a very ordinary facility in the beginning stages” and 18 months away from operation, President Ahmadinejad said at a Sept. 25 news conference in New York. “It is not a secret facility. If it was, why did we inform the IAEA ahead of time? … What we did was completely legal, according to the law,” the Iranian president said. “We have informed the agency, the agency will come and take a look and produce a report, and it’s nothing new.”

The Iranians also said that the facility was hardly clandestine. Nor is it a surprise, as U.S., Britain and France have claimed. These same countries also state that they have known about it for three years. Both the U.S. and the French have presented aerial photos of the construction, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the U.S. knew of the plant before Iran reported it.

Is Iran really a threat?

The U.S. still has thousands of nuclear weapons. It is the only country that has ever used a nuclear weapon and the only country that has time and again threatened to use nuclear weapons. The U.S. refused to abide by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the U.S. Congress has never ratified it.

Israel clearly has uranium enrichment facilities and is estimated to possess 60 to 400 thermonuclear weapons. Israel refuses to abide by any international agreements or any inspections. Yet every U.S. administration has been completely silent on Israel’s nuclear enrichment and weapons program.

Thirteen countries presently enrich uranium. Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Australia have also announced plans to begin enriching uranium. Twenty-eight countries have nuclear energy plants, with the largest number of power plants being in the U.S. Another 10 countries without plants have plans to build one. Yet only Iran and North Korea are ever challenged or threatened.

Iran has consistently supported the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East and proposed the concept in a joint resolution in the U.N. General Assembly.

IAEA and Iran

Iran has not only agreed to more stringent IAEA inspections than other nations, it has also offered to operate the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz as a multinational fuel center with the participation of foreign representatives. Iran has further renounced plutonium reprocessing and agreed to immediately fabricate all enriched uranium into reactor fuel rods. This offer by Iran to open its uranium enrichment program to foreign private and public participation follows suggestions of an IAEA expert committee.

Despite all these agreements, Washington has insisted that Iran must totally suspend its entire enrichment program.

The IAEA released its own statement on Sept. 17, saying, “With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran.”

The September-October issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists publishes an interview with IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. In the course of the interview he declared: “We have not seen concrete evidence that Tehran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program. … But somehow, many people are talking about how Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world. … In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped.” These authoritative statements and words of caution are totally ignored by the wild circus of the imperialist media.

Around the world the imperialist countries are isolated on this issue. On Sept. 16, 2006, in Havana, Cuba, all the 118 Non-Aligned Movement member countries, at the summit level, declared their support of Iran’s civilian nuclear program in their final written statement. The Non-Aligned Movement represents a majority of the 192 countries in the U.N.

Again on July 30, 2008, the Non-Aligned Movement welcomed the continuing cooperation of Iran with the IAEA and reaffirmed Iran’s right to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The movement further called for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and called for a comprehensive multilaterally negotiated instrument which prohibits threats of attacks on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

In February 2007, lawmakers from 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, addressing Iran’s nuclear program at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, urged “full respect for equal and inalienable rights for all nations to explore modern technologies including nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Sanctions–a weapon against development

Iranian spokespeople have made it clear that Iran will develop its own facilities to enrich uranium for energy. It has been subject to the most severe series of sanctions and export restrictions on technology for peaceful nuclear technology and for all other forms of development. After decades of violated agreements, contracts and treaties, Iran cannot trust the U.S. or Europe to consistently provide the nuclear energy fuel to run power plants.

The U.S. provided aid to Iran’s original nuclear development during the years of brutal dictatorship of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. At that time Washington was more than willing to give Iran nuclear technology. But after the 1979 Iranian Revolution overthrew this U.S.-imposed dictatorship and reasserted national control over Iran’s own oil and gas resources, Washington ended all nuclear cooperation. Since then the U.S. has taken every possible measure to sabotage, strangle and overthrow the Iranian government.

The latest U.S. and European discussion of a blockade of refined gasoline to Iran is just the latest example of efforts to stop Iran’s development.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed ways to harm Iran: “There are a variety of options still available, including sanctions on banking, particularly sanctions on equipment and technology for their oil and gas industry. … I think there’s a pretty rich list to pick from.” (bloomberg.com, Sept. 27)

Washington has used enormous pressure several times to impose economic sanctions through the U.N. Security Council. These sanctions are a form of strangulation, an intentionally brutal weapon applied to developing countries. Sanctions exacerbate social tensions and undercut the support for a targeted government by creating economic havoc. Wildly spiraling, uncontrolled inflation, shortages, long lines, shutting off imports of basic supplies and closing off export markets impact harshly on the most defenseless sectors in every society. Currencies become worthless. Industries are forced to shut down.

Over the last five decades in an effort to extract concessions, different forms of U.S. sanctions have been used against the poorest countries of the planet. They have targeted nine countries in Africa, six countries in Asia, five in the Middle East, three in Latin America and three in Europe.

On Oct. 1 a meeting called the “5 + 1” for the five-member U.N. Security Council plus Germany is scheduled to meet with Iran on its nuclear energy program. The threats restated at the G-20 meeting aim to coerce Iran to accept extremely intrusive controls.

Remember that under U.S. pressure in August 1990, the U.N. Security Council imposed a total blockade on Iraq. The blockade resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million children under the age of 5 from the resulting desperate shortages and preventable diseases. Meanwhile, a hunt for supposedly secret weapons of mass destruction dragged on for 13 years.

In 2003 the Bush administration claimed that Iraq had a secret nuclear weapons program close to completion and posing an imminent nuclear threat. A media frenzy claimed that Iraq was close to producing nuclear weapons. This fear of weapons of mass destruction–WMD–became the main justification for the U.S. invasion and occupation.

All reports from the IAEA confirming that there was no evidence of such a program were ignored. No such weapons were ever found. But after six years of U.S. occupation, a quarter of Iraq’s population is dead, disabled or dispersed in the form of dislocated refugees.

Washington’s lies must be exposed. Iran’s sovereignty and its right to full development must be defended and supported.

Video from the August 1 Forum on the Crisis in Iran

An Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement: How Should We React to the Events in Iran?

by Phil Wilayto

The “Iranian people” have not spoken.

What’s happening in Iran today is a developing conflict between two forces that each represent millions of people.  There are good people on both sides and the issues are complicated.  So before U.S. progressives decide to weigh in, supporting one side and condemning the other, let’s take a little closer look.

Who Won the Election?

On June 12, 2009, nearly 40 million Iranians, some 85 percent of the electorate, cast votes for one of four presidential candidates.  The following day, the government announced that the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had won 62.63 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a run-off with his leading rival, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was said to have received 33.75 percent of the vote (CNN, June 13, 2009).

“Before the vote count ended, Moussavi [sic] issued a sharply worded letter urging the counting to stop because of ‘blatant violations’ and lashed out at what he indicated was an unfair process” (CNN, June 13, 2009).

Mousavi denounced the results as a fraud and hundreds of thousands of his supporters poured into the streets of Tehran and other major cities to protest the election results.

Was the election fair, or was it rigged?

In the West, we have been conditioned to think of President Ahmadinejad as a kind of crackpot dictator who is now the target of an angry and aroused citizenry.  Mousavi supporters are projected as “the Iranian people,” while Ahmadinejad is seen as being supported by little more than the military, the Revolutionary Guards, and the volunteer Basij organization.

This is a misconception, one result of the fact that few Western observers of Iran are interested in the issue of class.

Of Iran’s nearly 71 million people, about 40 percent live in the countryside.  For the most part, these are lower-income Iranians.  Add to them the urban poor and working class, and you have about two-thirds of the population — the section that economically has benefited the most from the 1979 Revolution.

Ahmadinejad himself comes from the rural poor — a blacksmith’s son and the fourth of seven children, born in the village of Arādān near Garmsar, about 40 miles southeast of Tehran.  His family moved to Tehran when he was one year old.  Before becoming president, he was the mayor of Tehran, with his main base of support in southern Tehran, the much poorer part of the capital.  Despite economic difficulties due in large part to the sharp drop in world oil prices, Ahmadinejad has retained this class support through his promotion of services and subsidies to the poor — programs which depend on the continued state ownership and control of the oil and gas industries.

So, just from the demographics, it seems reasonable that Ahmadinejad could have won two-thirds of the vote.

That view is supported by a major voter survey, funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, conducted three weeks before the election by an organization called Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion.  TFT isn’t exactly a leftist group: its advisory board includes Arizona senator and former presidential candidate John McCain; Lee H. Hamilton and Thomas Keen, who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission; and former Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist.

Here’s what the survey report’s authors, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, had to say about the election, in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post just after the election:

Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin — greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday’s election.

But in Iran, two-thirds of the population is under the age of 35, and Mousavi carried the youth vote, right?

Again, from Ballen and Doherty:

Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election.  But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.  The only demographic groups in which our survey found Mousavi leading or competitive with Ahmadinejad were university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. (emphasis added)

So people voted their wallets, not their age or ethnicity — and there are a lot more poor people in Iran than there are those from the middle class.

But the voters use paper ballots, which are counted by hand.  How could 40 million ballots be counted in a matter of hours?

First of all, the results were announced the day after the election (CNN, June 13, 2009), not after a few hours, as had been widely reported.

Secondly, there are 60,000 voting stations in Iran.  That works out to an average of less than 700 votes per station.  Counting that many ballots would take hours, not days.  Each station then reported its votes electronically to the Interior Ministry, which added them up and announced the results.  So it’s perfectly possible that the votes were counted locally and those results compiled centrally and then announced on Saturday, June 13.

Is that how quickly election results are normally announced?  No, it usually takes about three days, not one.  However (and I haven’t seen this reported anywhere in the Western media), this was the first year in which the local tallies were electronically relayed to the center, which could well explain why the national total was available so quickly.1

But couldn’t the votes have been deliberately miscounted, either at the local polling stations or at the Interior Ministry?

By law, each candidate is allowed to have observers at the local polling stations, to watch over the voting and the counting of ballots.  As for compiling the local returns at the Interior Ministry, an Iranian-American friend who was in Iran at the time of the election told me:

Over 200,000 young and college students and graduates (almost all pro-Mousavi) took part in the computerized data entry and data transfers.  To claim — beyond a reasonable doubt — that a grand theft or a massive fraud had taken place, it implies that most or all of these people must have been active players in this mega conspiracy.

It also should be remembered that the “reformist” candidate, Mohammad Khatami, won the presidential election in 1997 when the Interior Ministry was controlled by “conservatives,” and that Ahmadinejad, a “hardliner,” won in 2005 when that ministry was controlled by “reformists.”

What about reports that some voting stations reported more votes than registered voters?

First of all, Iran doesn’t register voters.  Voting eligibility is determined by one’s birth certificate.  And because voters aren’t required to vote at their local polling station, there might well be more votes recorded than eligible voters at any one station.  That’s not proof of fraud.

How about the fact that some of the candidates lost in their own home districts?  Wouldn’t they at least be able to count on a “favorite son” vote?

It’s true that Mousavi, an ethnic Azeri, didn’t even win the majority of that voting sector.  But here’s what Ballen and Doherty had to say about that:

The breadth of Ahmadinejad’s support was apparent in our preelection survey.  During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters.  Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.

So did the vote break down between progressive “pro-democracy” forces and backward, uneducated traditionalists?

The vote broke down between the educated middle class and the poor and working class.  On the other hand, the voting survey referred to above found that “nearly four in five Iranians — including most Ahmadinejad supporters — said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran’s supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote.  Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy.”  (By the way, those responses don’t sound typical of a people afraid of questioning their government.)

So it’s not like all the “democrats” are lined up on one side of the struggle, and all the “hardliners” on the other.  It’s class prejudice to think that working people are not capable of figuring out their own interests and that bread-and-butter issues might be more important to them than to the better-off middle class.

Mousavi has called for new elections.  If it has nothing to hide, why won’t the government agree, to settle the dispute once and for all?

On June 19, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced that specific complaints by the three losing candidates would be fully reviewed and the ballots of disputed boxes recounted.  The Guardian Council, the 12-member religious body that oversees elections, announced it would conduct a partial recount of the votes, despite the fact that the deadline for complaints had already passed.  Council spokesman Abbasali Khadkhodaei had already said it had received 646 complaints from the three candidates.  On June 20, it was announced that a randomly selected 10 percent of the ballots would be recounted.  And the Interior Ministry has posted the box-by-box and precinct-by-precinct tallies on its Web site.

But Mousavi continues to demand a whole new election.

Who Started the Violence?

In some ways, the June 12 presidential election was unique for Iran.  In the past, some Iranians who oppose the government, both in Iran and in diaspora enclaves like Los Angeles, have urged voters to boycott the elections, hoping to deny the government legitimacy.  In the last presidential election, in 2005, the turnout was 62 percent — substantial (the U.S. turnout in 2008 was 61 percent), but not overwhelming.

This year, for the first time, the Iranian government organized televised debates, which seem to have had a big effect on the public.  This is from BBC News on June 10: “The campaign at first appeared to be relatively dull, our correspondent says, but there has been an amazing surge of enthusiasm since the first of several TV debates.”

The debates weren’t just lively, they were downright confrontational — at times even nasty.  And the campaign crowds grew: “Huge crowds have been out on the streets, as the rival candidates held their last election rallies. . . .  The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Tehran says the crowds gathering in the capital in support of rival candidates sound more like boisterous football crowds than election campaigners” (BBC, June 10, 2009).

At that time, the government had a hands-off approach to the large crowds of rival supporters squaring off in the streets:

“For at least 10 days before the elections, the streets of Tehran were the scene of mass rallies by supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, and the government tolerated them,” reports Rostam Pourzal, who was there.  “The rallies were really inconveniencing the public in a big way, by arraying against each other at very strategic intersections and public squares in Tehran.  They were very peaceful, very nonviolent, but a public nuisance, and the security forces just stood around in small numbers and watched.”

Both Ahmadinejad’s and Mousavi’s rallies were large, but Mousavi and his supporters were confident of victory.  Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a former university chancellor, publicly declared that the only way Ahmadinejad could win would be through fraud.

So when the Interior Ministry announced the next day that Ahmadinejad had won by a landslide, Mousavi’s supporters poured out into the streets, outraged over what they charged was a stolen election.

While it’s now unquestioned wisdom to talk about how the Iranian government ruthlessly repressed peaceful demonstrators, Western media at first reported that it actually was the protesters who initiated the violence.  Lots of violence.

This is from the New York Times on June 13, 2009, the day the protests began (emphasis and an endnote added);

“Death to the coup d’état!” chanted a surging crowd of several thousand protesters, many of whom wore Mr. Moussavi’s signature bright green campaign colors, as they marched in central Tehran on Saturday afternoon.  “Death to the dictator!”2

Farther down the street, clusters of young men hurled rocks at a phalanx of riot police officers, and the police used their batons to beat back protesters. . . .  As night settled in, the streets in northern Tehran that recently had been the scene of pre-election euphoria were lit by the flames of trash fires and blocked by tipped trash bins and at least one charred bus.  Young men ran through the streets throwing paving stones at shop windows, and the police pursued them.

Interestingly, that story also reported that “… the working-class areas of southern Tehran where Mr. Ahmadinejad is popular were largely quiet, despite rumors of wild victory celebrations.”

Then there’s this report from the Associated Press, also on June 13:

Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with police in the heart of Iran’s capital Saturday, pelting them with rocks and setting fires in the worst unrest in Tehran in a decade. . . . The brazen and angry confrontations — including stunning scenes of masked rioters tangling with black-clad police — pushed the self-styled reformist movement closer to a possible moment of truth: Whether to continue defying Iran’s powerful security forces or, as they often have before, retreat into quiet dismay and frustration over losing more ground to the Islamic establishment. (emphasis added)

That report continued with barely disguised glee at the aggressiveness of the protesters:

But for at least one day, the tone and tactics were more combative than at any time since authorities put down student-led protests in 1999.  Young men hurled stones and bottles at anti-riot units and mocked Ahmadinejad as an illegitimate leader. . . .  Thousands of protesters — mostly young men — roamed through Tehran looking for a fight with police and setting trash bins and tires ablaze.  Pillars of black smoke rose among the mustard-colored apartment blocks and office buildings in central Tehran.  In one side road, an empty bus was engulfed in flames. Police fought back with clubs, including mobile squads on motorcycles swinging truncheons.  (emphasis added)

The Iranian police’s conduct has been criticized, as it should be.  However, one may ask: would other governments have handled similar protests better?  For instance, the U.S. government, whose police forces in recent years have killed Sean Bell and Oscar Grant, who were certainly not “looking for a fight with police”?

CNN, also on June 13, had this description of the street battles:

In the aftermath of the vote, street protesters and riot police engaged in running battles, with stones thrown, garbage cans set on fire and people shouting ‘death to the dictatorship.’ . . .  Later in the evening, an agitated and angry crowd emerged in Tehran’s Moseni Square, with people breaking into shops, starting fires and tearing down signs.  (emphasis added)

Then, on June 16, there were the first official confirmations of protest-related deaths.  This is from the Associated Press:

Iran state radio reported Tuesday [June 16 – P.W.] that clashes in the Iranian capital the previous day left seven people dead during an ‘unauthorized gathering’ at a mass rally over alleged election fraud — the first official confirmation of deaths linked to the wave of protests and street battles after the elections.  The report said the deaths occurred after protesters ‘tried to attack a military location.’  It gave no further details, but it was a clear reference to crowds who came under gunfire Monday after trying to storm a compound for volunteer militia linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. . . .  The deaths Monday occurred on the edge of Tehran’s Azadi Square.  An Associated Press photographer saw gunmen, standing on a roof, opening fire on a group of demonstrators who tried to storm the militia compound.  (emphasis added)

While many U.S. activists talk about the attack on student dormitories by members of the Basij, few bring up the protester attack on the Basij compound the following day.  Here’s how the Associated Press on June 19 described both incidents:

So far, the Basij has refrained from widespread attacks on demonstrators.  But witnesses say the militiamen took part in a police raid on Tehran University dormitories on Sunday night after students hurled stones, bricks and firebombs at police — one of the few violent episodes during this week’s rallies.  Basij members used axes, sticks and daggers to ransack student rooms and smash computers and furniture, wounding many students, according to witnesses.

A day later, students attacked a compound used by the Basij and tried to set it on fire.  Gunmen on the roof fired on the crowd and killed seven people, according to state media.  (emphasis added)

Remember, these aren’t anonymous Twitter reports or photos from someone’s cell phone.  These descriptions come from some of the most establishment of U.S. corporate media, before their reporters were banned from covering the street clashes.

However, the media coverage changed noticeably after June 19, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution stating it

supports all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law; condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and affirms the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections.

The unsually contentious representatives passed the resolution by a vote of 405 to 1.  The Senate quickly followed suit.

Neither resolution, of course, mentioned any violence by protesters.

Having been properly politically oriented to portray the protesters only as victims of government repression, the AP and other corporate media largely stopped reporting on protester violence.

Also on June 19, Ayatollah Khamenei announced that unpermitted demonstrations would no longer be allowed, as they had been in the week following the elections.

Asked for his response, President Barack Obama told CBS News:

I’m very concerned, based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made, that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching.  And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is — and is not.

The next day, June 20, somebody signaled again that not all the anti-government forces were committed to peaceful methods.  Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that a bomb had been set off near the shrine of Iran’s revolutionary icon, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just south of Tehran, killing one person and wounding two.  Iran’s English-language satellite channel Press TV reported that the bomber was the sole fatality, but that three other people were wounded.

That day, Mousavi supporters staged an unpermitted demonstration in Tehran.  This is from a CNN report on June 21:

Thousands of defiant protesters swept again Saturday into the streets of the Iranian capital, where they clashed with police armed with batons, tear gas and water cannons. . . .  At midnight, a stretch of a main avenue near Revolution Square was littered with rocks, street signs and burned tires and trash, witnesses said.  Windows were shattered and hundreds of uniformed riot police lined the streets.

Official reports put the number of dead at 10, bringing the total number of protester deaths, according to the government, to 17 — seven shot June 15 while storming the Basij office and 10 killed during the June 20 protests.  (I’m not sure if this latter number includes 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death was videotaped and broadcast around the world.  She was reportedly shot by an unknown assailant as she got out of her car, headed for a nearby protest.)

Many others were injured, a fact that the government wasn’t trying to hide.  Acting Police Chief Brigadier Gen. Ahmad-Reza Radan told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency that “Families of those killed or injured in the events since June 12 have filed 2,000 complaints so far.”  Also, Press TV quoted Iran’s deputy police commander as asserting that 400 police personnel had been wounded in the opposition rallies.  And “there were reports that members of the volunteer Basijs were raiding homes in wealthy neighborhoods” (CNN, June 21, 2009).

Anyone who truly cares about Iran and its people has to feel sick at heart over these developments.  But if the Iranian government were not so justifiably worried about a “velvet revolution” being fomented by outside forces, would it be responding in the way it is to the protests?  We don’t know — but for sure, it hasn’t been given much of a choice.

In Washington, President Obama issued a written statement saying, “The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. . . . We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.”

Actually, some of the world has been doing much more than simply watching.

Who’s Interfering?

On June 18, six days after the election, the British government froze $1.6 billion of Iranian money in the UK, under the guise of international sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.  France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy called the elections a fraud.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a recount of the votes under the international auspices.

But in terms of interference, it’s the U.S. that’s been way out in front.

This is from a June 25 story in USA Today: “The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing a program that became controversial when it was expanded by President [George W.] Bush.”

That story, published 13 days after the Iranian elections, explains that the U.S. Agency for International Development, which reports to the U.S. secretary of state, had for the last year been soliciting applications for $20 million in grants to “promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Iran.”

Pretty clearly, that’s internal interference.  After all, imagine how Americans would have reacted if Iran had allocated millions of dollars to “promote democracy” in Florida after George W. Bush stole the 2000 presidential election?

But U.S. interference in Iran is nothing new.  To his credit, President Obama admitted in his June 4 Cairo speech that the CIA was behind the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossedegh.  That coup, the agency’s first, reinstalled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah, the U.S. puppet who for the next 26 years ruled Iran with an iron hand, setting the stage for the 1979 Revolution.

Dr. Mossadegh’s crime was that he led the nationalization of Iranian oil, which had been under British control since the early 20th century.  What Obama didn’t mention in his Cairo speech was that, as a result of the CIA coup, U.S. and British oil companies each received 40 percent control of Iran’s oil, with the other 20 percent divided up among other European companies.  The 1979 revolution returned those Iranian resources back to the Iranian people — a development that, in my opinion, is the real reason for official U.S. hostility toward Iran.

Then there were 30 years of U.S. sanctions; three sets of U.N. sanctions pushed by the U.S.; U.S. support for Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war with Iran; the 1988 downing by a U.S. warship of a civilian Iranian airbus, resulting in the deaths of nearly 300 men, women and children; and an ongoing and coordinated campaign of demonizaton of Iran and its government.

And much more.

On May 22, 2007, ABC News reported that

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, [according to] current and former officials in the intelligence community.  The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.

Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter for the New Yorker magazine who first broke the story about the Abu Graib prison in Iraq, later reported that the Democrat-controlled Congress had approved up to $400 million to fund this CIA destabilization campaign.

The “nonlethal” aspect of the presidential finding means that CIA agents aren’t authorized to use deadly force while carrying out secret operations against Iran.  But they don’t have to.  They use proxies.

The ABC report quoted above states “the United States has supported and encouraged an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, that has conducted deadly raids inside Iran from bases on the rugged Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan ‘tri-border region.'”

In his New Yorker articles, Hersh reported that U.S. Special Operations military personnel are on the ground in Iran, attempting to foment armed anti-government rebellions among the Baluchi ethnic minority.  Jundallah is one of the Baluchi groups to which Hersh was referring.

Then there’s the MEK, an Iranian anti-government, politico-military organization that’s classifed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist group, but which is allowed to conduct cross-border operations against Iran from bases in Iraq.

So, let’s think.  With large and violent anti-government protests following the June 12 election, is it possible that this vast array of U.S. government efforts — all of which are dedicated to promoting the overthrow or at least the undermining of the Iranian government — wouldn’t have been cranked into high gear to try and influence events in some way?  Wouldn’t it try to steer street protests into violent uprisings?  Wouldn’t it be easy to promote “propaganda, disinformation” through anonymous means like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter?

That’s not to say that the protests were initiated by outside forces.  In my opinion, they represent emerging divisions in Iranian society that are the result of long-standing internal grievances, some legitimate, some not, based largely on class differences that were never resolved by the 1979 Revolution.

But it would be incredibly naive to think that outside forces weren’t now involved in some way.  Which is why it would be good not to put too much stock in anonymous bloggers, YouTube videos, or Tweets.

How else has the U.S. intervened?

It’s well known that, to coordinate their protests, Iranian organizers have been using the latest in electronic communication tools.  One of these, the social networking Twitter service, had been planning a regular upgrade, just a few days after the protests began.  When the U.S. State Department realized that that would have cut off at least a day’s service in Iran, it contacted the California-based company and urged it to postpone the upgrade.  “We highlighted to them that this was an important form of communication,” said a State Department official.  Twitter executives agreed to postpone the upgrade, noting the role of its service as an “important communication tool in Iran” (Reuters, June 16, 2009).

A few days later, Google, the world’s largest search engine, also based in California, unveiled a Farsi translation service.  “Google Translate is one more tool that Persian speakers can use to communicate directly to the world, and vice versa — increasing everyone’s access to information,” said Google’s principal scientist, Franz Och.

At the same time, Facebook, the world’s largest Internet social networking service, also based in California, launched a Farsi version of its site.  “Since the Iranian election last week, people around the world have increasingly been sharing news and information on Facebook about the results and its aftermath,” said Facebook engineer Eric Kwan (AFP, June 20, 2009).

Speaking of interference, let’s not overlook Dennis B. Ross, Obama’s point man on Iran.

A fellow at the hawkish Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Ross supported the advocacy efforts of the Project for the New American Century, which played a key role advocating invading Iraq in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  He also has promoted aggressive Mideast policies in his writings and congressional testimony, and teamed up with scholars from organizations like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to craft policy approaches toward Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues in the region.

If nothing else, Ross has longevity.  During the Carter administration, he worked at the Pentagon under Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and noted neocon Paul Wolfowitz.  Under Reagan, he served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs in the National Security Council.  Under George H.W. Bush, he was the State Department’s Director of Policy Planning.  During the Clinton years, he was special Middle East coordinator.  Now, in the Obama administration, he’s special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, which includes Iran.  (Goes to show that, when it comes to the Middle East, there’s not much daylight between the Democrats and Republicans.)

On June 15, Obama officials announced that Ross would be moving to the White House “with what appears to be an expanded portfolio” (Washington Post, June 16, 2009).

What are Iranians outside Iran saying about the protests and the government’s response?

I’m a board member of the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), an organization started in 2005 by Iranian expatriates with chapters in the U.S. and Europe.  And I can tell you that there is a broad range of positions in that network, from fierce supporters of Mousavi to others much more suspicious about who might be behind the protests and where they might be leading.

But in trying to keep up with the myriad of Iranian-American and Iranian-European commentators, it’s clear that the media is overlooking Iranian voices attempting to offer a more critical view of the protest movement, in favor of those who offer unqualified support.

Take, for example, Roya Hakakian, a poet and the author of Journey from the Land of No, an account of growing up Jewish in post-revolutionary Iran.  Hakakian was interviewed July 2 on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air program to offer an “Iranian-American perspective” on the current crisis.  She was introduced as a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (which, according to SourceWatch.org, is partially funded by the U.S. State Department Human Rights and Democracy Fund.)

The show’s host, Terry Gross, neglected to point out that Hakakian also is a “term member” at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Term members are “promising young leaders” recruited to “interact with seasoned foreign-policy experts.”

Hakakian comes from a very narrow layer of Iranian society, one she attempts to present as representative of the country as a whole.  In an interview on the Iranian-oriented Web site ParsTimes, she reflected on the Iran she knew before emigrating in 1984: “I left behind a modern society with a strong secular tradition: parties, miniskirts, jazz and blues bands, foreign film festivals. . . .  We followed the West closely, especially America — so closely that arriving here in 1985 was no shock to me.”

OK, that layer is part of Iran.  It’s the part that Western journalists feel most comfortable interviewing.  But while traveling around Iran with a group of peace activists in 2007, visiting five cites and touring 1,350 miles of countryside, I saw other layers of society: construction workers building homes in 100-degree heat along the highway to Yazd; goat herders who shared their tea with us high in the Zagros mountains; the city of Qom with its 100,000 theology students; a young college co-ed in Shiraz who preferred the traditional full-length chador; retail clerks, cab drivers, hotel staffers, restaurant waiters, street sweepers, nursing home attendants, street vendors.

Aren’t they all Iranians too?  Or don’t they count?  Educated, Western-oriented, middle-class youth protesting in the streets of Tehran are part of Iranian society, but they are not representative of that society as whole.

Moreover, some of these “pro-democracy” commentators making the talk show rounds are actually bought-and-paid intellectual mercenaries promoted by neoconservative institutions in the U.S.

For example, there’s Azar Nafisi, frequently inteviewed about her views on the election and its aftermath.

Dr. Nafisi, a native Iranian,is the author of the best-selling book Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which paints an entirely negative picture of post-revolutionary Iranian society.  I won’t go into a whole critique of the book here (the better part of a chapter is devoted to it in my book, In Defense of Iran), but it’s important and illustrative to know who Dr. Nafisi is — and who finances her efforts.

Dr. Nafisi is a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.  Founded in 1943, SAIS has long been a bastion of Cold War thinking.  From 1994 to 2001, its dean was none other than Paul Wolfowitz, President George W. Bush’s neocon deputy secretary of defense and a major architect of the second Gulf War.

In her acknowledgements for Reading Lolita, Nafisi credits the Smith Richardson Foundation for its “generous grant” that “provided me with the opportunity to work on this book as well as pursue my projects at SAIS.”

Smith Ricahrdson is one of the 15 or so major right-wing foundations in the U.S. and one that has a special focus of demonizing Iran.  From 1998 to 2004, according to its annual reports, the foundation gave Nafisi six grants totalling $675,500.

In 1996, Nafisi also recieved $25,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation “to support a series of workshops in Tehran, Iran, under the direction of Dr. Azar Nafisi” (Bradley annual report, 1996).  That “series of workshops” was the private book discussion club that formed the basis of Reading Lolita.

Milwaukee-based Bradley is the premier right-wing foundation in the U.S.  It’s the outfit that funded the notoriously racist book The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, as well as the early welfare “reform” programs in Milwaukee, the pilot school voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland, and the overturn of state affirmative action programs in Texas and California.  What’s interesting is that Dr. Nafisi, living in Tehran, even knew about Bradley.

In their interviews, both Nafisi and Hakakian misrepresent their own narrow layer as the real revolutionaries of 1979, who overthrew the Shah only to have their heroic victory highjacked by reactionary religious fanatics.  And they insist that the anti-government protesters of today’s Iran represent a resurgence of that same revolutionary movement.

Nonsense.  The vast majority of the many millions of people who made the Iranian Revolution were working class, religious, and traditional — and who saw the Western-oriented middle class as an offensive symbol of the Western oppression of their country, supportive of the hated, U.S.-installed Shah.

Iran-bashing organizations

Then there are the hard-line organizations, foremost of which is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.  Founded in 1953, AIPAC now claims 100,000 members and is, according to the New York Times, “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.”  On its Web site, the organization takes credit for “passing more than a dozen bills and resolutions condemning and imposing tough sanctions on Iran.”

(A cautionary word here: AIPAC is often described as the richest and most powerful lobby in the U.S.  That may be true, but it doesn’t call the shots on US. policy in the Middle East.  That function is reserved for the oil companies, whose most powerful executives are almost all white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.  The fact that AIPAC’s goals happen to coincide with those of the oil companies only means that the companies can save a few dollars on lobbying costs.  The day that Israel ceases to be useful to these corporate giants is the day the U.S. government abandons Israel.  The tail does not wag the dog.)

Another influential organization often quoted in the corporate media as an expert source is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  According to its Web site, WINEP was founded in 1985 by “a small group of visionary Americans committed to advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East.”

Principal among those “visionaries” were Executive Director Martin Indyk, AIPAC’s former deputy director of research, and President Barbi Weinberg, a former AIPAC vice president and founder of Citizens Organized PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.  Weinberg’s husband, Lawrence Weinberg, is AIPAC’s chairman of the board emeritus.

WINEP’s board of advisors include former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger,Warren Christopher, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and, before he died, Alexander Haig, as well as former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle — all thoroughly right-wing politicians committed to U.S. domination of the Middle East (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991).

Is the Iranian Government the Enemy?

We’re not dealing here with Venezuela, Cuba, or Bolivia.  The Iranian government doesn’t empower the country’s working class.  But it doesn’t ruthlessly exploit it either.  It’s not a fascist dictatorship.  Rather, it’s an authoritarian government that holds a paternalistic but sympathetic view toward the working class and the poor.

It administers a mixed economy in which important sectors, like oil and gas, are owned and controlled by the state.  What would be profits in a purely capitalist economy are instead used to fund the majority of the state budget.  This is the source of the government’s ability to provide an array of social services for the poor.  Not handouts, but a guarantee of medical care, regardless of ability to pay.  Free education up to and including the university level.  Rural electrification.  Subsidies for food, housing, gas, public transportation, airline seats, movies, arts, books, fertilizers, vacations, and sex change operations.  (That’s right. Iran has the highest number of sex changes operations of any country except Thailand.  Subsidized by the government.)

There are those, such as Azar Nafisi and Roya Hakakian, who maintain that the protests are driven by women fighting against the politics of a misogynist government.

Yes, there are restrictions on women in Iran.  All women must adhere to the Islamic dress code, called the hejab.  It’s not the “veil,” as Hakakian falsely described in her NPR interview.  And it’s not the full chador, or burka, like in Afghanistan.  At a minimum, it’s a scarf, jacket, and trousers or skirt, in any colors.  Or, if a woman prefers — and many do, especially outside the larger cities — the full-length chador, in black or colors.  (This I know firsthand from our journey through Iran.)

At the same time, it’s also true that the social status and economic opportunities for Iranian women have much improved as a result of the Revolution and far surpass those in almost every other Middle Eastern society.  In Saudi Arabia, the U.S.’s closest ally in the region after Israel, women can’t run for public office or can’t even vote.  They’re not allowed to drive or even leave their homes without their husband or a male relative.  They’re barred from many types of jobs.

But in Iran, women leave their homes, alone, any hour of the day or night.  They’re truck drivers and film directors, retail clerks and race car drivers, university professors, business executives, and star athletes.  They make up 30 percent of doctors and 60 to 70 percent of all college students.  And they belong to all classes, they are urban and rural, and no one woman or group of women can claim to speak for all of them.

Women in Iran enjoy access to all forms of contraception.  Iran was the first country in the Middle East to have a state-run condom factory.  It was the first Muslim country to promote male sterilization as a form of birth control.  It’s the only country in the region where couples have to go to family planning classes before they can marry.  As a result, the average birth rate is now two children per woman, down from seven shortly after the Revolution.  And the average age of marriage for women has risen from 18 in 1966 to 23.7 in 2007(Country Profile, Library of Congress).

Want more?  Unlike in the U.S., working women in Iran are entitled to 90 days maternity leave — at two-thirds pay — with the right to return to their previous jobs.  All business enterprises above a certain size are required to have on-site day care.  Working women with children under the age of two get a paid, half-hour nursing break every three hours.

So it’s small wonder that working-class women tend to support the government, while it’s the more secular and affluent middle class that is the major source of anti-government resentment.

What’s at Stake in the Present Crisis?

A lot.

The Obama administration is still saying it wants to “engage” Iran in discussions over Iran’s nuclear program.  And President Obama told the BBC June 2 that Iran may have some right to develop nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, so long as it isn’t trying to develop nuclear weapons.  A month earlier, in Prague, he said his administration would “support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections” if Iran can prove it isn’t developing nuclear weapons (Associated Press, June 3, 2009).

As a signer of the U.N.’s principal non-proliferation treaty, Iran has every right to develop nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, since it’s pledged not to pursue nuclear weapons.  And there’s no evidence that it is trying to develop such weapons — not from U.S. intelligence agencies nor from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a fact repeated July 3 by the IAEA’s incoming director, Yukiya Amano (Reuters, July 3, 2009).

On the other hand, Obama also says he’ll seek stiffer international sanctions against Iran if it doesn’t respond positively — and quickly — to his offer to talk.  “Although I don’t want to put artificial time tables on that process,” he said, “we do want to make sure that, by the end of this year, we’ve actually seen a serious process move forward” (Associated Press, June 3, 2009).

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will respect Obama’s attempt to negotiate with Iran.  During his May 18 meeting with President Obama, Netanyahu “made a commitment that Israel would not attack Iran at least until the end of the year. . .” (Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2009).

Very reassuring.

Then, on July 5, Vice President Joe Biden told ABC News that the U.S. wouldn’t try and prevent Israel from attacking Iran.  “Israel can determine for itself as a sovereign nation what is in its best interest,” Biden said.  “If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that.  That is not our choice.”

Green light.

So this is an increasingly dangerous situation.  On July 4, the Times of India reported that, in June, for the first time in four years, an Israeli submarine had crossed through the Suez Canal as a part of a military training exercise.  “The move is believed to have been made as a warning to Iran of the Jewish state’s capabilities and to show that Israel and Egypt are cooperating against a shared threat.”  The article stated that Israel has three submarines capable of carrying nuclear warheads.  “By using the Suez, an Israeli submarine could reach the Persian Gulf off Iran in a matter of days,” the article stated.

On July 5, the (UK) Sunday Times reported that “The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites. . . .  The Israeli air force has been training for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear site at Natanz in the centre of the country and other locations for four years.”

The same day, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Air Force “plans to participate in aerial exercises in the US and Europe in the coming months with the aim of training its pilots for long-range flights.”  The newspaper’s online version reported that F-16C fighter jets would be sent to participate in exercises at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, while “several of the IAF’s C-130 Hercules transport aircraft will participate in the Rodeo 2009 competition at the McChord Air Force Base in Washington state.”  The paper noted that, last summer, “more than 100 IAF jets flew over Greece in what was viewed as a test-run for a potential strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.”

Aside from war, what else is at stake?  Iran could descend into civil war.  It could, under outside pressure, be dismembered, like the West did to the former Yugoslavia.

So yes, this is a dangerous situation.  And a bad time to be adding to the tensions by attempting to further isolate Iran’s government, which happens to be the only entity capable of defending the Iranian people — all Iranian people — from a military attack.

But there’s even more at stake in Iran’s internal struggle — the very future of Iran itself.

Which Way for Iran?

The current division in Iranian society isn’t just about elections or demands to loosen social restrictions.  It’s also about the economy — who owns it, who controls it, who benefits from it.

A big issue in Iran — virtually never discussed in the U.S. media — is how to interpret Article 44 of the country’s constitution.  That article states that the economy must consist of three sectors: state-owned, cooperative, and private and that “all large-scale and mother industries” are to be entirely owned by the state.

This includes the oil and gas industries, which provide the government with the majority of its revenue. This is what enables the government, in partnership with the large charity foundations, to fund the vast social safety net that allows the country’s poor to live much better lives than they did under the U.S.-installed Shah.  It’s why overall poverty has been slashed to one-eighth today of what it was under the Shah (see Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, “Revolution and Redistribution in Iran: Poverty and Inequality 25 Years Later”).

In 2004, Article 44 was amended to allow for some privatization.  Just how much, and how swiftly that process should proceed, is a fundamental dividing line in Iranian politics.  Mousavi, a tea merchant’s son who became an architect and prime minister, had promised to speed up the privatization process.  When he first announced he would run for the presidency, he called for moving away from an “alms-based” economy (Press TV, March 19, 2009), an obvious reference to Ahmadinejad’s policies of providing services and benefits to the poor.

Then there’s Mousavi’s powerful backer, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

“One of Iran’s wealthiest and most powerful men, a former right-hand man to the father of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr. Rafsanjani was an outspoken critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the campaign and a supporter of the opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi” (New York Times, June 21, 2009).

Rafsanjani is a businessman who, according to the Times article quoted above, supports “privatizing parts of the economy.”  Forbes magazine includes him in its list of the world’s richest people.  He’s also an outspoken critic of the social programs associated with Ahmadinejad, deriding them in terms very similar to U.S. neocons.  And he’s a former president who lost his bid to regain that office in the 2005 election, which was won by Ahmadinejad.

Does Rafsanjani identify with or seek to speak for the poor?  Does Mousavi?

What kind of Iran are the Mousavi forces really hoping to create?  And why is Washington — whose preference for “democracy” is trumped every time by its insatiable appetite for raw materials, cheap labor, new markets, and endless profits — so sympathetic to the “reform” movements in Iran and in every other country whose people have nationalized their own resources?

In addition to their different class bases and approaches to the economy, Ahmadinejad presents an uncompromising front against the West, and especially against the U.S. government.  This is a source of great national pride, and has won Ahmadinejad the admiration of both Shia and Sunni Muslims across the Middle East — as well as the enmity of their pro-U.S., internally repressive governments.

How Should the U.S. Anti-war Movement React?

First of all, it’s interesting that U.S. peace activists feel they have to react — to events in Iran.

On July 5, there were bloody clashes in the capital city between government forces and anti-government protesters.  The next day, “soldiers opened fire on a crowd marching towards the airport, killing at least two. . . .  Hospitals admitted many more people with gunshot wounds and staff told reporters there was an increasing number of victims shot by the military during the nightly curfew” (Guardian, July 6, 2009).

No, that wasn’t in Tehran — it was in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, in Central America.  On June 28, the military staged a coup against populist President Manuel Zelaya, shooting up his house and carrying him off into exile.

By the way, class was also the issue there — but this time, it was the workers who were protesting: “The impoverished coffee-exporter of 7 million people has become dangerously polarised between the poor and working class, who tend to support Zelaya for his social programmes, and the middle class and institutions such as congress, the Catholic church and the military who consider him a dangerous radical who wanted to perpetuate himself in power” (Guardian, July 6, 2009).

This May, the government of Sri Lanka brutally crushed a 25-year-old insurgency by guerrilla organizations fighting on behalf of the minority Tamils, who charge discrimination and ill treatment at the hands of the island’s Sinhalese majority.  The International Committee of the Red Cross called the scene of the final fighting “an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe.”  Some 7,000 civilians were reported to have died since late January (Christian Science Monitor, May 17, 2009).

In Somalia, thousands of people have died in fighting between insurgents and a government that only survives because of the millions of dollars being pumped in by the U.N. and Western governments.  U.S. warships off the coast have actually bombed Somali villages, under the pretext of fighting “Islamic extremists.”

Speaking of Africa, the U.S. is rapidly extending its military presence across the continent, setting up an African Command — AFRICOM — structure to train militaries so it can later influence them, just as it has in Latin America, through Fort Benning’s School of the Americas.

But these aren’t the burning issues facing the U.S. anti-war movement, are they?  No, the overriding issue now is Iran.

Why?  Of course, we’re more aware of it, since we’ve been getting nothing but a 24/7 barrage about an allegedly rigged election, brave and peaceful protesters, and brutal repression.

I find this interesting, because I’ve spent the last three years trying to get U.S. peace activists interested in Iran.

In July 2007, I organized a five-person People’s Peace Delegation to Iran, which toured the country for 11 days.  Combined with two years of research, that project was the basis for the book In Defense of Iran.  Since the trip, I’ve made more than 30 presentations to peace, community, religious, and university audiences, trying to put the various charges against Iran into a historical, political, and cultural context.  Is Iran trying to develop the Bomb?  Does it support terrorism?  Do its leaders really want to destroy Israel?  What’s the real status of Iranian women?

After doing all this outreach — and working with many dedicated activists on the same issue — I was deeply disappointed this spring to see that, of the four major coalitions organizing Iraq War anniversary protests, only the smallest, the National Assembly, raised Iran in its general outreach leaflet.

But here we are today, and Iran is front and center on the movement’s crowded agenda.

OK, so we’re concerned.  Now, what should we do?

There’s at least been some discussion of how respect for the principle of self-determination applies to the situation in Iran.

Of course, it’s not true that progressives never interfere in the internal affairs of other countries — even progressives who live in the United States.  We protested against the apartheid regime of South Africa.  We defend the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia against pro-U.S. reactionaries masquerading as pro-democracy movements.

But the situation in Iran isn’t the same thing.  It’s far more complex.  The split in the electorate wasn’t a simple clash between good guys and bad guys.

The protesters represent a sizable minority of the population — overwhelmingly young, urban, educated and somewhat oriented to Western culture.  They seem idealistic, the women wear make-up, their protest signs are lettered in English, they’re using Twitter and Facebook, demanding more Western-style civil and social freedoms.  It’s easy to see why Western activists relate to them — especially white, middle-class activists.

On another level, with or without its consent or even knowledge, this movement is being promoted by pro-privatization forces, particularly those associated with billionaire and free-market advocate Rafsanjani.

Meanwhile, the “pro-democracy” movement as a whole is being looked at by Western powers as the potential start of a “velvet revolution” that could overthrow or at least severely undermine the government led by President Ahmadinejad and backed by the Ayatollah Khamenei, who are seen as obstacles to U.S. domination of the region because of their opposition to U.S. expansionist aims, their support for the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples and the anti-occupation Hamas and Hezbollah forces, and their increasingly close ties with leftist governments in Latin America.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the protesters are all reactionaries or dupes, or that they don’t have any legitimate grievances, or that we need to offer a blanket endorsement for everything the Iranian government is now doing internally.

But it does mean that those who are calling for support for the pro-Mousavi protesters aren’t even doing favor to young urban Iranians who want more democratic rights if they obscure the pro-privatization goals of Mousavi’s powerful backers — the antithesis of democracy.

And they aren’t just opposing the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — they’re also opposing millions of working-class Iranians who are trying to defend the social programs that have greatly improved their standard of living, programs that depend on the state ownership of the oil and gas industries.

You can’t divorce a “human rights” issue from its political context.  The pro-protest resolutions and open letters to the Iranian government now circulating in the U.S. and UK peace movements can become a factor in further isolating Iran, which will lead to more sanctions and the increased possibility of a military attack by the U.S. or Israel.

The political struggle taking place in Iran today is not like the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, in which outside progressives correctly intervened.  It’s unfolding within a country whose government is opposed to U.S. imperialism and so is targeted by it.  The protesters represent one important section of the Iranian people — but it’s one section, not the whole country, and certainly not the majority.  It’s a largely middle-class movement backed by the richest pro-“free market” forces in Iran, who themselves are far less concerned about “democracy” than promoting the full privatization of the economy.

At the same time, there is widespread support, even among Ahmadinejad supporters, for greater personal freedoms.  So these are complex issues — ones that only the Iranian people have the right to decide.

Given all these contradictions, it’s not correct for non-Iranians to pick sides — particularly those of us who live in the very country that is both targeting the Iranian government and cheering on the anti-government movement.

Our responsibility is to strongly reiterate and demonstrate our opposition to any military attacks, sanctions, or any outside interference in the internal affairs of Iran — including by the peace movement.

If we are successful in reaching that goal, the Iranian people will prove perfectly capable of working out their own destiny for themselves.

1 This information is from Rostam Pourzal, former president of the U.S. chapter of the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), who was in Tehran before, during and just after the election.

2 In Farsi, “Death to. . .” is closer to “Down with. . .” than an actual call for someone’s death — something to remember when you hear the slogans “Death to America” or “Death to Israel.”

Phil Wilayto is an activist based in Richmond, Va.  A civilian organizer in the Vietnam-era GI Movement, he is a co-founder of the Richmond-based Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, the Virginia Anti-War Network and the Virginia People’s Assembly; a board member of the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII); editor of The Virginia Defender newspaper; and author of In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic (available from Defenders Publications, Inc. at www.DefendersFJE.org/dpi).  Wilayto can be reached at <DefendersFJE@hotmail.com>

Behind the turmoil in Iran

By John Catalinotto
June 24, 2009

The confrontation among Iran’s ruling politicians that has brought large crowds into the streets of Tehran is not taking place in isolation. It is happening in a country still facing U.S. sanctions and warships, hostility from every imperialist capital and venom from the West’s corporate media.

This confrontation follows 30 years of a concerted effort by the U.S. and other imperialists to turn back the enormously popular revolution that took place in 1979. That revolution stopped short of moving Iran toward socialism. But it broke the grip of the imperialist overseers and their puppet shah over a country that now has 71 million people in an area three times the size of France.

The imperialists have nothing good to say about this revolution’s advances in education, health care and science. They abhor its support for revolutionary movements in Palestine and Lebanon. Washington has sought out every weakness or internal conflict in Iran in an attempt to split the leadership and reverse the revolution.

Even President Barack Obama’s apparently conciliatory speech in Cairo, where he admitted the U.S. intervention in 1953 that overthrew Iran’s democratic government and replaced it with the shah, was aimed at strengthening those in Iran’s leadership who want to accommodate to the U.S. rather than confront it.

Playing “bad cop” to Obama’s softer speech are U.S. warships armed with jet bombers and missiles that regularly cruise the Gulf around Iran, threatening to annihilate Iran’s nuclear power program. Israel adds to the threats, which are seen by the many Iranians with satellite dishes who watch CNN or get news coverage from California-based Farsi-language stations.

Presidential election: what forces?

By Iran’s law, all four presidential candidates had to be religious men nominated by the judiciary and approved by Parliament. Thus they were all acceptable to the Islamic Republic’s power structure and capitalist ruling class.

Imperialist politicians and the corporate media have demonized incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is known for supporting Palestine, for his outspoken defense of Iran’s nuclear power program, and for giving subsidies to the poorest sectors of Iranian society.

Regarding ideology and the class struggle, revolutionary socialists or communists sharply differentiate themselves from Ahmadinejad on many points. In the current conflict, however, his side is more anti-imperialist.

The major opposition candidate is Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was prime minister from 1981 to 1989. Mousavi presided over the Iran-Iraq War and the execution of thousands of political dissidents, many of them leftist revolutionaries. Despite this history, Mousavi presents himself as a reformer, especially on social questions.

Midway through the campaign, however, Mousavi aligned himself with former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, named one of Iran’s richest people by Forbes magazine in 2003. Rafsanjani still holds the position of chairperson of the Assembly of Experts, which chooses the supreme leader of Iran.

Rafsanjani’s name is associated with wealth, corruption and worse—economic privatization. He promotes accommodation between Iran and the U.S. For such accommodation, Washington would certainly demand Iran stop its support for liberation movements, as in Palestine and Lebanon.

Under other circumstances, the West has and might again vilify both these politicians; now it praises them.

The Mousavi-Rafsanjani group first raised the question of alleged fraud even before the voting was over. According to the first official announcement, Ahmadinejad won the election with 63 percent while Mousavi got 34 percent of the 40-million-plus votes.

The landslide victory, though the opposition treats it as too large to be credible, is consistent with earlier polls and with the 2005 election. U.S. pollsters Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty write that their sample of a thousand Iranians across all 30 provinces indicated a two-to-one win for Ahmadinejad. (Washington Post, June 15) This gap was also true among Azeris, Iran’s second-largest ethnic group, even though Mousavi is Azeri. The two pollsters’ conclusion was that Ahmadinejad probably won.

As of June 23, Iran’s Guardian Council has approved the election. The council had reported “irregularities” in 50 cities that might involve as many as 3 million votes. These discrepancies could simply involve people who voted outside their home district, which is allowed in Iranian elections. In any case, they would not change the outcome.

Demonstrations in Tehran

By the weekend of June 20-21, the Western media’s massive coverage began to emphasize alleged state repression of the demonstrations in Tehran. These protests had reached mass proportions in the week of June 15-20 and spread outside the elite neighborhoods that are the stronghold of the anti-Ahmadinejad forces. The size of the protests has since diminished.

What about the demonstrations in Western cities—most recently in London against a G20 summit—where police tactics were brutal and led to fatalities? Peru’s government recently carried out a massive slaughter of Indigenous demonstrators. U.S. police routinely kill African-American and Latina/o youth. Haitians continue to be shot down in Port-au-Prince for demanding the return of their democratically elected president, who was forcibly flown into exile by U.S. agents.

Yet the corporate media never turn their hostile spotlight on these countries the way they are doing against the Iran regime.

The demonstrations indicate anger that goes beyond the election results. Mousavi clearly is more popular with better-off Iranians. However, some of the anger in the streets may reflect legitimate demands to improve workers’ and women’s rights. Of Iran’s 3.5 million university students—a six-fold growth since the pro-Western shah’s rule—more than 60 percent are now women. (Spiegel Online, June 10) This is a huge gain for women, yet at the same time they are far less likely than men to find jobs.

Even the presence of some legitimate grievances doesn’t mean a struggle is leading in a progressive direction. Capitalist politicians know how to appeal to mass dissatisfaction in order to pursue their own agenda. The danger here is that U.S. imperialism, a hugely powerful enemy of the Iranian revolution, which can harm Iran both economically and militarily, is doing all it can to foment and capitalize on this struggle—in the name of democracy, of course.

U.S. Hands off Iran: Goading Iran Election — What fraud?

The first thing to make clear about the Iranian election is that the U.S. and other imperialist states have no right to intervene. The media here are now filled with moralizing, even racist scolding of Iran over the election results. Who are they to act so hoity-toity? Remember George W. Bush’s open theft of the 2000 election in Florida?

And then there are the self-righteous European imperialists. Only 43 percent of the people voted in the recent EU elections. Compared to that, Iran’s 82 percent vote makes it a vibrant capitalist democracy.

The second thing is that absolutely no evidence has been dredged up of significant electoral fraud. Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent total is completely consistent with his 2005 vote total of 61.7 percent. It is also consistent with the only election poll taken. Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty polled a thousand Iranians and predicted a two-to-one win for Ahmadinejad. (Washington Post, June 15)

Given that the Iranian economy is continuing to grow, despite the world capitalist contraction, it’s reasonable that a majority would vote for the incumbent.

The vote breakdown by neighborhood, as provided by the official election authorities, is also consistent with political reality. Ahmadinejad lost in Teheran City, a bourgeois stronghold. He was weakest in the wealthier northern part of the capital. But he swept the rural areas and did well among the urban poor.

All the Iranian candidates—and here we will discuss just the president and his nearest rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi—are part of the Islamic Republic’s ruling circle of politicians. It would be surprising if any deviated far from generally acceptable politics in Iran. That means capitalist economic development and projecting Iranian power in the region. And maintaining some independence from the imperialists—not easy if your economy is integrated with the world capitalist market.

Ahmadinejad is closely identified with militant support for the mass-based resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon, and also with the determined public defense of Iran’s nuclear power program. With a high vote for him, the Iranians thumb their noses at the imperialists. This also explains the strong hostility from the U.S. ruling class.

In Iran, the reelected president is also considered a populist who will fight for economic concessions to Iran’s poor—which explains his strong popularity outside the middle-class and wealthy districts.

Mousavi was first seen as a reformer who might relax cultural and social restrictions and give more leeway to organize for rights. He got some support from women’s organizations, labor and even some progressive circles. By the end of the campaign, however, Mousavi was obviously allied with the power broker and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom Ahmadinejad defeated handily in the 2005 election.

All reports—even from anti-Ahmadinejad sources here—describe the Mousavi-Rafsanjani followers as the wealthier, college-educated Iranians who dwell in the cities.

Rafsanjani, who still holds a position of power in the regime, is identified with the wealthiest sector of Iranian society, with privatizing industries, with a more conciliatory approach to imperialism. Mousavi is now linked to him, and it’s their grouping that the imperialists either want to win or want to cause enough internal trouble to weaken the government. In the end, what the imperialists want is to reverse the Iranian revolution and get back control over its rich resources.

But 2009 is not 1953, when the CIA overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh and installed the Shah. The Iranian people have benefitted enormously from their revolution and cannot easily be turned back.

Riding the “Green Wave” at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond

Riding the “Green Wave” at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond

by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson (source: Znet)
Sunday, July 26, 2009

There are many problems with the Campaign for Peace and Democracy’s “Question & Answer on the Iran Crisis,” issued by the CPD on July 7, and widely circulated since then.[1]

The CPD adopted this format, it tells us, because “some on the left, and others as well, have questioned the legitimacy of and the need for solidarity with the anti-Ahmadinejad movement,” and the CPD believes “those questions need to be squarely addressed.”

We believe, on the contrary, that the CPD’s 13 questions-and-answers do little to clarify issues related to Iran’s June 12 presidential election and its tumultuous aftermath, and even less to help leftists and “American progressives” decide how they should respond to them.

As we try to show below, when stripped of its didactic format, this Q&A amounts to little more than an emotional plea to its target audience to surrender what remains of their leftist instincts (long under siege in the States, and shrinking rapidly), and join its authors[2] for a ride on the “green wave” of yet another color-coded campaign that fits well with one of their government’s longest-running programs of destabilization and regime-change. We believe that any “confusion” felt by the left and “American progressives” towards these events is a confusion that has been sown by our would-be instructors.[3]

*** *** ***

1. Consider first the CPD’s selectivity. A look at its “Past Sign-on Statements and Letters” and elsewhere on its website (e.g., “Statement of Purpose”) shows that, in contrast to its lengthy, 4,000-word Q&A of July 7, as well as its earlier statement on the “Crisis in Iran” (June 17), the CPD has yet to put up a Q&A related to or a statement announcing its solidarity with the mass demonstrations in Honduras after the June 27-28 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of the country, Manuel Zelaya. Neither has the CPD announced its solidarity with the 100 or more indigenous victims of a June 5 massacre by the government of Alan García in Peru, which some groups are calling the “Amazon’s Tiananmen,” nor with the high numbers of civilian victims of the several-year-long U.S. and NATO bombing campaigns over Afghanistan and Pakistan, now sharply escalated by the new Democratic administration.

If we expand the purview of perpetrator-and-victim sets beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan to other theaters of U.S. and NATO violence, the possibilities for Q&A’s and shows of solidarity with the victims would become unmanageably large. But as of July 2009, shouldn’t Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Honduras rate a very high priority among American progressives precisely because the U.S. government and its military are destructively engaged in the first two theaters, and in the third, where the U.S. is deeply involved in training and arming the military, and where its influence is unmistakable, almost surely could have prevented the coup, and still could easily reverse it, had the U.S. leadership wanted it reversed?

Given that Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt is on the U.S. payroll and a part of the “global spider’s web” of secret prisons run by Washington, shouldn’t we have been more concerned with Egypt’s last presidential election in September 2005, which Mubarak, effectively Egypt’s president-for-life, won with 89% of the vote? Shouldn’t we pay more attention to the complete absence of elections in U.S. client Saudi Arabia? Or to client-state Mexico, where presidential elections have a long history of vote-rigging, the last one, in July 2006, stolen in favor of the pro-business, U.S.-favored candidate Felipe Calderon, and inspiring a massive tent-city protest in the center of Mexico City to demonstrate people’s support for the leftist runner-up, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador?

In each of these theaters and the many others that fall within the U.S. sphere of influence and responsibility, the potential benefits of a sustained left-critique and consciousness-raising about U.S. policy and its devastating impact on the lives of people are far greater than anything to be gained by urging “solidarity” with dissenters in a distant land where the U.S. influence for constructive purposes is minimal, but its hostile and destructive interventionism has been and remains great.

2. Is it a mere coincidence that these neglected matters, all of which bear undeniably on the cause of peace and democracy, are also ones in which a thoughtful Q&A would inevitably challenge U.S. policy action or inaction, whereas a focus on Iran at this moment fits instead the long-term U.S. policy of demonization, isolation, sanctions, destabilization, and eventual regime-change?

Contemporaneous New York Times coverage of events inside Iran and Honduras (for example) reflects exactly the same set of priorities: That is, on the one hand, a heavy focus on the Iranian election, the charge of vote-fraud on behalf of Ahmadinejad, the protests against this, the violent crackdown across Iranian society, and the shaken legitimacy of the Islamic Republic; and, on the other hand, the downplaying of the Honduran coup and the protests and repression there, the possible U.S. role behind the scene, the credulous reporting of the formula repeated by the Obama administration that it seeks the “restoration of the democratic order in Honduras,” rather than of the ousted President, sober questions about what the Honduran Constitution does and does not permit, and a barely concealed apologetics for the coup.

The contrast in the Times’s treatment of Iran and Honduras for the first 15 days of coverage after the June 12 election (i.e., June 13 – June 27) and after the June 28 coup (i.e., June 29 – July 13) has been dramatic.[4] The Times devoted at least 61 reports to Iran, and 19 to Honduras, with at least 21 of the Iran reports beginning on Section 1, page 1; in fact, the Times devoted page-1 reports to Iran consecutively for all 15 days in our sample. Only two reports on Honduras started on page 1. The Times also devoted 14 op-eds and 2 editorials to Iran, but only 2 op-eds and 1 editorial to Honduras. In terms of content, the Times’s opinion pages unequivocally rejected the fairness and legitimacy of Iran’s election and its government’s handling of the protests. (Its two editorials were “Neither Real Nor Free” (June 15) and “Iran’s Nonrepublic” (June 18).) But when discussing Honduras, it was the legitimacy and tactics of Manuel Zelaya’s government that the Times and its contributors questioned, with Zelaya dismissed as an “ally” of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, “The Winner in Honduras: Chavez” (June 30) and the editorial “Mr. Arias Steps In” (July 10)), and a politician whose “larger goal seemed to be a change from our democratic system into a kind of 21st century socialism…to create a Hugo Chavez-type of government” (Roger Marin Neda, “Who Cares About Zelaya?” (July 7)).

For progressive Americans, aren’t the New York Time’s priorities upside-down? But then how about those of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy? It is interesting that the CPD actually lauds the news media’s performance on Iran, claiming that “there is no good evidence so far that Western news reports on the government’s electoral fraud and violence repression of dissent have been fundamentally inaccurate” (#7). But there were gross inaccuracies in the establishment media’s assertion of vote fraud. As Mark Weisbrot points out,[5] the first sentence in the lead, front-page story run by the New York Times on June 23 reported that “Iran’s most powerful oversight council announced on Monday [June 22] that the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there by three million, further tarnishing a presidential election that has set off the most sustained challenge to Iran’s leadership in 30 years.”[6] Yet, Weisbrot adds, Iran’s Guardian Council had actually stated something completely different:

Candidates campaigns have said that in 80-170 towns and cities, more people have voted than are eligible voters. We have determined, based on preliminary studies, that there are only about 50 such cities or towns….The total number of votes in these cities or towns is something close to three million; therefore, even if we were to throw away all of these votes, it would not change the result.[7]

So there were 3 million total votes in the 50 towns and cities, not 3 million over-votes. Furthermore, the over-votes did not prove fraud. Iranians can vote at any polling place, so it is—according to the government—common to have more votes than eligible voters where there are a lot of commuters, vacationers, or areas where the voting districts are not clearly delineated. Yet the Times misleading report was picked up widely and used to convince people that the government had “admitted” to having stolen three million votes.

Given the U.S. news media’s history of systematically biased and unreliable reporting on issues central to U.S. foreign policy and when dealing with an official enemy, is the CPD’s position on media coverage of Iran’s election credible? We wonder if the CPD also found media performance on the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to be fundamentally accurate, ca. 2002-2003? Or on Israel’s recent wars against Lebanon (2006) and the Gaza Palestinians (early 2009)? Or on the alleged “threat” that Iran’s nuclear program poses to the world? Or is it just the news media’s performance on the election and its aftermath in Iran that the CPD finds fundamentally sound?

3. By portraying the Islamic Republic as even more of an outlaw regime than it had been portrayed prior to June 12, doesn’t this intensive focus on discrediting the Iranian election feed nicely into the U.S.-Israeli destabilization and regime-change campaign? No matter how much the CPD protests otherwise (#13), doesn’t its call for “solidarity with the anti-Ahmadinejad movement” and its advocacy for “a different form of government in Iran” encourage leftists to pull-down their natural defenses against U.S. imperialism?

Much intelligent analysis has pointed to similarities between a strategy employed by the Mousavi camp in June 2009, and the strategy’s use in earlier campaigns of destabilization against U.S. targets for regime-change that date back to the elections in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, and the Ukraine in 2004, to name three where it succeeded.[8] As was the case in these three other countries, the challenger Mousavi and his aides started by declaring Mousavi the “definite winner” by very wide margins on the day of the election (Friday, June 12), long before the polls had closed and the votes were counted; one Mousavi aide even told Agence France Presse that “Mousavi has got 65% of the votes cast,” a “landslide victory,” AFP called it.[9] This was followed by Mousavi’s claim on the next day (Saturday, June 13) that his rightful victory and therefore the will of the Iranian people had been stolen by the incumbent President Ahmadinejad’s supporters in the Ministry of the Interior, with the official result delegitimized; from here went the calls to Iranians and all democracy-loving peoples the world-over to reject it.[10]

But the regnant portrayal of Iran’s 2009 election as a sham, riddled with fraud and illegitimate, also reminds us of the Reagan administration’s propaganda campaign in 1984, which focused on the hostile Sandinista treatment of the newspaper La Prensa, the withdrawal of Contra leader Arturo Cruz from the election, and other actions that delegitimized it, thus justifying further U.S.-sponsored terrorism. As early as July 1984, Ronald Reagan himself had likened the Sandinistas’ proposal to hold elections in November to a “Soviet-style sham.” The editors of the New York Times picked-up on their President’s rhetoric, warning first that “If [the Sandinistas] go forward with plans to hold a sham vote…, they will confirm Mr. Reagan’s thesis” (October 7), and concluding one month later that “Only the naïve believe that [the] election in Nicaragua was democratic or legitimizing proof of the Sandinistas’ popularity…. The Sandinistas made it easy to dismiss their election as a sham” (November 7).[11]

For progressive Americans who’d like to “make it clear to the Iranian people that there is ‘another America’, one that is independent of the government and opposed to its oppressive and anti-democratic foreign policy” (#12), but whose memory of their own government’s history has yet to be Twittered-away, isn’t the net-effect of the CPD’s activism to increase the likelihood that the next president of Iran, some time in 2013 (if not sooner[12]), will be a U.S.-supported candidate—in the pattern of the “remarkable victory” of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in 1990 that delivered a “devastating rebuke to the Sandinistas,” as the New York Times editorialized, a “clear mandate for peace and democracy,” in the first President Bush’s words?[13]

4. Even the language used by the CPD displays a revealing bias. At no place in its July 7 Q&A does the CPD refer to the United States or to Washington or to any U.S. leader as “murderous” or “vicious” or “barbaric,” or any U.S. action as “ferocious.” Instead, such language is reserved for U.S. targets such as Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic (#9), and for the clerical-state in Iran. Thus, the CPD’s introduction speaks of their “horror at the ferocious response” of Iran and the “brutal repression” in support of the “electoral fraud,” and later the CPD refers to the “ferocious violence of the security forces” against the protestors and the general public (#8).

But in the CPD’s November 2002 statement (later updated), “We Oppose Both Saddam Hussein and the U.S. War on Iraq: A Call for a New Democratic U.S. Foreign Policy,” such invidious language is used only to describe the regime of Saddam Hussein, whom it calls a “killer and serial aggressor,” and a “tyrant who should be removed from power,” but never the United States.

“War”—not George Bush or the United States—but “War threatens massive harm to Iraqi civilians,” the CPD stated, “and will encourage international bullies to pursue further acts of aggression.”

The CPD recognized that President Bush’s objective was “to expand and solidify U.S. predominance in the Middle East, at the cost of tens of thousands of civilian lives if necessary” (and many more, ultimately). But this didn’t make the United States or Washington or President Bush a “bully,” a “killer and serial aggressor,” or a “terrorist” on a grand scale.

5. The CPD goes to great length to deny that the post-June 12 protests in Iran can be regarded as a consequence of U.S. policy towards that country, and is adamant that U.S. interference played no role in the election and its aftermath. “[F]oreign meddling does not prove foreign control,” the CPD asserts, and “foreign meddling does not automatically discredit mass movements or their goals; it depends on who is calling the shots….[T]there is no evidence that the CIA or any other arm of U.S. intelligence—or Mossad—had anything to do with initiating or leading the protests in Iran…[T]there has been not a scrap of credible evidence that the millions of people in the streets these past few weeks were brought out by CIA money” (#6).

But “foreign control” and “calling the shots” are extreme forms of foreign meddling, and we regard them as straw men of the CPD’s making. Another straw man is the CPD’s repudiation of the notion that “millions of people in the streets” were on the CIA’s payroll, the CPD implying strongly that the consequences of U.S. meddling are too insignificant to be a factor.

But who ever said that huge numbers of Iranians were on the CIA’s payroll? More to the point: Does the CPD have any “credible evidence” that none of them are?[14]

Surely the CPD knows that in early 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requested $75 million “in emergency funding to step up pressure on the Iranian government, including expanding radio and television broadcasts into Iran and promoting internal opposition to the rule of religious leaders”? Before the money was appropriated by Congress, $15 million of it was channeled “toward grants for software programmers who specialize in creating programs that thwart Internet firewalls erected by repressive countries such as Iran and China. The idea, which was championed by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), is intended to assist dissidents without making them the target of arrests and harassment.”[15]

The CPD ignores ABC TV’s report in 2007 that the CIA “received secret presidential approval to mount a covert ‘black’ operation to destabilize the Iranian government,” a policy that “would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime,” retired CIA officer Bruce Riedel told ABC. The CPD also ignores Seymour Hersh’s report about a “major escalation of covert operations against Iran,” worth $400 million, and “designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.” One source familiar with the presidential order told Hersh that its purpose was “to undermine the [Iranian] government through regime change,” and involved “working with opposition groups and passing [out] money.”[16] As always with how the U.S. “intelligence” agencies spend their massive budgets, the potential for additional unreported operations is great.[17]

The CPD ignores the existence, let alone the impact, of multiple, large, and overlapping governmental and nongovernmental programs devoted to developing the media and expertise necessary for “democratic movements” in other countries, and to “strengthen the bond between indigenous democratic movements abroad and the people of the United States,” as the National Endowment for Democracy describes its mission.[18] Despite President Obama’s semi-apologetic admission in his speech at Cairo University the week before Iran’s election that the United States once “played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government,”[19] USA Today reports that “The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents,…continuing a program that became controversial when it was expanded by President Bush.” Part of the purpose of the $15 million Near Eastern Regional Democracy Initiative, a Senate Appropriations committees spokesman told USA Today, “is to expand access to information and communications through the Internet for Iranians.”[20]

In short, there is extensive evidence of U.S. meddling inside Iran, over a very long period of time, and these efforts cannot simply be dismissed as old-style leftist hyperbole.[21]

6. Also relevant to assessing the true nature and scope of U.S. interference in the lives of Iran’s 70 million people—and their election process—but virtually ignored by the CPD are the massive U.S. wars in neighboring Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, the constant threats of attack by the United States and Israel, the use of the International Atomic Energy Agency dating back to 2003 to harass Iran over its legal and NPT-compliant nuclear program,[22] and the serious economic and political sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States, its allies, and the Security Council—all of which add-up to a sum that vastly exceeds “foreign meddling,” and the impact of which cannot be dismissed by asserting that there is “no evidence that” the CIA has engineered yet another coup on the model of its 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddeq.[23]

Isn’t U.S.-organized economic warfare that reduces Iranian standards of living over many years,[24] along with the likelihood that it can only be ended by a U.S.-approved political transformation, a grave form of foreign intervention in Iranian politics, in the June 12 election, and in its aftermath? Isn’t it reminiscent of Reagan’s and Bush One’s blackmailing threat to continue the Contra’s terrorist war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua until the people removed the Sandinistas from power? Isn’t the CPD’s insistence that “American progressives” can safely discount these forms of foreign intervention as having played no important role in recent events inside Iran a form of apologetics for the same ugly operations?

7. Apart from these ongoing destabilization campaigns, a series of reports since early July have described plans and training for possible future Israeli military attacks on Iran’s nuclear program. It is important to remember that such reports have been regular features in the Western media for six years running, invariably contain a psychological warfare component, and are even discussed as psy-ops inside Iran. But this time we notice some novel features to the reports, including an agreement with Egypt for Israeli warships to pass through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, an agreement with Saudi Arabia permitting the Israeli air force to traverse Saudi airspace, several long-range, joint U.S. and NATO training missions with the Israeli Air Force, and joint U.S.-Israeli tests of the Arrow interceptor missile “designed to defend Israel from missile attacks by Iran and Syria,” according to the London Times. “It is not by chance that Israel is drilling long-range maneuvers in a public way,” an Israeli defense official stated. “This is not a secret operation. This is something that has been published and will showcase Israel’s abilities.”[25]

There is also U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s response to question by George Stephanopoulos on ABC – TV in the States, widely interpreted as giving a virtual go-ahead to an Israeli bombing attack on Iran:[26]

Stephanopoulos: [I]f the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?

Biden: Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.

We find it damning that as these U.S. and Israeli threats to attack Iran have escalated in June and especially in July, the U.S.-based Campaign for Peace and Democracy, while remaining silent on this major threat to international peace and security posed by the United States and Israel, which if carried out would undoubtedly kill many more Iranian civilians than the Iranian government has killed since June 12, initiated its campaign to delegitimize Iran’s June 12 election as its cause celebre—and in effect laid down with the lions.

8. Considering events inside Iran from June 12 on, it seems highly likely that many of Iran’s more affluent, urban-activist and technologically savvy youth had concluded that they could achieve their political objectives best, not at the ballot box in June 2009, and not by arguing their case before the rigid bodies of Iran’s executive branch, but by tailoring their messages of dissent to foreign audiences, taking to the streets to provoke repressive responses by state authorities, with every action of the state serving to delegitimize it in the eyes of the West’s metropolitan centers, whose recognition and validation the protestors have sought above all.[27] Indeed, the West is where we find the real streets the demonstrators want to control. Not “from Engelob Square to Azadi Square,” as Robert Fisk reported it,[28] but how Engelob Square and Azadi Square, Evin Prison and the Basij militia, play in the United States and other Western powers, where 98% of the “internationalists” wouldn’t blog, “tweet,” text-message, or take to their own streets to stop a single NATO missile from striking a wedding or funeral party in Afghanistan, however much they cheer Iran’s dissidents.

Today’s mobile communications technology (including voice, text-messaging and Twitter, and digital imaging) played an unprecedented role in the election and its aftermath, as did the Internet (websites, email, Facebook, and photo and video-sharing platforms such YouTube and Flickr), and foreign-based radio and television sources such as the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera, as well as BBC Persian TV and Voice of America’s Persian News Network. By-passing Iran’s state-run media, younger Iranians kept informed via these state-of-the-art samizdat and establishment foreign sources. Much of the establishment Western media (print, TV, and radio) also relied heavily on the new samizdat, and for one-to-two weeks running featured content drawn allegedly from Iran’s street protestors.[29]

When Tehran’s executive branch accuses the U.S. Government and foreign NGOs of trying to foment a “velvet” or “color revolution,” this is the modus operandi that Tehran has in mind. Given the U.S., U.K., and Israeli investment in destabilization and regime-change in Iran, we believe it highly plausible that strategy exists for mobilizing Iran’s dissident youth via both samizdat and the foreign media beyond their country’s borders that feed-back into the consciousnesses of the Iranian street and the executive branch, altering the relation between the two, in precisely the sense that U.S.-based nonviolent action-operatives and foreign regime-changers have been advocating for use in Iran for years.[30]

In short, the protests are certainly not entirely “home-grown” and have a pretty clear link both to direct destabilization campaigns and to the massive destabilizations imposed upon this region of the world by the United States and its allies just this decade alone. It is also interesting to note that Peter Ackerman, the founding chair of the U.S.-based International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and a former chair of the right-wing Freedom House, along with the ICNC’s founding director and president Jack DuVall, once cynically cautioned that for a destabilization campaign such as this to be maximally effective against Iran, it “should not come from the CIA or Defense Department, but rather from pro-democracy programs throughout the West.”[31]

None of this is to deny the reality of a massive democratic surge inside Iran on a scale unseen since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. But it is to question how well we understand the role of state-of-the-art communications technology in mobilizing the demonstrators, and how truly “indigenous,” autonomous, and independent they are from foreign meddling and influence, where foreign powers have invested considerable resources and know-how in these modern regime-change campaigns.

9. The question of vote fraud in Iran’s reported election results remains hotly contested.[32] There have been allegations of fraud among both Iran’s political class and foreign analysts,[33] but the true scale of any possible tampering with the actual ballots cast is uncertain. Still, more than any other factor, it is the allegations of an election rigged by Iran’s executive branch to deny the will of the Iranian people that have driven events inside Iran since June 12.

The CPD devotes its first five Q&A’s to delegitimizing both the election and Iran’s political system. The CPD dismisses the political system’s fairness (#1), the “un-elected” nature of its “theocratic rulers” (#2), as well as rejects Ahmadinejad’s reported victory (#3 – #5). “[T]here is very powerful evidence that either no one emerged with a majority [in the first round],” the CPD even states at one point, “or that Mousavi won outright” (#3). The CPD also states that the “basic prerequisite of a democratic system—that people can change their government—is missing” in Iran (#2), and that as the “un-elected Guardian Council” filtered out hundreds of potential candidates, leaving only four to run for the presidency, with no free press, free expression and freedom to organize, the June 12 election wasn’t free and fair (#1 and #2, and passim).

While we agree that Iran’s political system has very serious defects, it towers above others in the Middle East that are U.S. clients and recipients of U.S. aid and protection. If Iran were a U.S. client rather than a U.S. target, its political system would be portrayed as a “fledgling democracy,” imperfect but improving over time and with the promise of a democratic future. Furthermore, in the current electoral contest, the three challengers (Mousavi, as well as the former Speaker of the Parliament, Mehdi Karroubi, and the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezai) seemed able to voice sharp disagreements with the incumbent and with many aspects of Iranian life under its current executive branch; also, Mousavi’s candidacy was supported passionately by large numbers of people, and he had very contentious debates with Ahmadinejad as well as the others two candidates on national TV.[34] We do not recall the CPD ever contesting the legitimacy of the U.S. political system or the fairness of U.S. elections on the grounds that an unelected dictatorship of money—as opposed to the Islamic Council of Guardians—vets the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, reducing the options available to U.S. citizens to two candidates, neither of whom can change the foreign or domestic priorities of the imperial U.S. regime. Nor did the CPD draw any important comparison between conditions in Iran, on the one hand, and conditions in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, or Iraq and Afghanistan under U.S. military occupation, on the other. And though the CPD mentions that conditions are worse in the “dictatorship” of Saudi Arabia, the CPD never explains why its focus is (and has been) on Iran rather than Saudi Arabia or the United States of America.

Although serious doubts have been raised about the integrity of Iran’s vote-counting process, it is worthy of note that the only relatively scientific, non-partisan poll of Iranian opinion conducted in the pre-election period, between May 11 and 20, asked the question, “If the presidential elections were held today, who would you vote for?”[35] 33.8% of the Iranians surveyed said that they’d vote for Ahmadinejad, compared to 13.6% for Mousavi, 1.7% for Karroubi, and 0.9% for Rezai. These results formed the basis for the pollsters Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty’s claim shortly after the election that their “nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by more than a 2 to 1 margin—greater than his actual apparent margin of victory [on June 12].”[36]

While 50.1% who did not name any of these four candidates, either because they didn’t know (27.4%), they didn’t like any of the four (7.6%), or they refused to answer (15.1%), present a real problem, this deserves less weight than critics of the official results have given it. “If one merely extrapolated from the reported results [of the Ballen – Doherty poll],” Robert Naiman writes, “that is, if one assumed that the people who refused to respond or who didn’t know voted for the four candidates in the same proportion as their counterparts who named candidates,” Ahmadinejad would have received 66.7% of the votes, almost 4 points more than the Interior Ministry announced on June 13.[37] Moreover, were we to allocate as high as 60% of the undecided votes to the two “reform” candidates (Mousavi and Karroubi) and only 40% to the two “conservative” candidates (Ahmadinejad and Rezai), but in the same proportion that each received from those who answered the “who would you vote for” question by naming their candidate, Naiman projects that Ahmadinejad still would have received 57% to Mousavi’s 36%—results that “differ from the Interior Ministry numbers by less than the poll’s [3.1%] margin of error.”

The CPD tries to get around these results by arguing that the Ballen – Doherty poll was taken early in the campaign, before the TV debates in early June, which were a “turning point” where people “sensed…an opportunity for real change” (#4). But the CPD’s contention that Iranian public opinion changed after the poll in May is not only speculative and lacking in evidence, it ignores the fact that Ahmadinejad’s forces were also campaigning, and vigorously; and contrary to the CPD implication that the TV debates turned the tide against Ahmadinejad, U.S. journalist Joe Klein, though hostile towards the incumbent, nonetheless reported that Ahmadinejad “was, without question, the best politician in the race,” and that his nationally televised debates against both Mousavi and Karroubi “were routs.”[38]

The CPD also claims that while Ahmadinejad did get support from the poor with his social welfare programs (i.e., Ahmadinejad’s “social welfare programs, funded from oil revenues, have undoubtedly induced many among the poor to give him their allegiance,” the CPD sneers (#5)), “there is no evidence that these were enough to give him the huge majorities that he claims” (#5). But we repeat that the only evidence gathered by an opinion poll suggested roughly a 2-1 lead for Ahmadinejad over Mousavi, and hence a possible majority victory. Nowhere does the CPJ acknowledge that Ahmadinejad’s refusal to kow-tow to the West and his nationalistic stance in opposing the U.S., Israel and a threatening Western establishment, also could have won him votes.

The quasi-official source for the fraud allegation in the West is the U.K.-based Chatham House analysis, released on June 21. When Ahmadinejad defeated Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by 61.7% to 31.5% in the second-round run-off in June 2005, commentators attributed Ahmadinejad’s nearly 2 to 1 margin of victory to Rafsanjani’s “symboliz[ing] wealth and power,” with Ahmadinejad “capitaliz[ing] on the schism between the government and the people, the poor and the rich,” as one senior advisor to the outgoing President Mohammad Khatami explained. “The White House responded to the [2005] election result by reiterating charges made previously by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the legitimacy of the vote, noting that ‘over 1,000 candidates were disqualified from running and there were many allegations of election fraud and interference’,” the New York Times reported. [39] But with voter turnout in June 2009 showing “massive across the board increases,” rising from 28,100,000 in the first-round of 2005, to 38,700,000 in the first and only round of 2009, Chatham House finds it “problematic” that there was any “correlation between increases in turnout and increased support for any candidate….”[40] This would be a solid objection, if in fact there had been a substantial “swing to Ahmadinejad” in 2009. But out of the total number of valid votes reported by the Interior Ministry on June 13, Ahmadinejad received 62.6% to Mousavi’s 33.8%, leaving little evidence of a “swing” or change between the second round of 2005 and 2009. Furthermore, as noted, the Ballen – Doherty poll completed three weeks before the election showed Ahmadinejad with a 2 to 1 edge over Mousavi, and as Naiman indicated, with reasonable adjustments for the effects of non-voting and run-off consolidations, Ahmadinejad’s numbers for the June 12 election are consistent with that pre-election poll.

In short, although there is some anecdotal evidence of vote fraud in the reported results of Iran’s June 12 election, the CPD’s assurances of massive vote fraud and a possible Mousavi majority are not based on any credible evidence whatsoever.[41] Some 700,000 Iranians worked 45,000 polls on June 12, including tens-of-thousands drawn from opposition parties. Ballots were counted at the polling sites in the presence of some 14 – 18 people, including these opposition observers. Numerous other safeguards also would have had to be violated on a massive scale—in the presence of tens- and perhaps hundreds-of-thousands of witnesses. The results of each of the 45,000 polls were posted to the Interior Ministry’s website. Neither the Mousavi camp nor anyone else have produced witnesses who can testify to the violation of voting and counting procedures on a scale beyond the anecdotal and therefore marginal. If vote fraud occurred on the scale necessary to rig the election by the nearly 11,290,000 votes that separate its proclaimed winner, the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from its runner-up, the former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, the fraud would have had to occur outside the voting process. This is possible, but unproven. As Iran’s Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in his first post-election sermon, “If the difference was 100,000 or 500,000 or 1 million, well, one may say fraud could have happened. But how can one rig 11 million votes? The Guardian Council has said that if people have doubts they should prove them.”[42] It is quite possible that Ahmadinejad won his first-round majority without or despite a resort to fraud.

“The data offers no arbitration in this dispute,” the Chatham House analysis cautiously states, and we agree.[43] But this means that the assured conclusion of massive fraud, a stolen election, and a “coup d’état,” simply are unproven speculation, and that passions in the West, stirred by the repeated allegations of theft, are deeply problematic—as they would not be, were the same passionate intensity focused closer to home, on the tangible coup d’état in Honduras.

10. The CPD asks whether Ahmadinejad is “good for world anti-imperialism?” It answers that “There is a foolish argument in some sectors of the left that holds that any state that is opposed by the U.S. government is therefore automatically playing a progressive, anti-imperialist role and should be supported. On these grounds, many such ‘leftists’ have acted as apologists for murderous dictators like Milosevic and Saddam Hussein” (#9).

This tendentious analysis misrepresents the real issues, and begs several questions. According to both the letter and the spirit of the UN Charter, a state that is on the imperial hit-list ought to be defended against aggression, and interference in its affairs is ruled out. Aggression and subversion should be strenuously opposed by the American left. It should not be suckered into such efforts even when the target is not playing a “progressive, anti-imperialist role.”

Whether North Vietnam and the Vietnamese resistance were “playing a progressive, anti-imperialist role” in the years 1950-1975 can be debated. But it must be recalled that folks straightening-out the “confusion” on the left in those years were also busy demonizing the “murderous dictator” Ho Chi Minh and featuring Vietnamese terrorism, thereby providing de facto support to a truly genocidal aggression by the United States.

The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was not playing a progressive, anti-imperialist role in the 1980s and 1990s. But what leftist would have swallowed the U.S.-U.K. aggression of 2003 on grounds that Saddam was a “murderous dictator”? (For the record, we know that on this occasion, the CPD did not swallow it.) Yet, it appears that in the CPD’s judgment, anyone strenuously opposing imperialist attacks on the former Yugoslavia and Iraq could be found guilty of apologizing for “murderous dictators”!

So, while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might not be good for world anti-imperialism, his country is not just “opposed by the United States,” it has been under serious U.S. attack and faces a continuing threat of escalated violence. It should be first-order business of a left and supposed campaign for peace as well as democracy to oppose this threat. But with Ahmadinejad a demonized target and Iran’s allegedly sham election of June 12 utterly discredited, the CPD’s willing participation in that whole process (in contrast to Honduras, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) provides first-class service to the imperial powers.

Concluding Note: “American progressives”?

The Iranian election of June 12 and its aftermath have been subjected to competing but not necessarily exclusive interpretations. In dealing with these events, some commentators have framed them as features of an autonomous, local struggle for democracy; others view them as an internal struggle tightly integrated into regional and global struggles for conquest of territories and control over scarce energy resources. We may recall that Iran is one of the two remaining members of the “Axis of Evil” (January 2002-), accused then and still today of pursuing weapons of mass destruction and exporting terrorism, “while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.” [44]

We believe that the latter frame is by far the more illuminating and politically relevant, as it emphasizes the fact that the huge publicity given to Iran in the establishment Western political and media systems is closely connected to the U.S., NATO, and Israeli campaign to destabilize and change regimes in Iran, a campaign that is part of a larger program of power-projection, subversion, territorial expansion, and serial warfare. The same basic point applies to the U.S. campaign against Iran’s nuclear program, and remains perhaps the most visible part of the regime-change project (i.e., short of an eventual military attack).

It goes without saying that “all peoples have the right to self-determination,” and that any struggle for freedom deserves our solidarity and respect. No less compelling to us, however, are the injunctions against the “subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination, and exploitation,” “armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples,” and the “partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country.”[45] The Iranian election and the Iranian struggle for freedom are the rightful property of the Iranian people, not something about which their more sophisticated counterparts in the States and on the “internationalist” left need to instruct them. But this is especially true where that struggle is used in the destabilization and subjugation program.

Overall, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy’s “Question & Answer on the Iran Crisis” reminds us of the position Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice staked-out in her early 2006 statement before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee: “We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,” Rice warned. But, she added, “We do not have a problem with the Iranian people. We want the Iranian people to be free. Our problem is with the Iranian regime….”[46]

A Gallup World Affairs poll taken in the United States around the same time found that nearly one-in-three Americans ranked Iran “America’s greatest enemy,” ahead of Iraq (22%) and North Korea (15%), to name the other two notables. The same poll found that Americans rated Iran the “most negatively” out of 22 foreign countries, a place of honor formerly held by Iraq for the previous 15 years (1991-2005). “Generally speaking,” Gallup explained, “Americans’ ratings of other nations are fairly stable from year to year, though they do change in response to international events.”[47]

But the “international events” to which Gallup referred were located in Washington, London, Paris, and Bonn, and directed at Iran, specifically these capitals’ use of the IAEA to harass Iran over its nuclear program, to depict its nuclear program as a global threat to international peace and security, and to demonize its president—the latter process ratcheted-up so high since the 12th of June that by now Iran has been demonized beyond recognition.

Rather than countering this process, the CPD pleads with “American progressives” to let their guards down and go for a ride on the “green wave.” Instead of U.S. citizens asking the question, What should we do about the current situation in the United States of America? (extended to those parts of the world that suffer beneath its myriad forms of violence and oppression), the CPD asks (#12): “What should we do about the current situation in Iran?”

This approach to “progressive” politics makes us wonder, not whether “Ahmadinejad [is] good for world anti-imperialism?,” but, frankly, whether the CPD is? We have our doubts.

—- Endnotes —-

[1] Besides its posting to the Campaign for Peace and Democracy’s own website, the CPD’s July 7 “Question & Answer on the Iran Crisis” has also been posted to websites at AfterDowningStreet.org, CASMII, The Indypendent, Payvand Iran News, Portside, and ZNet, among others. At the time of this writing (July 12), we do not believe that this Q&A has been posted at AlterNet, CommonDreams, Information Clearinghouse, or Truthout—four other left and progressive websites with a sizeable audience.

[2] The four authors as listed on the July 7 document are Stephen R. Shalom, Thomas Harrison, Joanne Landy, and Jesse Lemisch.

[3] As was the case concerning the decade-long dismantling of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, the phenomenon of left-splintering over the true significance of Iran’s June 12 election has been marked. For an example of how the subject of Iran in 2009 is being exploited under the banner of the American “left” literally to attack the left and to enforce a doctrinal discipline regarding the election and its aftermath see Reese Erlich, “Iran and Leftist Confusion,” CommonDreams, June 29, 2009. It therefore comes as no surprise that the CPD has provided a link this anti-left diatribe by Erlich on the CPD’s homepage (“Related Materials, Announcements, and Links”), as well as a listing for “Reese Erlich Speaking Engagements.” (See David Peterson, “And Whose Side Are You On?” ZNet, July 1, 2009.)

[4] These results are based on searches of the Factiva database according to the following sets of parameters: (a) rst=nytf and Iran for June 13 through June 27, and (b) rst=nytf and Honduras for June 29 through July 13. We then checked the Factiva-generated results, item-by-item, to generate the final results reported above.

[5] Mark Weisbrot, “Was Iran’s Election Stolen?” PostGlobal, June 26, 2009.

[6] Michael Slackman, “Amid Crackdown, Iran Admits Voting Errors,” New York Times, June 23, 2009.

[7] According to Mark Weisbrot (personal communication), the Guardian Council’s June 22 statement can be found on this webpage, and the English-language translation that he uses was provided by Rostam Pourzal.

[8] See, e.g., Simon Tisdall, “Iran plays the blame game,” The Guardian, June 16, 2009; Anthony Dimaggio, “Lapdog Journalists,” CounterPunch, June 18, 2009; James Petras, “Iranian Elections: The ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax,” Centre for Research on Globalization, June 18, 2009; Phil Wilayto, “Some Observations on the Iranian Presidential Election and Its Aftermath,” Truthout, June 19, 2009; Paul Craig Roberts, “Are the Iranian Protests Another U.S. Orchestrated ‘Color Revolution’?” CounterPunch, June 19-21, 2009; Steve Weissman, “Iran: Non-Violence 101,” Truthout, June 21, 2009; M.K. Bhadrakumar, “Beijing cautions U.S. over Iran,” The Hindu, June 22, 2009; Jeremy R. Hammond, “Has the U.S. Played a Role in Fomenting Unrest During Iran’s Election?” Foreign Policy Journal, June 23, 2009; Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, “Iran: This Is Not a Revolution,” MRZine, June 23, 2009; Huang Xiangyang, “Why Doesn’t the Media Leave Iran Alone?” China Daily, June 26, 2009; Elias Akleh, “Demonizing Iranian Democracy,” Palestine Chronicle, June 30, 2009; Mazhar Qayyum Khan, “Is ‘regime change’ at work in Iran?” The Nation (Pakistan), June 30, 2009; Steve Weissman, “Iran: The World Is Watching,” Truthout, June 30, 2009; William Blum, “Much Ado about Nothing?” Anti-Empire Report, July 3, 2009; John Laughland, “The Technique of a Coup d’État,” LewRockwell.com, July 21, 2009.

[9] “Mousavi says he ‘definite winner’ in Iran election,” Reuters, June 12, 2009; “Mousavi claims landslide victory in Iran vote,” Agence France Presse, June 12, 2009.

[10] The Xinhua News Agency reported that a statement posted to the Mir Hossein Mousavi campaign’s website dated June 13 decried “obvious and numerous violations and irregularities [on] the election day,” asked his supporters “to remain [on] the scene,” warned that “such an injustice will cause the removal of the legitimacy” of the government and is “shaking the pillars of the sacred system of [the] Islamic Republic [of Iran]” and amounts to “dictatorship,” asked “[Iranian] officials to stop such a process before it is late,” and proclaimed that “he will not surrender to such a dangerous show.” (“Iran’s Mousavi says obvious violations in Iran’s presidential election,” June 13, 2009.)

[11] Steven R. Weisman, “Reagan Predicts Nicaraguan Vote Will be ‘Sham’,” New York Times, July 20, 1984; “Going With the Wind in Nicaragua,” New York Times, October 7, 1984; “Nobody Won in Nicaragua,” New York Times, November 7, 1984.

[12] On Sunday, July 19, some websites began reporting that Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami had called for a referendum on the “current situation” inside Iran. “People should be asked whether they are happy with the current situation,” Reuters reported comments attributed to Khatami. “If the vast majority of people are happy with the current situation, we will accept it as well.” (Zahra Hosseinian, “Supreme leader warns against helping Iran’s enemies,” Reuters, July 20, 2009; Robert F. Worth, “Ex-President In Iran Seeks Referendum On Leaders,” New York Times, July 20, 2009.)

[13] “The Morning After in Nicaragua,” New York Times, February 27, 1990. George Bush’s remark was quoted in the same.

[14] The term ‘CIA’ can refer very precisely to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, with its reported annual budget and the myriad activities that it funds. But ‘CIA’ is also used much more loosely to refer to all similar agencies of the U.S. Government, their budgets, and their activities, or to refer to the dirtier activities of the U.S. Government—those “covert” activities that one or more agencies of the U.S. Government directs, funds, sponsors, and the like, but which the Government would never publicly admit. In fact, among the general public, these second and third uses of ‘CIA’ are probably the most frequent.

[15] Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger, “Bush Plans Huge Propaganda Campaign in Iran,” The Guardian, February 16, 2006; Glenn Kessler, “Rice Asks for $75 Million to Increase Pressure on Iran,” Washington Post, February 16, 2006; Glenn Kessler, “Congress Sets Limits on Aid to Pakistan,” Washington Post, December 20, 2007.

[16] Brian Ross, “Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran,” ABC News, May 22, 2007; Seymour M. Hersh, “The Bush administration steps up its secret moves against Iran,” New Yorker, July 7, 2008. In the latter, Hersh makes it clear that this funding was for terrorist operations against targets inside Iran, and has employed both CIA and Joint Special Operations Command units, as well as regional terrorist groups such as the Jundallah (or Iranian People’s Resistance Movement), the Mujahedin-e Khalq, and the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan. Also see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The U.S. Aggression Process and Its Collaborators: From Guatemala (1950-1954) to Iran (2002-),” Electric Politics, November 26, 2007.

[17] The reported budget of the U.S. “intelligence” agencies (of which the CIA is by far the largest) for Fiscal Year 2008 was $47.5 billion. (“DNI Releases Budget Figure for 2008 National Intelligence Program,” News Release No. 17-08, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, October 28, 2008.)

[18] See “About Us,” the National Endowment for Democracy website, accessed in July 2009. Also see the NED’s annual budgeted items for promoting “democracy” inside Iran so far this decade: Iran – 2001, Iran – 2002, Iran – 2003, Iran – 2004, Iran – 2005, Iran – 2006, Iran – 2007, and Iran – 2008. Here we’d like to emphasize that the NED is but one of many groups that act and spend lavishly in the name of “democracy,” but for which the right to self-determination and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States never seems to stand in its way.

[19] Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on a New Beginning,” Cairo, Egypt, White House Office of the Press Secretary, June 4, 2009. A June 7 commentary on Obama’s speech in the Iranian newspaper Keyhan noted: “In Cairo, Obama spoke of change,” and “pretend[ed] that his country’s problems with Iran are purely historical [i.e., things of the past].” But, the commentator added, Obama mentioned only the 1953 coup and Iran’s nuclear program today. “America’s actions in supporting Saddam when he attacked Iran, bringing down of Iran’s airbus passenger plane, attacking Iran’s oil rigs, blocking our country’s assets, military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and bullying actions against governments and nations did not attract his notice. He merely apologized for an issue when his apology would not change anything and was nothing but a propaganda move.” (Sa’dollah Zare’I, “Speech in Cairo; running on sands,” Keyhan website, June 7, 2009, as translated by the BBC Monitoring Middle East, June 9, 2009.)

[20] Ken Dilanian, “U.S. grants lend support to Iran’s dissidents,” USA Today, June 26, 2009.

[21] In William Blum’s estimate, the “United States has seriously intervened in some 30 elections around the world” since World War II. (“Much Ado about Nothing?” Anti-Empire Report, July 3, 2009.) Had the U.S. Government kept its hands-off Iran prior to the June 12 election, surely this would have been the first time in post-World War II history that it failed to interfere in a foreign election the outcome of which was important to its global policies.

[22] Sylvia Westall, “No Evidence Iran Seeks Nuclear Arms: New IAEA Head,” Reuters, July 3, 2009. We add that since 2003, the IAEA has never reported any hard evidence that Iran seeks nuclear weapons. (See, e.g., “‘Iran Has Centrifuge Capacity for Nuclear Arms’?” ZNet, June 6, 2009.) Even the National Intelligence Estimate, Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, November, 2007) asserted with “high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” (p. 6), the NIE adding that it intends ‘nuclear weapons program’ to be taken in the minimalist sense of “nuclear weapon design and weaponization work” (n. 1, p. 6), not work on highly enriched, weapons-grade fissile material.

[23] See Malcolm Byrne, Ed., “The Secret History of the Iran Coup,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 28, November 29, 2000. At this webpage, one will also find a PDF of the complete text of Donald Wilber’s first-person account, Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953 (CIA Clandestine Service History, March, 1954).

[24] Following the July 15 crash of a Tehran-based commercial airliner shortly after it took-off from Imam Khomeini Airport, killing everyone on board, the New York Times reported that the crash “underscored the country’s vulnerability to aviation disasters. Iran has been unable to adequately maintain its aging fleet of American-built aircraft for 30 years because of an embargo after the Islamic Revolution, and has increasingly relied on aircraft from Russian manufacturers, which have their own troubled safety history.” (Robert F. Worth and Nicola Clark, “Iranian Airliner Crashes And Explodes, Killing 168,” New York Times, July 16, 2009.)

[25] Yaakov Katz, “Israel sends sub through Suez Canal,” Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2009; Dan Williams, “Israeli sub sails Suez, signalling reach to Iran,” Reuters, July 3, 2009; Yaakov Kaatz, “IAF to train overseas for Iran strike,” Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2009; Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, “Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran,” Sunday Times, July 5, 2009; Sheera Frenkel, “Israel rehearses Iran raid; Warships in Suez a stark signal to Tehran,” The Times, July 16, 2009.

[26] Interview with Vice President Joe Biden, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, ABC – TV, July 5, 2009.

[27] This is not to ignore the fact that Shirin Ebadi, Akbar Ganji, and other well-known Iranian dissidents have repeatedly emphasized their refusal to accept the help of the U.S. Government, out of the reasonable fear that to be seen as accepting U.S. Government help discredits their cause and endangers their freedom and safety in Iran.

[28] Robert Fisk, “Iran’s day of destiny,” The Independent, June 16, 2009; and Robert Fisk, “Fear has gone in a land that has tasted freedom,” The Independent, June 17 2009.

[29] Here we would like to register a skeptical question, the answer to which we do not pretend to know: Since June 12-13, how many of the “voices of the 2009 Iranian Revolution” (Twitter, text-messaging, and Internet traffic) have been generated by non-indigenous “intelligence” services, “nongovernmental” organizations, and PR firms exploiting the anonymity inherent to these state-of-the-art communications systems to disseminate a consistent party-line about Iran that is hostile towards its executive branch, favorable towards the opposition—and therefore favorable to foreign destabilizers as well? See Tom Griffin, “Web 2.0 Warfare from Gaza to Iran,” SpinWatch, July 2, 2009.

[30] In one early commentary advocating regime-change for Iran, the U.S.-based International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall argued that, just as “Serbian dissidents [back in 2000] were given working capital—money for supplies, communications, and, most important, training in strategic nonviolent struggle,” so a similar “civilian-based struggle [to make] a country ungovernable through strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other nonviolent tactics—in addition to mass protests—crumbling a government’s pillars of support…is possible in Iran.” (Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, “The nonviolent script for Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, July 22, 2003.)

[31] Ibid.

[32] For a copy of the election results as reported by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior on June 13, see Ali Ansari et al., Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election, Chatham House (U.K.), Appendix, “By Province Results for the 2009 Iranian Presidential Election,” June 21, 2009, pp. 12-13. As determined by the Interior Ministry, the reported total of “valid” votes for the four candidates were: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (24,525,209), Mir Hossein Mousavi (13,225,330), Mohsen Rezai (659,281), and Mehdi Karroubi (328,979).

[33] Ibid. Also see “The contested results,” The Guardian, June 17, 2009, which plots the reported results for Ahmadinejad and Mousavi across a province-by-province map of Iran. And see Juan Cole, “Stealing the Iranian Election,” Informed Comment, June 13, 2009; Juan Cole, “Terror Free Tomorrow Poll Did not Predict Ahmadinejad Win,” Informed Comment, June 15, 2009; and Juan Cole, “Chatham House Study Definitively Shows Massive Ballot Fraud in Iran’s Reported Results,” Informed Comment, June 22, 2009.

[34] In 2009, televised debates were held for the first time in the history of Iran’s 10 presidential elections since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. There were six TV debates in all (June 2, June 3, June 4, June 6, June 7, and June 8), and each one involved two candidates at a time. In only one of these debates did Ahmadinejad and Mousavi face-off against each other (June 3). For a video copy with an English-language voiceover of the June 3 debate between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi, see the IranNegah.com website, June 3, 2009, <http://irannegah.com/Video.aspx?id=1214&gt;; and for an English-language transcript of this June 3 debate, see Charlie Szrom et al., IranTracker, June 9, 2009, <http://www.irantracker.org/analysis/mousavi-ahmadinejad-june-3-presidential-debate-transcript&gt;.

[35] Results of a New Nationwide Public Opinion Survey of Iran before the June 12, 2009 Presidential Elections, (May 11 – 20), Terror Free Tomorrow, Center for Public Opinion, and New America Foundation, Q27, p. 52.

[36] Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, “The Iranian People Speak,” Washington Post, June 15, 2009.

[37] Robert Naiman, “Based on Terror Free Tomorrow Poll, Ahmadinejad Victory Was Expected,” Huffington Post, June 14, 2009.

[38] Joe Klein, “What I Saw at the Revolution,” Time Magazine, June 18, 2009.

[39] Ali Akbar Dareni, “Analysts: Rafsanjani Turned Off the Poor,” Associated Press, June 27, 2005; Michael Slackman, “Winner in Iran Calls for Unity; Reformists Reel,” New York Times, June 26, 2005.

[40] Ansari et al., Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election, p. 3. By no means are we simply dismissing the objections raised by the Chatham House analysis. For example, the authors write: “The 2009 data suggests a sudden shift in political support within precisely these rural provinces, which had not previously supported Ahmadinejad or any other conservative…showing substantial swings to Ahmadinejad…. At the same time, the official data suggests that the vote for Mehdi Karrubi, who was extremely popular in these rural, ethnic minority areas in 2005, has collapsed entirely even in his home province of Lorestan, where his vote has gone from 440,247 (55.5%) in 2005 to just 44,036 (4.6%) in 2009. This is paralleled by an overall swing of 50.9% to Ahmadinejad, with official results suggesting that he has captured the support of 47.5% of those who cast their ballots for reformist candidates in 2005. This, more than any other result, is highly implausible, and has been the subject of much debate in Iran” (pp. 10-11).

[41] This paragraph summarizes the work of Mark Weisbrot, “Was Iran’s Election Stolen?” PostGlobal, June 26, 2009.

[42] See Richard Beeston, “‘The most evil of the Western countries is the British Government’,” The Times, June 20, 2009. For a more complete version, see “‘Western intelligence services, Zionists’ behind post-election disturbances Iran leader,” BBC Monitoring Middle East, June 19, 2009.

[43] Ansari et al., Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election, p. 6.

[44] George W. Bush, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union, January 29, 2002.

[45] See Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (A/RES/1514), UN General Assembly, December 14, 1960, para. 2, 1, 4, and 6. As para. 7 adds: “All States [shall act] on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of all States, and respect the sovereign rights of all peoples and their territorial integrity.”

[46] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Opening Remarks before the Senate Appropriations Committee, “FY 2006 Supplemental Budget Proposal,” March 9, 2006. Rice added: “We have proposed a $75 million package that would allow us to broadcast more effectively in Iran, better messaging for Iran. We have proposed money that would be used for innovation in our efforts to reach the Iranian people through websites and modern technology. We have also proposed that we would be able to support non-governmental organizations that can function in Iran and in many ways, most importantly, to improve and increase our educational and cultural outreach to the people of Iran.”

[47] Joseph Carroll, “Americans Say Iran Is Their Greatest Enemy,” Gallup, February 23, 2006; and Jeffrey M. Jones, “Americans Rate Iran Most Negatively of 22 Countries,” Gallup, February 23, 2006.

Ten tumultuous days

Ten tumultuous days

by Ardeshir Ommani

The ten days of turmoil in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election sharply divided world public opinion into two opposite poles: those who believed in and supported Iran’s sovereignty and independence, mainly the working people of Iran and the peoples of the developing countries, on one hand, and those whose interests lie in believing in U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and the domination of monopoly capital over the world’s human and natural resources, on the other.

The latter camp consisting of the White House and the State Department spokespersons, the reporters and so-called “Iran Experts” of the corporate and liberal media outlets, the gurus of the financial establishments, the Trotskyites of the Fourth International, the neo-conservatives and the world Zionist entities, the infamous Iranian terrorist group, Mojahedin Khalq (MKO), and the remnants of the late Shah’s monarchial regime, all in unison hailed the defeated Iranian Presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, as winner and heralded his raucous and revolting supporters as the champions of freedom, human rights and progress.

During those ten tumultuous days, the domestic supporters of Mousavi shut down a large part of the city of Tehran, the capital, and as a consequence forced the business establishment, the lifeline of the country’s economy, to close and a minority of the demonstrators brought about considerable destruction and human casualties by putting the cars, trucks, buildings and police precincts on fire and as a result of confronting pro-Ahmadinejad supporters, caused the deaths of twenty persons, including eight security personnel who were not equipped with fire arms, unlike the heavily armed machine gun-toting U.S. riot-control SWAT teams.

Pre-Emption, A La Bush

Although the legal avenues and lawful channels suggested to Mousavi by the Guardian Council, the highest judicial institution of the land, to investigate his alleged discrepancies in the electoral process, data collection and reporting the final results, he seemingly preferred to reach a solution by the weight of demonstrations and sheer use of pressure on the streets.  Through the use of violence by some of his supporters, Mousavi intended to force the government to annul the election result and hold another election.

The reasons for refusing to attend the meeting of the Guardian Council held specifically for the purpose of discussing his frivolous claims of “wide-spread electoral fraud” were his awareness that such charges had already been leveled by him and his domestic and foreign supporters well before the actual election which was held on June 12th, and secondly, he declared himself the winner of the election sixteen hours before the election results were announced on national media by the Office of the Interior Ministry.  Hossein Mousavi and his domestic and foreign enthusiasts in Washington, D.C., London, and Paris knew well before the election that judged by the sense and socio-economic interests of the Iranian working people, including the vast population of small farmers and manufacturing entrepreneurs, the incumbent President Ahmadinejad would be far ahead of Mousavi by at least ten million votes.  They resorted to pre-emption, a la George Bush.

Therefore, Mousavi and his cohorts decided to follow the examples of power grabs in Ukraine, Georgia, and the lately unsuccessful attempts in Zimbabwe and Moldova, hoping that a long enough period of social tensions coupled with U.S.-U.K. supports for Mousavi would split the body of clerical hierarchy – the Society of Scholars of Qom Seminary – the Guardian Council and the Revolutionary Guard, which would ultimately, they wished, draw in some layers of Iran’s lower middle class to the western-reformist camp.  This was a major element in their plan that never materialized, leaving them instead with just wishful thinking.

But in general, all social and political upheavals in a single country or in a region involving several nations, tend to polarize the societies into two or more distinct and antagonistic forces with certain class characteristics.  In the epoch of imperialism, the splits take shape simultaneously along the class lines and the relations of these social forces to imperialism.  From long before the Iranian presidential election, two of the most pronounced criticisms of Ahmadinejad’s administration by the reformist camp and its neo-liberal newspapers were centered around Iran-U.S. foreign policy and the allocation of economic resources in Iran.

As to Iran’s policy toward the U.S., the objection of the reformists to Ahmadinejad was that as a result of his inflexible foreign policy, the country is suffering from isolation in the international community.  Doesn’t this criticism sound like George W. Bush’s rhetoric?  By “inflexible” foreign policy the reformist in fact were advocating that Iran should have accepted the conditions laid down by George Bush for having dialogue with Iran, meaning Iran would have been popular in the eyes of the U.S., the Europeans, and the reformists if it had suspended its uranium enrichment process and given up its right to independent development of nuclear science and technology.

Is Iran Isolated?

The second criticism launched by Iran’s reformists against Ahmadinejad’s management of the economy was that he favors the working families and small farmers over big business interests.  We clearly see, the reformists have been pro-West internationally and pro-haves domestically.  Furthermore, the claim by the defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, that Iran is internationally isolated is baseless and could only serve the U.S.-Israeli rhetoric and hegemony in the Middle East region. According to a June 23, 2009 report by AP, from Frankfurt, Germany, Europe is a major trading partner of Iran, exporting everything from rail equipment, machinery, transport goods, including trains and automobiles worth Euro 14.1 Billion worth of goods in 2008, up nearly 1.5% from the year before.  For Europe, Iran is a crucial partner for energy, which accounted for 90% of the Euro 11.3 Billion in EU imports from Iran.

The reformists are fully cognizant of the fact that Iran can always look eastward to Russia and China for goods, stoking fears of competition and lost profits for Europe.  China is already Iran’s largest single trading partner, responsible for 14.3% of exports to Iran, and 14.5% of imports from Iran in 2008.  Russia is Iran’s seventh largest trade partner and Russian-Iranian trade turnover was worth $3.2 Billion in 2008. Russia buys about 5% of Iran’s export, mainly food-stuffs, and supplies steel and non-ferrous metals, wood and machinery to Iran, according to Russian officials.

To test the veracity of their accusations, Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karoubi should travel abroad and ask the working peoples of the Arab countries, Turkey, China, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sudan, People’s Republic of the Congo, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and many more to find out the truth about Iran’s extensive international relations, which have improved during the four year term of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

The recent post-election unrest in Iran not only polarized the economically top half of the population inside Iran, but also had a similar impact on the well-to-do Iranians living in the West.  Put generally, most of the Iranians who, until a year ago, to some degree, opposed U.S. war threats against Iran, this time around they sided with the western foreign policy objectives of meddling in Iran’s internal affairs and possibly placing a pro-U.S. regime in power.  The Iranian western intellectuals who in a span of a few decades have been able to climb up the socio-economic ladder in the former colonial citadels of Britain and France and par excellence in the United States, and occupied, generally speaking, privileged positions in these societies, naturally sided with not only Hossein Mousavi, but also his domestic and international backers who for a long time have been waiting for any kind of unrest in Iran to take shape.

Behind the Human Rights Agenda

The western media had found a gold mine to be exploited at the utmost.  Overnight, the care-takers of the media corporate interests turned to up-to-then unknown individuals who had not even visited their motherland for decades into “Iran experts” and coached them on prime time TV shows to say anything, whether substantiated or not was irrelevant, to show their opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran and support for the U.S. standard of “human rights”.  These were the kind of Iranians, most of who never appeared in public gatherings to oppose the U.S. maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan.  Maybe we can’t blame them, because they are only “experts” on Iran and don’t care about the rest of humanity.

Among others, Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) appeared on CNN every day at the beginning of the election struggle to supposedly analyze, but mainly approve the U.S. interpretations of the events taking place in Iran.  Parsi expressed all the views that the interviewer was expecting to receive and “safe” for the viewers to see and hear.  He did his best to construct an image for the American listeners that the demonstrators represent the opinion and the ideals of the entire population of 72 million people, that the government of Iran is brutally repressing the rights of “peaceful” demonstrators and Tehran does not have respect for human rights.  Hopefully, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, BBC and many other corporate media received their money’s worth.

Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University was another “Iran specialist”, appearing on  ABC’s NightLine special, as well as CNN, WNYC Radio, NPR, ABC Radio and not to mention the West’s superstar, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, who was interviewed by Radio Canada, The National Interests, Justin Rosenthal, Media Line, CNN, The New York Times, Talk Radio News Service, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Der Spiegel Online, and the Nation Press Club, just to mention a few.

We venture to ask if any of these major media outlets is brave enough to invite analysts holding the opposite views about Iran and the elections?  To our knowledge this has not happened and raises the issue about the so-called free press, which appears to be entirely a monopoly outlet serving one class’s view of the world.

Clashes with no Class Interest?

Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York in his article titled: Iran Conflict isn’t Class Warfare, which appeared on CNN online, tries to show that the current upheaval has no roots in class nature of the Iranian society and the existence of the U.S. as a heavy-weight and the most developed capitalist country has no influence on the aspirations of Iran’s capitalist class.  To prove his hypothesis, Dabashi borrows from another scholar of 19th century Iran, Abbas Amanat, that the current clashes between close to a million people living in northern Tehran, where a single family house is marketed for over 3 million U.S. dollars, is the result of the “rise of a new middle class whose demands stand in contrast to the radicalism of the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the core conservative values of the clerical elite…” Framed as such, Hamid Dabashi tries his best to hide the class nature of the struggle by limiting it to the sphere of culture and superstructure in general.

However, according to a May 2008 Business report in Gulf Daily News, “A luxury 1,400-square-metre penthouse sold recently for $21 million at $15,000 per square metre in swanky northern Tehran, while the average monthly salary of Iranians stands at $300 to $460.  Property prices there compete with upmarket neighbourhoods in Paris at a range of 60m to 100m rials per sqm ($6,500 to $10,700).  “You have to spend at least $1m to buy an apartment in northern Tehran where the average property is 200 sqm,” says real estate agent Ali Meshkini.”  Mr. Dabashi, to us Northern Tehran seems pretty “classy”.

Secondly, no one has claimed that a mass demonstration, albeit rough and tumble, is warfare.  The term “class warfare” is usually cried out in the halls of Congress by the most conservative U.S. senators, whenever issues are laid out that involve, however modest, demands of the American working class.  The use of the term in the classless society of Columbia University is intended to deny the existence of class altogether and secondly intimidate those who even speak of class interests and class conflict.  For Hamid Dabashi’s information, the use of “class” as an economic category is used daily in a less conservative school of higher education, like the Universitat Frankfurt am Main, in Germany.

Corporate Media and “Iran Experts”

Professor Dabashi is a turncoat.  Until recently he supported Iran’s right to nuclear technology, sovereignty, and independence.  When he appeared on ABC and CNN four different times and began attacking the Iranian government for its “repressive and bloody” response to “totally peaceful” demonstrators (at the same time covering his tracks by off-handedly mentioning that he knew there were ‘some individuals whose anger got the best of them and were not behaving peacefully’), he was fully aware that by characterizing the Islamic Republic with hot-button slanders used during the Bush Administration Axis of Evil days, terms as “oppressive, dictatorial, brutal, bloody, etc.), his views were in line with the U.S. foreign policy objectives of de-stabilizing the Islamic Republic.  People who knew Dabashi in the Palestinian movement were stunned and baffled at his complete turnaround, asking themselves “What has happened to this man?”

Individuals like Hamid Dabashi and certain Iranian historians like Ervand Abrahamian, who are brought to the front of the media’s cameras and are introduced as “Iran experts” have an important role to play that assists the system in carrying out its objectives.  It doesn’t matter that for all practical purposes, these professors have no followers or legitimacy among the Iranians in the U.S. in general, and certainly much less among Iranian masses inside Iran.  With the exception of infinitesimally small circles in academia, the common men and women have not heard the names of these “scholars” let alone are listening and acting upon their conjectures.

Mr. Dabashi’s prescription of “human rights”, which are devoid of any class content, solely pleases the pipers in the State Department and the liberal mass media, not excluding such layers of population as neo-liberals and neo-conservatives, who eternally seek to prove the supremacy of the U.S. liberal-democratic system of government.

These bourgeois intellectuals presume that by the force of their “expertise and position in the universities” and with a little assistance, financial or otherwise, from the official establishment and corporate-media backers, they will be empowered in cyberspace, to export their brand of human rights to Iran, not recognizing that the real battles among the social classes and within the organs of the government of the Islamic Republic are fought for much more worldly and tangible issues, namely taxes on profit, allocation of money for first-time home buyers or for builders in housing construction, offering salary increases to teachers, nurses and civil servants, division of the shares of the privatized state industrial and financial assets between workers or between the owners of capital, the level of rents, rent stabilization, monopoly of trades in control of a small number of domestic and foreign traders, which often contributes to higher rates of inflation rather than excess liquidity, etc.

What Factors Influence Price Levels and Inflation?

In other words, price levels come under the influence of many more factors, such as the sophistication of technology, the rate of labor productivity, the availability of materials, the expanse or dimensions of the market, the price of commodities imported and the value of the currency, than simply the volume of liquidity in the market.  To say that the price levels are simply a function of liquidity in the market is not understanding how under capitalism the prices are formed.  Unfortunately, many of these experts,  scholars, social analysts, historians and human rights advocates, do not have a basic understanding of the law of value.

Our esteemed professors may quickly retort that the “Green” masses either do not understand or they are not affected by these earthly issues, and are more interested in the concepts of “social freedoms and dressing choices, etc”.  Quite wrong, Professors!  Every thoughtful worker, farmer, shop-keeper and student and teacher in higher education will line up these issues in their conversations with Iranian American tourists visiting the country for even a short time. Our Western-educated intellectuals, especially historians, who pay very little or no attention to the subject of political economy and the evolution of social classes under capitalism and the essential requirements of normal life, make a caricature out of a real social movement.

–Ardeshir Ommani is an Iranian-born writer and an activist in the U.S. anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for over 40 years, including against the Vietnam War, and now the Iraq war. During the past seven years, he has participated in the U.S. peace movement, working to promote dialogue and peace among nations and to prevent a U.S.-spurred war on Iran. He holds two Masters Degrees: one in Political Economy and another in Mathematics Education.  Co-founder of the American Iranian Friendship Committee, (AIFC), he writes articles of analysis on Iran -U.S. relations, the U.S. economy and has translated articles and books from English into Farsi, the Persian language.

Anti-war gathering discusses Iran IAC leader says: ‘Don’t echo imperialist hypocrisy’

Anti-war gathering discusses Iran

IAC leader says: ‘Don’t echo imperialist hypocrisy’

By Sara Flounders
Jul 24, 2009

The following is based on a presentation by Flounders, a coordinator of the International Action Center, during a discussion of the latest events in Iran at the National Assembly anti-war conference held in Pittsburgh July 10-12.

If the U.S. government was interested in supporting democracy or in building respect for the will of the people in a democratic election, it should have started by respecting the outcome of the 2006 Palestinian election. The Palestinian people voted in large numbers, electing Hamas candidates to parliament with large enough votes to form the Palestinian government. In Gaza, Hamas had a total sweep.

The U.S./Israeli response was a starvation blockade of Gaza, a siege and then a brutal all-out war on the entire population. When the Israelis attacked Gaza last December and January, they killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, using U.S.-supplied weapons including white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

Now more than half of the elected members of the Palestinian Parliament are in Israeli prisons. Why is the corporate media not telling us day after day about this crime against democracy?

Don’t jump on capitalist bandwagon

We in the anti-war movement need to be especially careful not to jump on the bandwagon when the entire capitalist class, their media, the entire U.S. Congress, and numerous organizations that received direct U.S. funding from the so-called National Endowment for Democracy all speak with one voice in sudden defense of a cause.

Regardless of how legitimate, genuine and concerned some individuals may seem, this kind of overwhelming imperialist pressure will distort the struggle.

The U.S. corporate media is not interested in democracy even within the United States.

The whole focus and attention of progressive, anti-imperialist and workers’ struggles, especially here in the very center of imperialism, must be to defend all those who are targeted by the Pentagon, by the police and by the corporate media, which act as an extension of the state on issues of war and peace.

Repression in the U.S.

Just consider the mass raids, round-ups and deportations going on in immigrant communities in every major U.S. city. Think of the workers who never come home from work, the families that are ripped apart.

We cannot for a moment forget that this is the country with the largest prison population in the world, with the greatest number of people on death row. Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally famous journalist and human rights activist, has been on death row for decades, just 50 miles from where we are meeting here in western Pennsylvania.

When the corporate media raises their concern about “democracy” in Iran, we cannot forget the Black and Latina/o communities occupied by police. Nor the targeting of Muslim communities, which are overrun with snitches, spies and frame-ups.

We cannot forget the millions of working people who are losing their jobs, homes, health care and their future. They have no vote, no say and no control over who receives trillions of dollars in bailout money and who receives hot air. We cannot forget the police state that greets every bankers’ or international gathering, putting whole areas of cities in lock-down.

There is a certain imperialist arrogance when the corporate media, which hides the lack of democracy here in U.S., suddenly champions democracy in Iran with wall-to-wall and sympathetic coverage of demonstrations there.

Do we want our movement to be an echo of that hypocrisy? Don’t you wonder if there is another agenda? When has a demonstration in the U.S. against war or cutbacks, or for housing or human rights, ever received the kind of sympathetic coverage that we’ve seen in the last month of Iran?

Do we expect that the thousands of activists coming to Pittsburgh for the G20 summit protests will receive even 1 percent of the coverage that’s been given to demonstrations in Iran?

No women’s rights in U.S. client states

The whole world knows the name and face of the young Iranian woman Neda. But do we know the name of even one Iraqi woman killed by the invading U.S. Army? Can you tell me the name of one Palestinian woman killed by Israeli forces? Do we know the names of any Afghan or Pakistani women killed in a drone attack?

Do we know the name of the young Latina killed on the same day as Neda died in Iran, who was shot by border militia in Arizona? Why not?

Have U.S. wars and occupations brought democracy to countries they own and control through feudal monarchies and total dictatorships?

There are no rights for women, or for anyone today, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt or Jordan.

Nowhere in the world is U.S. imperialism a force for democracy or women’s rights. U.S. interventions bring millions of deaths, millions of orphans, millions of refugees, a whole sex industry, torture on a mass scale and massive impoverishment—but never democracy.

Of course everyone here already knows this. We know of three decades of wars, sanctions, encirclement, sabotage and coup attempts.

Don’t echo imperialist designs

A number of so-called human-rights groups that are funded by U.S.-government NED programs have called for demonstrations on July 25 in the name of “democracy in Iran.” Unfortunately, some anti-war groups have endorsed this U.S. government-funded demonstration. We want to use every skill to persuade our movement not to be pulled in by imperialist destabilization efforts and propaganda and to withdraw their participation.

There is a class struggle in Iran today. Yes, there is. But there is also a massive U.S.-government-sponsored destabilization effort. We cannot allow ourselves to become an echo of imperialist destabilization and interference in Iran. The group Stop War On Iran has called a meeting in New York for an extended discussion of this question on Aug. 1 at 55 West 17 Street at 4 p.m. See stopwaroniran.org for more details.

Left-wing cover for intervention?

Interview on Unusual Sources: Dustin Langley, an organizer with the Stop War on Iran Campaign, suggests that some activists are in danger of becoming left-wing cover for an intervention against Iran.

Anti-war movement debates Iran, the Middle East and U.S. wars

Anti-war movement debates Iran, the Middle East and U.S. wars

By John Catalinotto
Published Jul 20, 2009 9:30 PM

The conflict in Iran that opened up with the June presidential elections there has had an impact on the progressive and anti-imperialist movement worldwide, including in the United States. Misunderstanding the events has created some confusion in anti-war ranks. This is especially dangerous after Vice President Joe Biden on July 5 gave a virtual green light to an Israeli attack on Iran. The anti-war movement must stay alert to protest any move in that direction.

When very large crowds of people took to the streets in Tehran on June 15 to protest the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it appeared that this was an authentic popular movement, even if its strongest base was in the more affluent parts of the city.

Young people and women apparently were playing a large role in the protests. Some of the demands were for women’s rights and other democratic rights that were constrained by the religious political leadership of Iran’s revolution. It was easy for Western secular progressives to identify with the protests.

But some big questions remained.

If the protests were progressive, why did all the imperialist politicians in Europe and the United States and their corporate media take the sides of the opposition? This is especially strange since the key players in the opposition, the candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were themselves identified with the regime in the past. At the time, U.S. sources even charged Mousavi with responsibility for overseeing the 1983 blast in Lebanon that killed over 200 U.S. Marines, since he was Iran’s premier then.

Rafsanjani, who is one of the richest people in Iran, is associated with increased privatization of industry and banking and with opening friendlier relations with U.S. imperialism. This would necessarily include cutting back on support for the Hamas and Hezbollah liberation movements and perhaps for Syria, and increasing cooperation with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. How would privatization and cooperation with the U.S. increase democratic rights inside Iran?

A serious consideration of these questions must include an examination of U.S. imperialism’s goals regarding the entire Middle East and Central Asia. The George W. Bush administration used the 9/11 attack as a pretext to justify U.S. military aggression in the entire region—although the real goal was to conquer its world-important energy resources. A look at the news in the second week of July shows that this basic strategy remains in place.

U.S. troops still in Iraq

Some deceptive headlines gave the false impression that U.S. troops essentially withdrew from Iraq on June 30. Yet 134,000 troops remain in the country. They pulled out of 142 posts that were inside Iraqi cities, turning these posts over to Iraqi troops, but remain in 320 other posts around Iraq.

In some cases, rather than moving, the U.S. and Iraqi forces simply redefined the city boundaries, leaving the troops where they were. Such was the case with the U.S. Army’s Forward Operating Base Falcon, which used to be located inside Baghdad. Now, with a new boundary drawn, the 3,000 U.S. troops there are “outside” the city limits.

U.S. troops and higher paid mercenaries are expanding and improving their rural bases and even building new ones. Even if the Obama administration sticks to the announced timetable, at least 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq until at least the end of 2011. A war-spending bill the Democrat-controlled Congress just passed pours another $100 billion into the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. (Information from the website of Iraq expert Dahr Jamail—dahrjamailiraq.com)

Washington escalates war on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, U.S. troop levels have already grown to 57,000 and are set to rise to 68,000 during the year. According to McClatchy News Service, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said July 13 “that when he gives his assessment to the Obama administration next month of what is needed to defeat the Taliban, he won’t be deterred by administration statements that he cannot have more U.S. troops.”

Britain, too, has escalated its presence in Afghanistan, with the result that 15 British troops died in the two weeks ending July 13. The Afghan occupation is nominally under NATO command. European leaders have ignored popular anti-war sentiment to send troops to the Afghan front, basing their appeal on President Obama’s reviving U.S. popularity in Europe after Bush brought its ratings to an all-time low.

Support for the war is waning quickly as the casualties mount, in Britain as well as in the rest of Europe and Canada.

Even the New York Times has had to admit that the increased troop strength and military activity in Afghanistan, with an increase in civilian casualties, is helping recruiting by the Taliban and other resistance forces. (July 3)

Along with Afghanistan is increased U.S. intervention in Pakistan. Both drones and planes are sent to bomb and rocket alleged “insurgent” targets, while the Pentagon pushes the Pakistani regime to send its army into border areas. Both activities have increased civilian deaths and created millions of refugees inside Pakistan. They have also increased recruiting by opposition forces, some allied with the Afghan resistance.

U.S. policies in Palestine

Washington’s policy toward Palestine has been to continue support for the Israeli state, despite Israel’s refusal to even stop new settlements in the occupied West Bank and its brutal blockade of the Gaza territory. It is based on U.S. strategic interests in the region, which involve relying on the Israeli state as a weapon against any liberation movement or sovereign government in the region.

The U.S.-based media attacked the Iranian elections as fraudulent. But remember that in Palestine, Washington and Israel refused to recognize what they knew were honest elections that made Hamas the leading party in 2006. Since then the U.S.-Israeli alliance has used force and withheld aid to try to drive Hamas from office.

Washington hasn’t altered its basic policy of occupation and control since the replacement of the neo-con regime fronted by Bush. So it’s consistent with their past misdeeds that the corporate media and all imperialist politicians—at least in North America and Europe—have targeted the Iranian government over the elections and have praised the opposition demonstrations.

Whatever the motive of the protesters themselves in Tehran, the imperialists’ motive is to eliminate Iranian sovereignty and reverse the 1979 revolution.

N.E.D.-funded group calls anti-Iran protest

A group in the U.S. calling itself United 4 Iran has called for protests on July 25 targeting the Iranian government. It says this is in sympathy with the youth and women involved in opposition demonstrations there. The anti-imperialist Stop War on Iran group, in response, issued a statement exposing the connections of United 4 Iran with funding groups closely associated with U.S. foreign policy—like the National Endowment for Democracy—and argues against any support for these protests.

“U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s new public threat against Iran underlines the dangers of a new war in the Middle East and the desperate need for political clarity within the anti-war movement concerning Iran,” the SWOI statement begins.

“With his July 5 comments on ABC’s This Week, Biden opened the door to a military attack when he said that the U.S. would not stand in the way of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, calling such an attack Israel’s ‘sovereign right.’”

SWOI notes that some anti-war organizations have endorsed the United 4 Iran action, including United for Peace and Justice, and “urges them and other honest anti-war forces to reconsider their endorsement of the anti-Iran actions.”

SWOI urges everyone instead to “come out AGAINST current U.S. wars and the threats of a new war on the following week in a National Day of Coordinated Actions on Saturday, Aug. 1.” To read the full statement and/or to participate, see stopwaroniran.org.

U.S. imperialism: Hands off Iran

U.S. imperialism: Hands off Iran

The media’s focus shifted June 29 from Central Asia to Central America. The lies continued in the corporate media, only with fewer items on Iran, at least this side of the Atlantic. It still showed the power of the Big Lie—two Big Lies in this case, where an omnipresent media machine gives the impression that everyone believes something and therefore it must be true.

The first lie is that there was significant electoral fraud that stole the election for the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is no evidence that this is so. A landslide Ahmadinejad victory is consistent with earlier polls, with the strength of his political organization that held 60 meetings for him in every corner of Iran—his opponent only campaigned in the major cities—and his record in the 2005 election.

Iran has held 10 presidential elections since the 1979 revolution and elected six different presidents. The country has 46,000 polling places, with 14 poll workers—including the opposition—who watched each other quickly count the 860 ballots in each place and send in the totals to Tehran. These are uncomplicated ballots, with only four candidates for only one office—president. No chads. No misaligned names. Compared to Florida in 2000 Iran is above suspicion.

In addition, Ahmadinejad and his opponents, including his main opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi, are all part of the Iranian governing power structure. All of them have allies in powerful positions. A massive fraud under those conditions would be virtually impossible.

To top it off, as a concession to those Iranians who believed in fraud because their candidate lost, the top electoral body held a recount of 10 percent of the ballots on television for all to see, the ballot places chosen at random throughout the country. When Ahmadinejad was ahead by about the same amount as in the election, it was past time to call the election over. And they did.

Remember Florida? A group of right-wing Republicans, mainly counter-revolutionary Cubans of Dade County, counted behind closed doors. Rather than challenging this real electoral fraud—and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of African Americans—Al Gore avoided an open battle among the ruling-class parties and instead threw the election to the Supreme Court. He lost. George W. Bush won.

Washington has no business lecturing the Islamic Republic on alleged electoral fraud.

The second point of exaggeration involves charges of state repression against demonstrators. For context, however, consider two of Iran’s neighbors. Over the eastern border lies Afghanistan, to the southwest, Iraq.

Bush, U.S. president by fraud, presided over an invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in March 2003. The occupations have continued.

Over a million Iraqis have been killed, some in battles with the U.S., some in battles with the puppet regime or death squads, many by state repression. Maybe 4 million of the 25 million Iraqis are refugees. The country has been left in ruins. When the Pentagon pulled U.S. troops out of the cities June 30, even the U.S. puppet regime celebrated.

A similar story applies for Afghanistan. Even the puppet regime of Hamid Karzai complained that the U.S. was slaughtering his own police, not to speak of the regular killing of civilians.

Washington has no business lecturing Tehran about state repression.

And no one, whatever their opinion of the Iranian government, or their sympathies with women’s struggle for equality or workers’ right to organize, has any business adopting the Big Lies of the imperialist media. Anyone against colonialism and the subjugation of peoples and nations must say first and foremost: “U.S. imperialism, hands off Iran!”

A Footnote: United4Iran

A Footnote
United4Iran

By RON JACOBS

from Counterpunch

On July 14, 2009, CounterPunch published on this site an article by me titled “Protest U.S. Aggression” that concerned international protests scheduled for July 25, called to express solidarity with the Iranian people who are protesting the election results and police repression in that country. In my article, I cited questions being raised as to whether the sponsoring group, which calls itself United4Iran, has connections to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or other US organizations engaged in propaganda operations like those of the NED. I did not make this claim myself, but some readers mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that I had.

What I did write was that one of the organizers of United4Iran, Hadi Ghaemi, had once sat on the advisory board of the National Iranian-American Council, a lobbying group that did accept over $250,000 in NED funding. In a phone conversation I had with Ghaemi on July 23,, he wanted to make it absolutely clear that he had never received any funding from any US government agency or NED. He also stated that his organization, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has never received any funding from these types of organizations. Furthermore, according to Ghaemi and other sources, United4Iran receives all of its funding from the people involved or through their own public fundraising. Ghaemi stressed that on its website United4Iran states it is “opposed to any foreign interference or military attack on Iran.”

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize Protest U.S. Aggression

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Protest U.S. Aggression

By RON JACOBS

from Counterpunch

Should the US antiwar movement be attending rallies sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) claiming to support the opposition movement in Iran? According to the group Stop War on Iran, this is exactly what United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and other antiwar groups are doing. If so, are they really supporting the leftist and progressive elements of that opposition or are they naively providing cover for those in the United States power elites who would love to see a regime friendly to Washington ruling in Tehran? Recently, UFPJ urged its members to attend rallies called by a group that goes by the name of United for Iran on July 25, 2009. While I believe the intentions of the antiwar organizations calling on folks to join these protests come from a genuine desire to see an end to the Tehran government’s repression, the fact that some of the Iranian dissident groups in Iran and in exile take their money and guidance from the NED and other US-propaganda operations compromises the antiwar groups’ position.

An even closer connection between the NED funds and the group United for Iran is that of the apparent US organizer of the United for Iran rallies, Hadi Ghaemi. Mr. Ghaemi is is the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. This group is a project of the Dutch Foundation for Human Security in the Middle East. More important as regards his NED connection is Ghaemi’s role as a former board member of the National Iranian American Council, which has received over a quarter million dollars in NED grants. While this is not an indictment of the desire for greater freedoms in Iran expressed by Ghaemi and his organization, one would think these connections would give pause to a US antiwar group whose leadership knows only too well the role groups funded by the NED and other US special funds played in the period leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The last time I wrote a piece regarding the NED, some readers wrote me asking what was wrong with this organization. To answer them, I quoted former CIA agent Philip Agee, who certainly knew a good deal about the true nature of Washington’s concern for democracy in nations it considers enemies. “In November 1983,” said Agee. “Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy and gave it an initial $18.8 million for building civil society abroad during the fiscal year ending September 30, 1984…Whereas the CIA had previously funneled money through a complex network of `conduits,’ the NED would now become a `mega-conduit’ for getting U.S. government money to the same array of non-governmental organizations that the CIA had been funding secretly…. There is really nothing private about it, and all its money comes from the Congress. ” NED and similar organizations are not interested in democracy as much as they are interested in maintaining and expanding US imperialism.

In addition to the NED funds are $20 million in USAID funds provided under George Bush to fund Iranian dissidents that meet Washington’s criteria. Despite the belief by many US citizens that USAID is a government organization designed to help locals in other countries, it has served as a front for CIA activities from Laos to Venezuela and is part of the effort to rebuild Fallujah into a tightly-controlled hamlet after the US military destroyed the Iraqi city in 2004. Now, United for Iran may be free of any NED or CIA taint. There may be no connection between any of its members and the Congressionally-approved funds that Mr. Obama talked about a few weeks ago. However, given the long term desire of the US government to destroy the Iranian revolution and insure the installment of a regime friendly to Washington back in Tehran should be more than enough to give US antiwar groups pause.

The recent protests in Iran were a hopeful sign. Indeed, many groups across the political spectrum considered them to be monumental in their impact. While their actual impact is yet to be determined, the fact that the original protests seemed to have been mostly spontaneous and without the taint of foreign meddling proved that the Iranian people continue to believe in their political power. As most readers know, later protests were blocked and attacked by the police and other groups. However, if one reads some commentators, they might come away assuming that this repression was unusual and specific to the theocrats in Iran. Such an assumption is naturally untrue. In fact, while I watched the coverage on CNN and the internet, I was reminded of the police response to the protests in Seattle in 1999 against the WTO. Pictures from those protests certainly rivaled those coming out of Iran in terms of police violence. For a more recent example, one need only look at the total repression of the antiwar protests in Minneapolis during the Republican Party convention in 2008. Participants in those protests came back telling stories of police beatings of protesters, preventive detention, and a police presence so intimidating that many protesters decided to stay home. The only thing missing were the shootings.

It is appropriate that the US antiwar movement should be concerned about the repression of protests in Iran. However, the bottom line is that the antiwar movement in the United States should be focusing on demanding that the government in Washington end the wars it is currently waging. Equally important is opposing threats of war against Iran from Washington and Tel Aviv. By helping to organize protests against the repressive actions of the Iranian government instead of focusing on ending the wars of Washington, UFPJ and other antiwar supporters of the United for Iran rallies are not only minimizing the aggression of Washington, they are tacitly providing cover for that aggression.

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

IAC leader says: ‘Don’t echo imperialist hypocrisy’

Anti-war gathering discusses Iran

IAC leader says: ‘Don’t echo imperialist hypocrisy’

By Sara Flounders
Published Jul 24, 2009 7:33 PM

The following is based on a presentation by Flounders, a coordinator of the International Action Center, during a discussion of the latest events in Iran at the National Assembly anti-war conference held in Pittsburgh July 10-12.

If the U.S. government was interested in supporting democracy or in building respect for the will of the people in a democratic election, it should have started by respecting the outcome of the 2006 Palestinian election. The Palestinian people voted in large numbers, electing Hamas candidates to parliament with large enough votes to form the Palestinian government. In Gaza, Hamas had a total sweep.

The U.S./Israeli response was a starvation blockade of Gaza, a siege and then a brutal all-out war on the entire population. When the Israelis attacked Gaza last December and January, they killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, using U.S.-supplied weapons including white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

Now more than half of the elected members of the Palestinian Parliament are in Israeli prisons. Why is the corporate media not telling us day after day about this crime against democracy?

Don’t jump on capitalist bandwagon

We in the anti-war movement need to be especially careful not to jump on the bandwagon when the entire capitalist class, their media, the entire U.S. Congress, and numerous organizations that received direct U.S. funding from the so-called National Endowment for Democracy all speak with one voice in sudden defense of a cause.

Regardless of how legitimate, genuine and concerned some individuals may seem, this kind of overwhelming imperialist pressure will distort the struggle.

The U.S. corporate media is not interested in democracy even within the United States.

The whole focus and attention of progressive, anti-imperialist and workers’ struggles, especially here in the very center of imperialism, must be to defend all those who are targeted by the Pentagon, by the police and by the corporate media, which act as an extension of the state on issues of war and peace.

Repression in the U.S.

Just consider the mass raids, round-ups and deportations going on in immigrant communities in every major U.S. city. Think of the workers who never come home from work, the families that are ripped apart.

We cannot for a moment forget that this is the country with the largest prison population in the world, with the greatest number of people on death row. Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally famous journalist and human rights activist, has been on death row for decades, just 50 miles from where we are meeting here in western Pennsylvania.

When the corporate media raises their concern about “democracy” in Iran, we cannot forget the Black and Latina/o communities occupied by police. Nor the targeting of Muslim communities, which are overrun with snitches, spies and frame-ups.

We cannot forget the millions of working people who are losing their jobs, homes, health care and their future. They have no vote, no say and no control over who receives trillions of dollars in bailout money and who receives hot air. We cannot forget the police state that greets every bankers’ or international gathering, putting whole areas of cities in lock-down.

There is a certain imperialist arrogance when the corporate media, which hides the lack of democracy here in U.S., suddenly champions democracy in Iran with wall-to-wall and sympathetic coverage of demonstrations there.

Do we want our movement to be an echo of that hypocrisy? Don’t you wonder if there is another agenda? When has a demonstration in the U.S. against war or cutbacks, or for housing or human rights, ever received the kind of sympathetic coverage that we’ve seen in the last month of Iran?

Do we expect that the thousands of activists coming to Pittsburgh for the G20 summit protests will receive even 1 percent of the coverage that’s been given to demonstrations in Iran?

No women’s rights in U.S. client states

The whole world knows the name and face of the young Iranian woman Neda. But do we know the name of even one Iraqi woman killed by the invading U.S. Army? Can you tell me the name of one Palestinian woman killed by Israeli forces? Do we know the names of any Afghan or Pakistani women killed in a drone attack?

Do we know the name of the young Latina killed on the same day as Neda died in Iran, who was shot by border militia in Arizona? Why not?

Have U.S. wars and occupations brought democracy to countries they own and control through feudal monarchies and total dictatorships?

There are no rights for women, or for anyone today, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt or Jordan.

Nowhere in the world is U.S. imperialism a force for democracy or women’s rights. U.S. interventions bring millions of deaths, millions of orphans, millions of refugees, a whole sex industry, torture on a mass scale and massive impoverishment—but never democracy.

Of course everyone here already knows this. We know of three decades of wars, sanctions, encirclement, sabotage and coup attempts.

Don’t echo imperialist designs

A number of so-called human-rights groups that are funded by U.S.-government NED programs have called for demonstrations on July 25 in the name of “democracy in Iran.” Unfortunately, some anti-war groups have endorsed this U.S. government-funded demonstration. We want to use every skill to persuade our movement not to be pulled in by imperialist destabilization efforts and propaganda and to withdraw their participation.

There is a class struggle in Iran today. Yes, there is. But there is also a massive U.S.-government-sponsored destabilization effort. We cannot allow ourselves to become an echo of imperialist destabilization and interference in Iran. The group Stop War On Iran has called a meeting in New York for an extended discussion of this question on Aug. 1 at 55 West 17 Street at 4 p.m. See stopwaroniran.org for more details.

Some observations on the Iranian presidential election and its aftermath

By Phil Wilayto

June 13, 2009

As the world watches, massive demonstrations in Iran – some say the largest since the 1979 Revolution – are denouncing the results of the June 12 presidential election. Official announcements that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad garnered nearly 63 percent of the vote are being met with cries of “fraud” by supporters of his principal challenger, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein.

While there’s still time to rationally look at the elections, I’d like to offer a few observations.

The dominant view among Western commentators, as well as some progressive members of the Iranian diaspora, is that Mousavi is a “reformer” who favors loosening restrictions on civil liberties within Iran, while being more open to a less hostile relationship with the West. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, is described as a “hardliner” who demagogically appeals to the poor, while making deliberately provocative statements about the United States and Israel in order to bolster his standing in the Islamic world.

In my opinion, both of the above characterizations are superficial. The fundamental contradiction between the two leading candidates has to do with their respective bases of support and, more importantly, their different approaches to the economy.

Ahmadinejad, himself born into rural poverty, clearly has the support of the poorer classes, especially in the countryside, where nearly half the population lives. Why? In part because he pays attention to them, makes sure they receive some benefits from the government and treats them and their religious views and traditions with respect. Mousavi, on the other hand, the son of an urban merchant, clearly appeals more to the urban middle classes, especially the college-educated youth. This being so, why would anyone be surprised that Ahmadinejad carried the vote by a clear majority? Are there now more yuppies in Iran than poor people?

Why is there so little discussion of the issue of class in this election? Is it because so many professional and semi-professional commentators on Iran are themselves from the same class as Mousavi’s supporters, and so instinctively identify with them? Myself, I’m a worker, and a former union organizer. When I watched the videos and viewed the photos of the pro-Mousavi rallies in Tehran and other cities, I didn’t feel elated – I felt a chill. To me, this didn’t look like a liberal reform movement, it felt like a movement whose real target is a government that exercises a “preferential option for the poor,” to use the words of Christian liberation theology.

How about the economy?

A big issue in Iran –  virtually never discussed in the U.S. media – is how to interpret Article 44 of the country’s constitution. That article states that the economy must consist of three sectors: state-owned, cooperative and private, and that “all large-scale and mother industries” are to be entirely owned by the state. This includes the oil and gas industries, which provide the government with the majority of its revenue. This is what enables the government, in partnership with the large charity foundations, to fund the vast social safety net that allows the country’s poor to live much better lives than they did under the U.S.-installed Shah.

In 2004, Article 44 was amended to allow for some privatization. Just how much, and how swiftly that process should proceed, is a fundamental dividing line in Iranian politics. Mousavi has promised to speed up the privatization process. And when he first announced he would run for the presidency, he called for moving away from an “alms-based “ economy (PressTV, 4/13/09), an obvious reference to Ahmadinejad’s policies of providing services and benefits to the poor.

In addition to their different class bases and approaches to the economy, Ahmadinejad presents an uncompromising front against the West, and especially against the U.S. government. This is a source of great national pride, and has produced some positive results. For example, President Obama has now actually admitted, at least in part, that it was the U.S. that in 1953 overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

The whole idea that tossing Ahmadinejad out of office would make it easier to change U.S. policy toward Iran is, in my opinion, very naive. Was Dr. Mossadegh a crazy demagogue? No, but he did lead the movement to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. If Mousavi, as president, were to strongly state that he would refuse to consider any surrender of Iran’s sovereign right to develop nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, that he would continue to support the resistance organizations Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, that he would continue to try and increase Iran’s political role in the Middle East, and that he would defend state ownership of the oil and gas industries, would the Western media portray him as a reasonable man?

Further, there’s the nature of Mousavi’s election campaign. Obama called it a “robust”  debate, which it certainly was, and a good refutation of the lie that Iran has no democracy. But it is also a political movement, one capable of drawing large crowds out into the streets, ready to engage in street battles with the president’s supporters and now the police.

Is it possible that the U.S. government, its military and its 16 intelligence agencies are piously standing on the sidelines of this developing conflict, respecting Iran’s right to work out its internal differences on its own? Could we expect that approach from the same government that still maintains its own 30-year sanctions against Iran, is responsible for three sets of U.N.-imposed sanctions, annually spends $70-90 million to fund “dissident” organizations within Iran and, according to the respected investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, actually has U.S. military personnel on the ground within Iran, supporting terrorist organizations like the Jundallah and trying to foment armed rebellions against the government?

The point has been made that U.S. neocons were hoping for an Ahmadinejad victory, on the theory that he makes a convenient target for Iran-bashers. But the neocons are no longer in power in Washington. They got voted out of office and are back to writing position papers for right-wing think tanks. We now have a “pragmatic” administration, one that would like to first dialog with the countries it seeks to control.

I think what is important to realize is that Washington wasn’t just hoping for a “reform”  candidate to win the election – it’s been hoping for an anti-government movement that looks to the West for its political and economic inspiration. Mousavi backer and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is a free-market advocate and businessman whom Forbes magazine includes in its list of the world’s richest people. Does Rafsanjani identify with or seek to speak for the poor? Does Mousavi?

What kind of Iran are the Mousavi forces really hoping to create? And why is Washington – whose preference for “democracy” is trumped every time by its insatiable appetite for raw materials, cheap labor, new markets and endless profits – so sympathetic to the “reform” movements in Iran and in every other country whose people have nationalized its own resources?

Would Iran be better off with a president who, instead of qualifying everything he says about the Holocaust, just came out directly and said, “Look, there’s no question that millions of Jewish people were murdered in a campaign of genocide, but how does that justify creating a Jewish state on land that is the ancestral home of the Palestinians?” That would certainly make the job of anti-war activists much easier – and if you look hard enough, you can find something close to those words in Ahmadinejad’s statements.

But it wouldn’t be enough. The U.S. government and its complementary news media would just find another hook on which to hang their demonization of Iran and its government.

The days ahead promise to be challenging ones for all those who oppose war, sanctions and interference in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As we pursue that work, it would be good not to get caught up in what is sure to be a tsunami of criticism of a government trying to resolve a crisis that in all likelihood is not entirely homegrown.

Phil Wilayto is the editor of The Virginia Defender newspaper and author of “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic.” (See www.DefendersFJE.org/dpi) He can be reached at: DefendersFJE@hotmail.com

© 2009 by Phil Wilayto – Permission granted for republication, with attribution.

Who killed Neda Agha-Soltan?

Jun 24, 2009

Consider this scenario:

A CIA-trained sharpshooter takes position on a rooftop in Tehran. His contact on the street below, waiting with a camera, calls. “She just got out of the car. A perfect target.”

He takes aim. Shoots. He disappears.

On the street, the contact takes the video of the young woman, her face visible and unscarred, helped by people on the street around her, bleeding to death.

Within an hour, the video arrives to an Iranian contact in the Netherlands, to the BBC, to the Voice of America. It becomes part of a much bigger story.

Is that what happened to Neda Agha-Soltan? We admit it. We don’t know. But you don’t know either. And the story outlined above is—if anything—more reasonable and more believable than the story spread and repeated ad infinitum by the powerful Western media propaganda machine.

The young woman, whoever she sympathized with, was in no confrontation with the authorities. Nor with paramilitary forces. She was away from the main demonstration. Why, when there were no significant gunfights and no big fighting in the area, would any state official, police or army, shoot an unarmed woman who wasn’t even at the protest and who had no political history?

How was it that the photographer had contact with the media most closely connected with the intelligence forces of the two major former colonial powers in Iran—Britain and the U.S.?

Coincidences happen. But here a lot happened at once. Was someone behind it?

What we can be sure of is that the corporate media based in the imperialist countries are powerful weapons that in times of crisis sow confusion among the masses and mobilize public opinion in support of the rulers and to demonize the oppressed and exploited.

In these times of the Internet, we have to remember that disinformation spreads with the same lightning speed as information.

Oil and social gains: WHY U.S. IS TARGETING IRAN

By Sara Flounders

StopWarOnIran.org

“The forces opposing Washington’s policy of endless war–whether waged through sanctions, coups, invasions, bombings or sabotage–should stand with Iran, recognize its accomplishments, defend its gains and oppose imperialism’s efforts to

re-colonize the country.”

Why is Iran increasingly a target of U.S. threats? Who in Iran will be affected if the Pentagon implements plans, already drawn up, to strike more than 10,000 targets in the first hours of a U.S. air barrage on Iran?

What changes in policy is Washington demanding of the Iranian government?

In the face of the debacle U.S. imperialism is facing in Iraq, U.S. threats against Iran are discussed daily. This is not a secret operation. They can’t be considered idle threats.

Two aircraft carriers–USS Eisenhower and USS Stennis–are still off the coast of Iran, each one accompanied by a carrier strike group containing Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, electronic warfare aircraft, anti-submarine and refueler planes, and airborne command-and-control planes. Six guided-missile destroyers are also part of the armada.

Besides this vast array of firepower, the Pentagon has bases throughout the Middle East able to attack Iran with cruise missiles and hundreds of warplanes.

In fact, the U.S. is already engaged in a war on Iran. Ever-tightening sanctions, from both the U.S. and U.N., restrict trade and the ordering of equipment, spare parts and supplies.

Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker magazine a year ago that U.S. special operations forces were already operating inside Iran in preparation for a possible attack. U.S.-backed covert operatives had entered Iran to organize sabotage, car bombings, kidnappings and attacks on civilians, to collect targeting data and to foment anti-government ethnic-minority groups.

News articles have reported in recent months that the Pentagon has drawn up plans for a military blitz that would strike 10,000 targets in the first day of attacks. The aim is to destroy not just military targets but also airports, rail lines, highways, bridges, ports, communication centers, power grids, industrial centers, hospitals and public buildings.

It is important to understand internal developments in Iran today in order to understand why this country is the focus of such continued hatred by U.S. corporate power.

Every leading U.S. political figure has weighed in on the issue, from George W. Bush, who has the power to order strikes, to Hillary Clinton, who has made her support for an attack on Iran clear, to John McCain, who answered a reporter’s question on policy toward Iran by chanting “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ song, “Barbara Ann.” The media–from the New York Times to the Washington Post to banner headlines in the tabloid press to right-wing radio talk shows–are playing a role in preparing the public for an attack.

The significance of oil production and oil reserves in Iran is well known. Every news article, analysis or politician’s threat makes mention of Iran’s oil. But the impact of Iran’s nationalization of its oil resources is not well known.

The corporate owners in the U.S. want to keep it a secret from the people here. They use all the power of their media to demonize the Iranian leadership and caricature and ridicule the entire population, their culture and religion.

What’s been achieved?

The focus of media coverage here is to describe Iran as medieval, backward and feudal while somehow becoming a nuclear power.

It is never mentioned that more than half the university students in Iran are women, or that more than a third of the doctors, 60 percent of civil servants and 80 percent of all teachers in Iran are women. At the time of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, 90 percent of rural women were illiterate; in towns the figure was over 45 percent.

Also ignored is the stunning achievement of full literacy for Iranian youth.

Even the World Bank, now headed by Bush’s neocon appointee Paul Wolfowitz, in its development report on countries admits that Iran has exceeded the social gains of other countries in the Middle East.

According to that report, Iran has made the most progress in eliminating gender disparities in education. Large numbers of increasingly well-educated women have entered the work force.

Iran’s comprehensive social protection system includes the highest level of pensions, disability insurance, job training programs, unemployment insurance and disaster-relief programs. National subsidies make basic food, housing and energy affordable to all.

An extensive national network going from primary health and preventive care to sophisticated hospital care covers the entire population, both urban and rural. More than 16,000 “health houses” are the cornerstone of the health care system. Using simple technology, they provide vaccines, preventive care, care for respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, family planning and contraceptive information, and pre-natal care. And they monitor children’s nutrition and general health.

Since 1990, Iran nearly halved the infant mortality rate and increased life expectancy by 10 years.

Iran sets record in family planning

A national family planning program, delivered through the primary health care facilities and accompanied by a dramatic increase in contraceptive use, which is approved by Islamic law, has led to a world record demographic change in family size and maternal and child health. All forms of contraception are now available for free.

In addition promoting women’s education and employment, while extending social security and retirement benefits, has alleviated the pressure to have many children to protect security as parents grow older. The fertility rate between 1976 and 2000 declined from 8.1 births per woman to 2.4 births in rural areas and 1.8 births in urban areas.

These social programs, which cover the entire population of almost 70 million people, should be compared to conditions in countries in the region that remain under U.S. military and economic domination.

In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, only a tiny part of the population has benefited from the vast profits generated by oil and gas resources. In each of these countries the bulk of the people are not even considered citizens. Millions are immigrant workers, usually the overwhelming majority of the population, who have no rights to any representation, participation or any social, health or educational programs or union protection.

Women in these countries face much more than religious restrictions on clothing. They are barred from jobs, equal education and the right to control their own bodies or their own funds. They cannot vote or even drive a car.

In Iraq, which before U.S. attacks began in 1991 had some of the best conditions in the region for women, plus a high level of education, health, nutrition and social services, the conditions of life have now deteriorated to the level of the very poorest countries in the world. Legislation passed by the U.S.-installed puppet government has stripped women of rights that were guaranteed earlier.

Revolution made it all possible

The social gains of millions of Iranians are based on the upsurge of the Iranian masses in the 1979 revolution. The overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah and the Pahlavi dynasty broke the hold of U.S. corporate power in Iran.

The Iranian Revolution was not a socialist revolution. Bourgeois rights to own businesses, land, wealth and inheritance are still protected by law and by the state apparatus.

But the greatest source of wealth–Iran’s oil and gas–was nationalized. Nationalization means the transfer of privately owned assets and operations into public ownership. The exploration, drilling, maintenance, transport, refining and shipping of oil and gas became the national property of the Iranian people. Formerly this entire process was controlled at every step by Western imperialists, particularly U.S. and British corporations.

Most of the administrators, executives, technicians and engineers who controlled the process used to be from the West. Through hundreds of thousands of contracts and sub-contracts, U.S. and British firms extracted a profit not just through the sale of oil on the world markets but at every step of its extraction and refining. The small portion of profit the Shah’s government received, as in the Gulf States today, was spent on luxury items imported from Western corporations for the small ruling elite and on infrastructure and weapons systems purchased from U.S. military corporations, again at an enormous profit.

The 1979 Iranian revolution, even though it brought a religious group to power, was a profoundly radical and anti-imperialist revolution. Demonstrations of millions openly confronted the brutally repressive police apparatus called the Savak, who protected the small handful of corrupt U.S. collaborators. Religious fervor, demands for social justice and militant anti-imperialism were bound together in opposition to the U.S.-imposed Shah and the Pahlavi royal family, which was hated for its program of a glitzy modernization of the urban infrastructure alongside the growing impoverishment of both urban and rural workers, farmers and much of the middle class.

All classes of society were profoundly shaken as millions of revolutionary workers took to the streets. This was reflected not only in laws passed in Parliament but in the Iranian constitution itself. The constitution states that the government is required to provide every citizen with access to social security for retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, health and medical treatment–out of public revenue.

Prior to the revolution Iran had a shortage of medical staff and of trained personnel of every kind. During the upheaval of the revolution and the years of the Iran-Iraq war, many physicians, scientific and skilled personnel emigrated.

Having broken free of U.S. corporate domination and control of its resources, Iran was able to develop education, industry and infrastructure with unprecedented speed. By 2004 the number of university students had increased by six times over 1979. There are currently 2.2 million college students. The largest and most prestigious programs encompass 54 state universities and 42 state medical schools where tuition, room and board are totally free. In addition, 289 major private universities also receive substantial funding.

Millions of scientists, engineers, technicians, administrators, military officers, teachers, civil servants and doctors have been trained.

Today Iran boasts modern cities, a large auto industry, and miles of new roads, railroads and subways. Currently 55 Iranian pharmaceutical companies produce 96 percent of the medicines on the market in Iran. This allows a national insurance system to reimburse drug expenses.

Soon to become operational is the largest pharmaceutical complex in southwest Asia, which will produce compound drugs, making Iran a pioneer in biotechnology.

Years of U.S. sanctions and pressure on international financial institutions have had an unexpected result: Iran is free of the crippling debt that has strangled so many developing countries. According to World Bank figures, Iran’s external debt is one of the lowest for its size: $11.9 billion, or 8.8 percent of the GDP. From the point of view of the imperialist world bankers, this means the loss of many billions each year in interest payments to them.

Different approaches

Since 1979 there have been deep struggles inside Iran over how to deal with the unrelenting pressure of the imperialist powers. There are differing approaches on developments plans and who is favored or benefits most from these plans. But all of the present forces are committed to maintaining Iran’s control of its resources.

Iran is not a monolithic state. No state is or could be. There are contending groups even within the Muslim clergy that reflect different economic interests and class forces. This is true also in the Iranian Parliament and among various political parties and leaders.

Under President Mohammed Khatami, from 1997 to 2005, a “Reform Movement” eased religious and social restrictions. But it also allowed the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies, structural reforms and the de-nationalizing or privatizing of some social programs along with the cutting of subsidies. More joint ventures were initiated with European and Japanese capital. Programs that benefited the “private sector” or the wealthy and the middle class grew. This was the core of Khatami’s base.

The current leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s first non-cleric president in 24 years, was elected in 2005 in a landslide victory after promising to extend social security and pensions, improve the subsidies for food and housing, deal with rising unemployment and guarantee a monthly stipend.

The Iranian people are determined to protect the substantial gains they have made since the revolution. They are not interested in any effort that turns the clock back.

A Wall Street Journal Commentary by Francis Fukuyama on Feb. 1 was unusually frank in explaining the growing problem faced by U.S. corporate power on a global scale:

“What is it that leaders like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have in common that vastly increases their local appeal? A foreign policy built around anti-Americanism is, of course, a core component. But what has allowed them to win elections and build support in their societies is less their foreign-policy stances than their ability to promise, and to a certain extent deliver on, social policy–things like education, health and other social services, particularly for the poor….

“The U.S. and the political groups that it tends to support around the world, by contrast, have relatively little to offer in this regard.”

Past and new threats

Iran’s program for nuclear power was actually initiated by the U.S. when the Shah held dictatorial power. Nuclear energy is an important part of modern industrial development. It is important in science, medicine and research. Only after the overthrow of the Shah was Iran’s continued development of the same program branded a threat by Washington.

The U.S. government has made every effort to sabotage all Iranian infrastructure and industrial development, not only nuclear energy. Modern technology–from elevators to cars, ships, jet aircraft and oil refineries–needs constant upkeep. Parts for the re-supply and maintenance of equipment the Iranians had purchased over decades from U.S. corporations were halted.

The most onerous sanctions were imposed in 1995 during the Clinton administration.

The Iranian people, despite many different political currents, are united in their determination not to lose their national sovereignty again. Washington’s past use of sanctions, economic sabotage, political destabilization and regime change is well remembered in Iran today.

Sanctions, the freezing of assets and an embargo on the export of Iranian oil and all trade with Iran were first imposed in March 1951, after Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Iran was the first country in the Middle East to take the bold step of reclaiming its national wealth in the post-colonial era.

In 1953 using internal destabilization and massive external pressure, the CIA orchestrated the overthrow of Mossadegh’s popularly elected government and placed the Shah on the Peacock Throne. Oil was back under the control of the U.S. and Britain, and 26 years of brutal repression followed.

Ever since the 1979 revolution and the decisive overthrow of the U.S.-supported military dictatorship, Iran has had not a moment of peace from the Pentagon or Wall Street.

As Iran continues to grow and develop, U.S. imperialism is becoming increasingly desperate to reverse this revolutionary process, whether through sanctions, sabotage or bombing. But today it faces a population that is stronger, more conscious and more skilled. On a world scale U.S. imperialism is more isolated. Its hated occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has left it overextended.

But the Pentagon is still capable of massive destruction. Its bases surround Iran and it has sent an armada of ships to the Gulf. U.S. government threats against Iran today must be taken as seriously as their devastating occupation of Iraq.

The forces opposing Washington’s policy of endless war–whether waged through sanctions, coups, invasions, bombings or sabotage–should stand with Iran, recognize its accomplishments, defend its gains and oppose imperialism’s efforts to re-colonize the country.

Sources of information about Iran’s social development include: “Iran’s Family Planning Program: Responding to a Nation’s Needs,” by Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi, Population Reference Bureau, Washington, D.C., June 2002; “Tehran University Official Describes Iran Health Care System to Harvard School of Public Health,” HSPH NOW, Jan. 24, 2003; World Bank.org–Iran–Country Brief; UNICEF–Info by Country; Food & Agriculture Organization of UN–Nutrition–Country Profiles; “Biggest Pharmaceutical Plant to Open Soon,” Iran Daily, Feb. 4, 2007.

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Does a Bush ‘October surprise’ await Iran?

from the Independent:

Bill Kristol, editor of the Murdoch owned neocon house journal the Weekly Standard says Bush is more likely to attack Iran if he believes Barack Obama is going to be elected.

Speaking on Sunday to Fox News’ Chris Wallace he said, “If the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out,” before suggesting Bush might move more quickly if he thought Obama was going to win. Wallace then asked if Kristol was suggesting that Bush might “launch a military strike” before or after the election. Watch it

full article

Israel’s October Surprise?

from the Huffington Post:

Not according to many Israeli analysts who believe that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks “unavoidable.” This statement was also shared by Iranian-born former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who said in an interview to Israel’s largest newspaper Yedioth Ahranot, “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective.” He also said that Israel has the means and capabilities to succeed in such a mission.

full article

Saturday, September 27, 12 Noon Times Sq

Dear Friends:

As many of you know, the Bush Administration, with the support of politicians from both parties in Congress, has repeatedly threatened Iran with military action, and many now believe that an attack may be imminent.  The Stop War on Iran campaign has issued an international call for actions on September 27.

We’re writing to ask for your help; the only force that can stop another brutal U.S. war is a massive outpouring of grassroots opposition.

It is time to turn up the heat! We must act now – As more U.S. warships are deploying to the Persian Gulf, we have to mobilize to stop an “October Surprise” attack on Iran, or any other country.

Please join us in the streets on September 27!

How you can help:

  • Saturday, September 20, 12 noon – Join us for outreach – help get the word out.    Meet at the Solidarity Center – 55 W. 17th St., 5th Floor.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 23-24, 2 pm – 8 pm – Work sessions.  Help prepare placards, banners, and other materials for September 27.
  • Tuesday, September 23 – Join the Stop War on Iran campaign at the UN, as President Bush is speaking.  Converge at: 8:30 AM at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza  (E. 47th St,, between 1st and 2nd Ave.)  Sponsors include: World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime, Code Pink-NYC, Troops Out Now Coalition, Grandmothers Against the War, International Action Center,Military Families Speak Out-NYC, MDS-SI, and Granny Peace Brigade.
  • Now – Download leaflets and help get the word out: NYC1 NYC2
  • Saturday, September 27 – join us in Times Square at 12 noon to say “Stop War on Iran!”


Please help build a grassroots campaign to Stop War on Iran
http://stopwaroniran.org/donate.shtml


Endorse the Call to Action for September 27 at
http://www.stopwaroniran.org/sept272008endorse.shtml

List your local action at
http://www.stopwaroniran.org/sept272008volorgcent.shtml

Sign the Petition at http://stopwaroniran.org/petition.shtml

Make an Emergency Donation at http://stopwaroniran.org/donate.shtml

Tell a Friend
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Sign up for updates
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