Archive for the ‘Oil’ Category
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.”
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>
August 8, 2008
Sorcha Faal / What Does It Mean & Adam Gonn / The Jerusalem Post
Reports from the Middle East are stating today that Kuwait has activated its “Emergency War Plan” after being notified that two additional United States Navy Aircraft Carrier Groups are headed to the Gulf and Red Sea. The US Navy would neither confirm nor deny that carriers were en route. US Fifth Fleet Combined Maritime Command located in Bahrain said it could not comment due to what a spokesman termed “force-protection policy.”
(August 8, 2008) — Reports from the Middle East are stating today that Kuwait has activated its “Emergency War Plan” after being notified that two additional United States Navy Aircraft Carrier Groups are headed to the Gulf and Red Sea.
The Arabic news agency Moheet is reported that “an unnamed American destroyer, accompanied by two Israeli naval vessels, traveled through the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean to join a US nuclear submarine accompanied by a destroyer and a supply ship that have also moved into the Mediterranean.”
The Jerusalem Post is also reporting that “there are two US naval battle groups operating in the Gulf: one is an aircraft carrier group, led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, which carries some 65 fighter aircraft. The other group is headed by the USS Peleliu which maintains a variety of planes and strike helicopters.”
Russian Military Analysts report that with the addition of these new US Naval Battle Groups the American Forces now have arrayed against the Iranian Nation one of the largest naval armadas assembled by the West since World War II.
The Associated Press News Service is reporting, too, that Israel is building up its strike capabilities against Iran and is “confident” of dealing a “crippling attack” against Iran’s nuclear programme as it becomes more concerned that the Western Nations will back off from their planned attack against the Iranians.
The United States, at least for the moment, appears to be attempting to thwart another major war by threatening Iran with more sanctions, and as we can read as reported by the Associated Press News Service:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened Iran with more sanctions Thursday after it failed to give an adequate response to the latest bid by Western powers to induce it to freeze uranium enrichment.
“Iran has a way out if they ever wish, but we will seriously pursue sanctions if they don’t,” Rice told Yahoo! News and the magazine Politico. “You have to hope that there are reasonable people in Iran who see this as not the way to run a country.”
Tehran’s latest response to a demand for the enrichment freeze in exchange for trade and technology incentives “is not a really serious answer,” she said in her first comments since six world powers discussed the matter in a Wednesday conference call.°®
The “wild card” in these latest moves by the United States, its Western Allies and Israel, say Russian Military Reports, remains the “hidden” Israeli threats against the US should it not attack Iran, and which many in the Russian Intelligence Community take to mean another September 11th-type assault upon the American Nation itself.
[Note: Following the attacks upon the US on September 11, 2001, American Intelligence services conducted one of their largest counterterror sweeps in their history which netted not Arab Terrorists, but one of the largest Israeli spy networks ever discovered. Fox News was the only US propaganda media outlet to report on this but after its first airing was “immediately pulled” from the American airwaves.]
The United States has further moved to counter Russian Military responses to an attack upon Iran’s nuclear facilities, and which have been built and financed by Russia, by igniting the flames of Total War on Russia’s very doorstep in the Caucuses by turning their loose their puppet ally Georgia to begin attacks upon South Ossetia.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a warning today that Georgia is preparing for war, and as South Ossetia’s capitol has come under fire, and with Russia reporting that Georgian tanks are headed for the border, Russia has warned the West that it “will not stand by” if the situation erupts into a full scale conflict.
What remains unknown at this time is how far the United States, and the West, is prepared to push our World towards Total War in its game of brinkmanship in the Middle East.
What is known, however, is that should the Americans push our World into the abyss of war, both Russia and China will retaliate as they are both determined not to ever again allow the Western Nations to have control over the World’s supply of oil.
© August 8, 2008 EU and US all rights reserved.
from Common Dreams
George W. Bush is poised to order a massive aerial bombardment — possibly including tactical nuclear weapons – of up to 10,000 targets in Iran. The attack would be justified on grounds that Iran is interfering with U.S. efforts in Iraq and that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, a charge that was debunked last fall in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
According to international experts, the U.S. declared economic war against Iran on March 20. On that day, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) called on the world’s financial institutions to stop doing business with Iran, making it much more difficult for Iran to engage in global commerce.
Another moment of truth approaches. While Washington finally joined talks with Tehran, Congress is still considering a resolution calling for an air, sea and land blockade of Iran, opening one path to war.
What is the relationship between U.S. imperialism and the Islamic Republic of Iran? Will the talks lead to an agreement or will the U.S. warships in the Gulf— or the Israeli military—unleash a massive air attack against the Iranian people? What is the stake for workers and the oppressed in the U.S.?
The U.S. is the wealthiest, most militarized imperialist state. The Pentagon’s role is to impose U.S. diplomatic and economic policy on the world, to control raw materials, to police worldwide ocean trading lanes, and to impose the power of the U.S.-based multinational corporations to super-exploit workers worldwide, including workers inside the U.S. Washington is the home office of world repression and exploitation. Israel is its branch office.
The Iranian state is the result of a popular revolution in 1979 that overthrew the shah, a monarchic dictator. A CIA-directed conspiracy had re-installed this shah in 1953, deposing an elected government. The shah, armed and backed by U.S. imperialism, had his military and police murder tens of thousands of people in his failed attempt to stop the 1979 revolution. This revolution stopped short of overturning capitalist social relations in Iran, but it broke the grip of the imperialist corporations and opened the door to social development in Iran.
There is no doubt a sovereign and independent Iran has the right to trade with whatever countries it chooses, to explore possible energy supplies, including nuclear energy, and even to prepare for self-defense with nuclear weapons. The U.S. possesses almost limitless nuclear weapons and Israel is suspected of possessing 200; these states are both declared enemies of Iran. Nearby India and Pakistan also possess at least some of these weapons, without U.S. hostility.
Washington has just signed a pact helping nuclear-armed India develop its civilian nuclear power, even though the U.S. excuse for threatening Iran is Tehran’s program for developing civilian nuclear power. Last December, 16 U.S. spy agencies reported that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Prevention of nuclear proliferation is the U.S. cover story. Iran’s independence from imperialism, its sovereignty and its oil reserves are the real reasons why Washington has targeted the Islamic Republic.
The next question is—despite Bush’s weakened position as the most unpopular president since Richard Nixon in his final days in office, despite Bush’s isolation from not only the U.S. population but sectors of the Pentagon brass who fear the stress and strain on their ground troops after the setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the potential for a disastrous explosion in the Middle East and the entire Muslim world, despite the possibility of a massive increase in the price of oil, despite all these dangers—will the Bush gang use what it believes is overwhelming U.S. air power to attack Iran, perhaps following an initial strike by Israel?
A look at the history of imperialist adventures in World Wars I and II, up to the assault on Iraq in 2003, shows that it would be foolish to rule out the possibility of a new adventure simply because that aggression might become another enormous setback for U.S. imperialism itself—not to mention a horror for 70 million Iranian people. The Bush gang, the oil monopolies and the military-industrial complex might be all too ready to back such a risky move. We cannot rule out that the deepening, unsolvable economic crisis might drive imperialism to another war.
For U.S. workers of all nationalities facing unemployment, foreclosures and evictions, not only would such a war be a distraction from their necessary struggle for economic justice, it would be an additional disaster, no matter the outcome. They must mobilize to stop this new war. It is the responsibility of the anti-war movement and the entire workers’ movement to take this danger seriously and organize the kind of independent struggle that can stop it.
Those predicting an assault point to the incessant propaganda campaign against Iran, abject Congressional complicity in that campaign, military preparations in the U.S. and Israel, the recent flurry of U.S.-Israeli military contacts, the power of AIPAC and Israel in U.S. politics and specifically their influence on the impressionable mind of President Bush. They point to the sidelining of mainstream intelligence reports that declare Iran has no active military program, and to the nearly identical rhetoric from Bush, McCain and Obama about how that (probably non-existent) program poses an “existential threat” to (nuclear) Israel. They suggest Burns’ recent step and other small diplomatic initiatives are really cover, merely designed to convince the world that the U.S. is exhausting diplomacy before the bombing starts.
full article here
President George W. Bush has given the Israeli military the go-ahead to prepare for an imminent attack on Iran. Israel is also using U.S. bases in Iraq to prepare for the attack.
Actions on Aug. 2
The British Sunday Times of July 13 reported: “Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread skepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an ‘amber light’ to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, [a Pentagon] official told The Sunday Times.
“‘Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,’ the official said. But the Israelis have also been told that they can expect no help from American forces and will not be able to use U.S. military bases in Iraq for logistical support.”
No U.S. support? The Jerusalem Post reported on the same day: “On Friday, sources in the Iraqi Defense Ministry told a local news network that IAF [Israeli Air Force] war planes were practicing in Iraqi airspace and were landing on U.S. airbases in the country as a preparation for a potential strike on Iran.”
Once again the most powerful forces of U.S. corporate power—the military-industrial-petroleum complex—are using Israel as their proxy to threaten war on surrounding countries in the region. Israel is armed, financed and politically and diplomatically supported by Washington. It cannot act on its own or without explicit permission from Washington.
At the same time that the White House is giving the Zionist military a go-ahead to bomb Iran, the U.S. Congress is moving ahead to escalate tensions in the region and possibly provoke an incident that would “justify” U.S. military action. House Resolution 362 and Senate Resolution 580 both require that the president begin a blockade of Iran.
The House resolution “demands” that the president impose “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran.” Enforcing this would require a U.S. naval blockade of the Straits of Hormuz, which is an act of war according to international law. Approximately one-fourth of the world’s oil, including that from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, passes through the Straits of Hormuz, which are 21 miles wide at their narrowest point.
These two resolutions have received widespread bipartisan support from members of both houses of Congress, and are expected to pass without debate or vote. A staffer in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said that once the House resolution hits the floor, it will “pass like a hot knife through butter.” Some have speculated that the bill will be put on the floor “under suspension”—meaning it will pass without even a vote.
Both resolutions accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons, despite the fact that Washington’s National Intelligence Estimate report last December made it clear that every major U.S. intelligence agency believes Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.
Nor do the resolutions refer to the real nuclear threat in the region: the U.S., the only country that has used nuclear weapons and currently has a massive nuclear-armed naval armada in the region. It also does not mention the apartheid settler state of Israel, which is thought to have at least 200 nuclear weapons.
At the same time, two leading senators announced on July 15 that they had reached a bipartisan agreement to expand economic sanctions targeting Iran. Senators Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) called Iran “a threat to U.S. interests.” Dodd, a former candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president, said: “This bipartisan bill strengthens economic sanctions against Iran, and authorizes divestment from companies that do business with Iran’s key oil sector.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is involved in “covert operations”—acts of terrorism—inside Iran. In the July 7 New Yorker, Seymour Hersh revealed that Congress has approved $400 million to fund covert operations in Iran. These operations include providing support to armed groups opposed to the Iranian government, kidnapping members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and taking them across the border to Iraq for interrogation, the manipulation of Iran’s currency, and other acts intended to destabilize the regime.
Hersh reports that these types of operations have been ongoing at least since last year, but the recent congressional appropriation signals a significant expansion of these actions.
It is clear that the Bush administration is determined to push forward with its agenda of endless war to control the oil reserves of the Middle East. It is equally clear that members of Congress—both Democrats and Republicans—are on board, just as they collaborated in authorizing the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
It is imperative that progressive activists and organizations, particularly in the U.S., mobilize to stop another brutal war and demand an end to the illegal sanctions and covert operations targeting Iran.
Stop War on Iran, an international grassroots campaign, has issued an Emergency Call for protests, marches and other actions on the weekend of Aug. 2. Local organizers are planning events in more than 50 cities, including Los Angeles, Tucson, San Diego, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Jersey City, Albuquerque, Buffalo, New York, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Houston, Salt Lake City, Virginia Beach, Washington and more. An updated list is available at http://www.StopWarOnIran.org.
Now is the time to take to the streets. Only a massive grassroots mobilization can stop another bloody and illegal war. To get involved, or for more information, see http://www.StopWarOnIran.org.
What is the significance of the widely publicized announcement that the Bush administration has finally agreed to talk to Iran?
Have U.S. aircraft carriers, nuclear-armed and powered submarines, destroyers or missiles been pulled back from Iran’s coast? Has Washington renounced its years of sabotage, assassinations and other covert actions inside Iran? Will any of the many sanctions imposed to constrict Iran’s development be lifted or even eased?
On July 19 Undersecretary of State William Burns sat in on a six-nation gathering in Geneva and “observed” nuclear negotiations between Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili and Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The talks are scheduled to resume in August, but Burns will not return for them. The one-time presence of this third-ranking diplomat is supposedly enough to show that Washington has made an effort at a diplomatic solution.
U.S. participation in the meeting came after increasingly frantic appeals from European powers and from the feudal and military regimes in the Persian Gulf region for diplomacy rather than war. They fear the destabilizing consequences of another U.S. attack. Even in top circles of the U.S. ruling class and military command, concern has been expressed about the risks and dangers of a new war.
Following his appearance at the Geneva meeting, Burns and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in Abu Dhabi with foreign ministers and senior officials of the six Gulf states, along with Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. At the meeting Rice warned that Iran had two weeks to halt its development of nuclear energy or face further “punitive measures.” Iran will also be the main topic at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers the following day.
Washington says its possible next step is to push for an intense level of international sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. If council members don’t go along with its demands, the U.S. is threatening military action.
To reinforce the threat, Rice’s statement was immediately followed by an announcement from Israeli military adviser Amos Gilad that Israel was preparing to attack Iran if diplomacy failed—and that the U.S. would not veto such action.
Although Burns sat in on the Geneva meeting, the U.S. did not give its agreement to a European proposal that, in exchange for an Iranian “freeze” on its enrichment of uranium, a six-week “freeze” be put on more restrictive sanctions against Iran. Lifting the existing sanctions was not even proposed.
U.S. sanctions have been imposed on Iran since the 1978 Iranian Revolution. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.N. Security Council imposed three new rounds of sanctions on Iran. Now Washington is demanding new and far harsher sanctions—despite International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) reports that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and a similar conclusion in the National Intelligence Estimate report of December 2007, endorsed by the 17 top U.S. spy agencies.
Iran has every right under international law and treaties to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Its nuclear power plants are all under the inspection and safeguards of the IAEA. The IAEA has continually said that there has been no illicit diversion of declared nuclear material.
It is now clear that the State Department’s one-day venture into talks with Iran was merely positioning by Washington to get its allies to agree on far harsher economic sanctions and other efforts to sabotage Iran’s national development.
Iran’s real crime
Iran has a severe energy shortage. Although it is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, its ability to refine crude oil into gasoline and diesel fuel is limited. As a country with a history of underdevelopment, Iran must import more than half its refined petroleum products to fuel its new industries and a modern transportation system. Iran is now the second-largest importer of gasoline and diesel fuel in the world. (Toronto Globe and Mail, July 22)
A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products and imposing “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” This would amount to a blockade—an act of war—and a threat to Iran’s sovereignty. It is also an example of how U.S. policy is aimed at keeping resource-rich countries underdeveloped and under its control.
At the same time that the U.S. is trying to cripple Iran’s economy, supposedly over its nuclear program, it is pursuing a deal with India to provide it nuclear fuel and technology. India is not yet a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or a member of the IAEA. Iran is both.
Iran’s real crime, in the eyes of the Pentagon and the corporate oil giants who determine U.S. policy, is that it is determined to use its resources for the further development of its own economy. The other oil-producing states in the region are corrupt semi-feudal regimes, each with a compliant and dependent ruling class. These regimes are under the total control of U.S. corporations and banks. The largest portion of their vast revenue from oil sales is wasted in purchases of U.S. weapons systems or invested in U.S. banks.
Millions of Iranian people participated in the 1978 revolution that overthrew the corrupt U.S.-backed shah. Since then, great social advances have transformed Iran. Once the people liberated their oil resources from the control of giant U.S. and British corporations, billions of dollars were available to develop Iranian industries and social services.
In less than two decades, Iran moved from 90 percent illiteracy for rural women to full literacy; more than half the university graduates are now women. Stunning improvements in totally free as well as subsidized health care meant record-breaking improvements in life expectancy, birth control and infant mortality. Even according to World Bank figures, Iran has exceeded the social gains of any other country in the region.
This is what U.S. policy makers are determined to reverse. They want control of the vast wealth that comes from every aspect of exploration, pumping, transport and refining of the planet’s most valuable and needed resource. They are willing to destroy millions of lives and spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war in this struggle.
Past history of U.S. talks
It is important to recall the many rounds of talks between U.S. and Iraqi delegations before the war. The U.S. repeatedly demanded the authority to carry out inspections in Iraq any time, any place, to search for non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” Just before the Pentagon attack, there was the heaviest round of diplomatic talks involving Iraq, members of the U.N. Security Council and Washington’s European allies. The talks were aimed at imposing still stricter sanctions, supposedly to gain Iraq’s total disarmament. This was years after U.N. inspectors had declared Iraq fully disarmed.
It is also important to remember the U.S./NATO “peace talks” with the Yugoslav government in Rambouillet, France. U.S. negotiators gave Yugoslavia an ultimatum: accept total U.S./NATO military occupation and dismemberment or face massive bombardment. When the Parliament of the Yugoslav Federation voted overwhelmingly to refuse the NATO “peace” demand of occupation of their sovereign territory, the Pentagon began 72 days of massive bombardment followed by the NATO seizure of Kosovo.
The U.S. conducted five years of “peace negotiations” with theVietnamese while escalating its bombardment, including carpet bombing.
Secretary of State Rice has announced the U.S. is considering the establishment of an “interests section” in Tehran and compared it to the interests section that the U.S. has maintained for decades in Cuba. “We have an interests section in Cuba, so I wouldn’t read thawing of relations into anything,” she said. Throughout the decades that Washington has maintained an interests section in Havana, the blockade of Cuba, sabotage and attempted assassinations of Cuban leaders have continued.
U.S. “talks” are too often preparation for the next stage of war. It is important for the movement on a global scale to remain on the alert and to understand that U.S. imperialism’s aims and plans have not changed.
from FARS news agency:
TEHRAN (FNA)- A US attack on Iran would push the oil market “absolutely out of control,” Venezuela’s oil minister said Saturday, adding that oil producing countries’ hands are tied at a time of record high oil prices.
“A US attack against Iran would throw the market absolutely out of control with a price hike that is hard to predict,” Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the V PetroCaribe oil summit.
“The US continues to pressure producing countries…there’s a large war premium” on prices. He said world crude inventories are “in equilibrium,” with some fluctuations but an overall coverage that he described as “sufficient”. Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the minister said, are trying to avoid a scenario of too much supply.
reprinted from CASMII:
Saturday, December 1, 2007
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[Last Updated January 2008]
Five years into the US-UK illegal invasion of Iraq and its consequent catastrophe for Iraqi people, peace loving people throughout the world are appalled by the current Iran-US standoff and its resemblance to the run-up to the invasion of Iraq . The hawks, headed by Dick Cheney in Washington , are now shamelessly calling for a military attack on Iran . The same Israeli lobby which pushed for the invasion of Iraq is now pushing for a military attack on Iran . The same distortions which were attempted to dupe the western public opinion for the invasion of Iraq , are now used to pave the way for another illegal pre-emptive war of aggression against Iran . As in the case of Iraq , the UN Security Council Resolutions against Iran , extricated through massive US pressure, are meant to provide a veneer of legitimacy for such an attack.
Contrary to the myth created by the western media, it is the US and its European allies which are defying the international community, in that they have rejected negotiations without pre-conditions. They show their lack of good faith by demanding that Iran concede the main point of negotiations, namely, suspension of enrichment of uranium which is Iran ‘s legitimate right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, before the negotiations actually start.
The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) calls for immediate and direct negotiations between the US and Iran without any pre-conditions.
Here, we debunk the main unfounded accusations, lies and distortions by the US and Israel and their allies while highlighting the main reasons to oppose sanctions and military intervention against Iran .
IRAN ‘S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME: FACTS AND LIES
1 . There is no evidence of a nuclear weapons programme in Iran . The US and its allies pressure Iran to prove that it is not hiding a nuclear weapons programme. This demand is logically impossible to satisfy and serves to make diplomacy fail in order to force regime change. Numerous intrusive and snap visits by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, totalling more than 2,700 person-hours of inspection, have failed to produce a shred of evidence for a weapons programme in Iran . Traces of highly enriched uranium found at Natanz in 2004, were determined by the IAEA to have come with imported centrifuges.
In July 2007, IAEA and Iran agreed on a work plan with defined modalities and timetable to clarify all issues of concerns in relation to Iran ‘s nuclear programme. On 27 th August 2007 IAEA announced that “The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use ”. The Agreement also cleared Iran ‘s plutonium experiments, which the Cheney Camp had accused of being evidence of Iran ‘s weaponisation programme.
Dr Mohammad El-Baradei, the IAEA Director General, said on 7 th September 2007, “For the last few years we have been told by the Security Council, by the board, we have to clarify the outstanding issues in Iran because these outstanding issues are the ones that have led to the lack of confidence, the crisis” , “We have not come to see any undeclared activities or weaponisation of their programme”.
Two years earlier, in June 2005, Bruno Pellaud, former IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards, was asked by Swissinfo if Iran was intent on building a nuclear bomb. He replied: “My impression is not. My view is based on the fact that Iran took a major gamble in December 2003 by allowing a much more intrusive capability to the IAEA. If Iran had had a military programme they would not have allowed the IAEA to come under this Additional Protocol. They did not have to.”
2. Iran ‘s need for nuclear power generation is real. Even when Iran ‘s population was one-third of what it is today, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, negotiating on behalf of President Gerald Ford, persuaded the former Shah that Iran needed over twenty nuclear reactors. With Iran ‘s population of 70 million, and growing, and its oil resources fast depleting, Iran may be a net importer of oil in just over a decade from now. Nuclear energy is thus a realistic and viable solution for electricity generation in the country.
3. The “crisis” over Iran ‘s nuclear programme lacks the urgency claimed by Washington . Weapons grade uranium must be enriched at least to 85%. A 2005 CIA report determined that it could take Iran 10 years to achieve this level of enrichment. Many independent nuclear experts have stated that Iran would face formidable technical obstacles if it tried to enrich uranium beyond the 3.5% purity required for electricity generation. According to Dr Frank Barnaby of the Oxford Research Group, because of contamination of Iranian uranium with heavy metals, Iran cannot possibly enrich beyond even 20% without support from Russia or China. IAEA director, Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, too, reiterated in October 2007 that “I don’t see Iran , today, to be a clear and present danger. And our conclusion here is supported by every intelligence assessment I’ve seen that even if Iran has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, it’s still three to eight years away from that”..
4. Iran has met its obligations under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran voluntarily accepted and enforced safeguards stricter than IAEA’s Additional Protocol until February 2006, when Iran ‘s nuclear file was reported, under the pressure from the US , to the Security Council. (The US , by contrast, has neither signed nor implemented the Additional Protocol, and Israel has refused to sign the NPT.)
Iran ‘s earlier concealment of its nuclear programme took place in the context of the US-backed invasion of Iran by Saddam. Not only the U.S. , Germany , and the UK were complicit in the sale of chemical weapons to Saddam which were used against Iranian soldiers and civilians but Israel ‘s destruction of Iraq ‘s Osirak reactor in 1981 was treated with total impunity. Iranian leaders then concluded from these gross injustices that international laws are only “ink on paper”.
But the most direct reasons for Iran ‘s concealment were the American trade embargo on Iran and Washington ‘s organized and persistent campaign to stop civilian nuclear technology from reaching Iran from any source. For example, in 1995 Germany offered to let Kraftwerk Union (a subsidiary of Siemens) finish Iran ‘s Bushehr reactor, but withdrew its proposal under US pressure . The following year, China cancelled its contract to build a nuclear enrichment facility in Isfahan for the same reason. Thus Washington systematically violated, with impunity, Article IV of the NPT, which allows “signatories the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy”.
Nevertheless, Iran ‘s decision not to declare all of its nuclear installations did not violate its NPT obligations. According to David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, who first provided satellite imagery and analysis in December 2002, under the safeguards agreement in force at the time, ” Iran is not required to allow IAEA inspections of a new nuclear facility until six months before nuclear material is introduced into it.”
5. Iran has given unprecedented concessions on its nuclear programme. Unlike North Korea , Iran has resisted the temptation to withdraw from the NPT. Besides accepting snap inspections under Additional Protocol until February 2006, Iran has invited Western companies to develop Iran ‘s civilian nuclear programme. Such joint ventures would create the best assurance that the enriched uranium would not be diverted to a weapons programme. Such concessions are very rare in the world, but the U.S. and its allies have refused Iran ‘s offer.
6. Enrichment of uranium for a civilian nuclear programme is Iran ‘s inalienable right. Every member of the NPT has the right to enrich uranium for a civilian nuclear programme and is entitled to full technical assistance.
But with the US as the back seat driver and in violation of their assistance obligations, France , Germany , and the UK insisted throughout the three years of negotiations that Tehran forfeit its right, in return for incentives of little value. Some European diplomats admitted to Asia Times Online on 7th September 2005, that the package offered by the EU-3 was “an empty box of chocolates.” But “there is nothing else we can offer,” the diplomats went on to say . “The Americans simply wouldn’t let us.”
7. The Western alliance has not tried true diplomacy and relies instead on threats. Iran refuses to suspend its enrichment of uranium before bilateral negotiations begin, as demanded by the White House, because it suspects Washington will stall with endless doubts regarding verification of suspension.
8. The UN resolutions against Iran , in contrast to the treatment of the US allies, South Korea , India , Pakistan , and Israel , smack of double standards. For example, in the year 2000, South Korea enriched 200 milligrams of uranium to near-weapons grade (up to 77%), but was not referred to the UN Security Council.
India has refused to sign the NPT or allow inspections and has developed an atomic arsenal, but receives nuclear assistance from the US in violation of the NPT. More bizarrely, India has a seat on the governing board of IAEA and, under US pressure, voted to refer Iran as a violator to the UN Security Council. Another non-signatory, Pakistan , clandestinely developed nuclear weapons but is supported by the US as a “war on terror” ally.
Israel is a close ally of Washington , even though it has hundreds of clandestine nuclear weapons, has dismissed numerous UN resolutions and has refused to sign the NPT or open any of its nuclear plants to inspections.
The US itself is the most serious violator of the NPT. The only country to have ever used nuclear bombs in war, the US has refused to reduce its nuclear arsenal, in violation of Article VI of NPT. The US is also in breach of the Treaty because it is developing new generations of nuclear warheads for use against non-nuclear adversaries. Moreover, Washington has deployed hundreds of such tactical nuclear weapons all around the world in violation of Articles I and II of the NPT.
9. Iran has not threatened Israel or attacked another country. The track records of the US , Israel , the UK and France are very different. These so called “democracies” have a bloody history of invading other countries. Iran ‘s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has declared repeatedly that Iran will not attack or threaten any country. He has also issued a fatwa against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and banned nuclear weapons as sacrilegious. Iran has been a consistent supporter of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and called for a nuclear weapons free Middle East .
The comments of Iran ‘s President Ahmadinejad against Israel have been repeated by some of Iran ‘s leaders since 1979 and constitute no practical threat. The statement attributed to him that “ Israel should be wiped off the map” is a distortion of the truth and has been determined by a number of Farsi linguists, amongst them, Professor Juan Cole, to be a mistranslation. What he actually said was that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”. Ahmadinejad has made clear that he envisions regime change in Israel through internal decay, similar to the demise of the Soviet Union . Iranian leaders have said consistently for two decades that they will accept a two-state solution in Palestine if a majority of Palestinians favour that option.
This is in sharp contrast to the explicit threats by Israeli and the US leaders against Iran , including aid to separatist movements to disintegrate and wipe Iran off the map , as reported by Seymour Hersh and Reese Erlich . There is considerable evidence of clandestine operations by the US , British and Israeli agents who are arming, training and funding terrorist entities such as Jundollah in Baluchistan, Arab separatists in Khuzestan, and PJAK in Kurdistan . These concrete attempts at disintegration of Iran , as well as the 100 million dollars congressional funding for ‘democracy’ promotion in Iran , constitute aggression and are interference in Iran ‘s domestic affairs and Iranian people’s rights of sovereignty. They violate the bilateral Algiers Accord of 1981, in which Washington renounced any such actions in the future.
Furthermore, President Bush and Vice President Cheney, former UN ambassador, John Bolton, Senator Lieberman, as well as presidential candidates Guilliani, Romney and McCain are openly advocating and pushing for pre-emptive military attack on Iran. The French President, Sarkouzy, and his Foreign Minister, Kouchner, the new recruits to the Neo Cons camp, have added their voice to this chorus for war . British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, too has not ruled out the pre-emptive military option against Iran .
Iran is no match for Israel , whose security and military needs are all but guaranteed by the US . Iran is surrounded on all sides by the US Navy and American bases.
Iran has not invaded or threatened any country for two and a half centuries. The only war the Islamic Republic fought was the one imposed by Saddam’s army, which invaded Iran with the backing of the US and its allies. When Iraq used chemical weapons, supplied by the West, against Iranian troops, Iran did not retaliate in kind. When Afghanistan ‘s Taliban regime murdered eight Iranian diplomats in 1996 and remained unapologetic, Iran did not respond militarily.
10. The US “democratization” programme for Iran is a hoax. Although violations of human rights and democratic freedoms do occur too often in Iran , the country has the most pluralistic system in a region dominated by undemocratic client states of the US . It is sheer hypocrisy for the US, which turns a blind eye to the gross human rights abuses by its allies, such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Libya, and Egypt, to misrepresent its agenda in Iran as a “democratization” programme. Washington ‘s pretensions ring especially hollow when one remembers that in 1953 Iran ‘s nascent democracy under Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq was overthrown by the CIA, which restored a hated military dictatorship for the benefit of American oil conglomerates.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL INVOLVEMENT TOTALLY UNJUSTIFIED
11. There are no legal bases for Iran ‘s referral to the UN Security Council. Since there is no evidence that Iran is even contemplating to weaponize its nuclear programme, no grounds exist for this sidelining of the IAEA.
Michael Spies of the New York-based Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy has clarified the issue: “Under the Statute (Art. 12(C)) and the Safeguards Agreement, the Board may only refer Iran to the Security Council if it finds that, based on the report from the Director General, it cannot be assured that Iran has not diverted nuclear material for non-peaceful purpose. In the past, findings of `non-assurance’ have only come in the face of a history of active and ongoing non-cooperation with IAEA safeguards. The pursuit of nuclear activities in itself, which is specifically recognized as a sovereign right, and which remain safeguarded, could not legally or logically equate to uncertainty regarding diversion.”
The IAEA director, Dr ElBaradei, has in fact consistently confirmed that there has been no diversion of safeguarded nuclear material in Iran . He has asserted unambiguously in his interview with New York Times on 7 th September 2007 that in Iran “we have not come to see any undeclared activities … We have not seen any weaponisation of their programme, nor have we received any information to that effect” . He has also repeatedly urged skeptics in Western capitals to help the IAEA by sharing any possible proof in their possession of suspicious nuclear activity in Iran .
The IAEA-Iran work plan of August 2007 has reconfirmed this. It has stated that all declared nuclear activirties in Iran have been verified to be for peaceful purposes. It has also cleared Iran of its plutonium experiments which had been regarded as a smoking gun by the US .
Dr ElBaradei has nevertheless said, under pressure from Washington , that he cannot rule out the existence of undeclared nuclear activities in the country. However, according to the IAEA’s Safeguards Implementation Report for 2005 (issued on 15 June 2006), 45 other countries, including 14 European countries, in particular Germany , are in this same category as Iran .
Moreover, according to the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, certifying non-diversion of nuclear material to military purposes for any given country takes an average of six years of inspections and verification by the IAEA. In the case of Iran , these investigations have been going on for only about four years now.
Iran ‘s file, therefore, must be returned to the jurisdiction of the IAEA and the rules of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The US and its allies violated the rules by exerting massive pressure on the IAEA to report Iran without any legitimacy to the UN Security Council. For example, David Mulford, the US Ambassador to India , warned the Government of India in January 2006 that there would be no US-India nuclear deal if India did not vote against Iran at the IAEA. On February 15th 2007, Stephen Rademaker, the former US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-Proliferation, admitted publicly that the US coerced India to vote against Iran. Clearly, reporting Iran to the UN Security Council and the subsequent adoption of the Resolutions 1696 and 1737 have been carried out with US coercion and have thus no legitimacy at all.
The IAEA report on the outcome of the “work plan” between Iran and the IAEA released on 15/11/07 has confirmed that ” Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions and provide (needed) clarifications and amplifications,” . The report has stated that Iran had made “substantial progress” towards clarifying outstanding questions about its nuclear programs , that “The agency has been able to conclude that answers provided on the declared past P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programs are consistent with its findings” and that “We will however continue to seek corroboration and to verify the completeness of Iran’s declarations”. It has also confirmed repeatedly in various parts of the document that, in relation to all issues of ambiguity such as past black market procurement and concealment, Iran ‘s statements are consistent with the information independently available to the agency.
The response from the US/Israel and their allies has been immediately negative, accusing Iran of “selective cooperation” with the IAEA. Shaul Mofaz , Israel ‘s deputy prime minister, called for the sacking of Dr ElBaradei over the IAEA’s recent report on Iran . The US is pressing with the demand for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment, which is Iran ‘s inalienable right as a signatory to the NPT. Probably under direct pressure from the US and its allies, trying to discredit the successful collaboration of Iran with the IAEA, the report has at the same time pointed to the agency’s “diminishing knowledge” about Iran ‘s current nuclear programme. Such a situation, as Dr ElBaradei later asserted in his speech to the Governors’ Board of the IAEA in November 2007, is true of (over forty) countries that do not enforce the additional protocol. In the case of Iran , which is singled out among these countries by the west for political reasons, the US and its European allies bear the direct responsibility for this situation. As previously pointed out, they coerced the Governors Board of the IAEA to report Iran ‘s file to the UN in 2005 and early 2006, which prompted Iran to suspend its voluntary enforcement of the Additional Protocol and to resume enrichment of uranium.
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran , issued on December 3, refutes the US and Israeli accusations that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme. The statement vindicates Iran ‘s claim that the decision by the Governors Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report its nuclear file to the UN Security Council in February 2006 and the subsequent Security Council resolutions and sanctions against Iran lack legitimacy.
The NIE report had been held for nearly one year in an effort by Vice President Cheney’s office to force the intelligence community to remove some of the dissenting judgments on Iran ‘s nuclear program.
Representing the views of 16 US intelligence agencies, the NIE on Iran sharply reverses its 2005 version that claimed Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The report assesses that Iran ‘s alleged military nuclear work ended in 2003, but fails to provide any evidence that such activity ever existed. If proof for this assessment had been found, it was the obligation of the US to provide it to the IAEA for on-the-ground verification.
A senior IAEA official was quoted by the IHT on December 4: “despite repeated smear campaigns, the IAEA has stood its ground and concluded time and again that ‘there was no evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons program in Iran ‘”.
While the IAA and Iran are collaborating to resolve the final components of the outstanding issues on the Iranain nuclear programme by March 2008, the US and its European allies have pushed for a third round of the UN sanctions against Iran when according to its own intelligence Iran does not have a nuclear weapons programme.
SANCTIONS NOT A GOOD IDEA
12. Dr ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, has said that more sanctions are counterproductive. Economic sanctions on Iran will harm the people of Iran , as they were devastating to Iraqis, resulting in the death of at least 500,000 children. Sanctions would not however bring the Islamic Republic to its knees. Instead, any kind of sanctions, including the so-called “targeted” or “smart” sanctions, are viewed by the Iranian people as the West’s punishment for Iran ‘s scientific progress (uranium enrichment for reactor fuel). As sanctions tighten, nationalist fervour will strengthen the resolve of Iranians to defend the country’s civilian nuclear programme.
13. Sanctions are not better than war; they can be exploited as a diplomatic veneer and a provocative prelude to military attack, as they were in Iraq . Thus, countries which support sanctions against Iran are only falling into the US trap in aiding the war drive on Iran .
STATEGIC SHIFT TO MULTI-FOCAL TARGETS
14. A US attack on Iran is imminent. The end of George Bush’s presidency in 2009 could be a serious set back for the NeoCons’ hegemonic dreams to control the energy resources in the region. He is unlikely to leave office bearing the legacy of failures in Afghanistan and Iraq and particularly leaving Iran a stronger player in the region. Thus the likelihood of military attack on Iran before Bush leaves office is a reality. Washington insiders have told security analysts that preparations for military attack have been made and are ready for execution.
Since January, in addition to the nuclear issue, the US has also focused its propaganda to falsely implicate Iran in the violence and failures of US policies in Afghanistan and Iraq . The Iran-US bilateral dialogue this summer was derailed amidst accusations that Iran aided the killing of American soldiers by providing sophisticated weapons and training to Afghan and Iraqi fighters. As in the nuclear case, Washington has provided no proof .
British Foreign Minister, David Miliband, admitted in an interview with the Financial Times on 8 th July 07 that there was “No Evidence” of Iranian involvement in the violence and instability in Iraq . Likewise, the British Defence Minister, Des Browne, in August 07 maintained categorically that “No Evidence” existed of Iranian government’s complicity or instigation in supplying weapons to Iraqi militias. The Washington Post, too, reported from Iraq that hundreds of British troops combing southern Iraq for sign of Iranian weapons have come up empty-handed. Furthermore, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Al-Maleki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, have stated Iran ‘s positive role in providing whatever limited stability there is in both these countries. Nevertheless, G eorge Bush’s speech on 28 th August, authorizing the American military to “ confront Tehran ‘s murderous activities”, and the deployment of British troops to the Iranian border to guard against Iran ‘s “proxy war” in Iraq , signaled a systematic building towards a casus belli for another illegal pre-emptive war. The Kyle-Lieberman Amendment to the Defence Authorisation Bill, too, accused Iran of killing American servicemen in Iraq and nearly authorized the military to take all necessary action to combat Iran .
A third focus in the US war drive has now been launched by branding Iran ‘s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. This unprecedented move in US foreign policy and international relations is the proclaimed basis for imposing the toughest sanctions ever on Iranian banks, companies and individuals.
These new measures represent a massive escalation in the US war drive, they are a prelude to a military attack on Iran and provide the legal pretext for the US military to wage war on Iran without the prior approval of the US Congress.
ILLEGALITY OF A MILITARY ATTACK
15. Foreign state interference in Iran violates the UN charter. According to Seymour Hersch, the US is running covert operations in Iran to foment unrest and ethnic conflict for the purpose of regime change. Unmanned US drones have also entered into Iranian air space to spy over Iranian military installations and to map Iranian radar systems. These actions violate the UN Charter’s guarantee of the right of self-determination for all nations.
The Bush Administration has also confirmed, in the 2006 US National Security Strategy, its long term policy for pre-emptive military action against Washington ‘s rivals. Former British prime minister, Tony Blair, supported this policy in his 21st March 2006 foreign policy speech, and his successor Gordon Brown has not rejected the pre-emptive use of military force against Iran . However, unprovoked strikes are illegal under international law. To remove this obstacle, John Reid, the then British Secretary of Defence, in his speech on 3rd April 2006 to the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, proposed a change in international law on pre-emptive military action.
16. Reports of nuclear attack scenarios against Iran can serve to raise the public’s tolerance for an act of aggression with conventional military means. People of conscience and sanity must not only condemn even contemplation of a nuclear attack, but also denounce any conventional attack.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF AN ATTACK ON IRAN
17. Bombing cannot end Iran ‘s nuclear programme. Since Iran already has the expertise to enrich uranium up to the 3.5% grade for a fuel cycle, no degree of bombing will halt Iran ‘s civilian nuclear programme. On the contrary, the resulting mass casualties and destruction would strengthen the voices that argue Iran , like North Korea , should build a nuclear deterrent.
18. An attack on Iran will unite Iranians against the US and its allies. A great majority of the public in Iran support the country’s right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes. This has been confirmed by all opinion polls conducted in the country, including polls taken by Western institutions. Therefore, a bombing campaign will not lead to an uprising by the Iranian people for regime change as envisaged by the US . Rather, it would ignite nationalist feelings in the country and unite the population, including most of the government’s critics, against the West.
19. A nuclear attack on Iran would fuel a new nuclear arms race and ruin the NPT. Any military intervention against Iran will lead to a regional catastrophe and expanded terrorism. Senator McCain, the Republican presidential hopeful, who has himself advocated the use of force on Iran , has predicted that an attack against Iran will lead to Armageddon. American or Israeli aggression on Iran , coming on the heels of the Iraq disaster, would inflame the grievance and outrage of Muslims worldwide and help jihadi extremists with their recruitment campaign. The region wide conflagration resulting from an Israel/US attack on Iran would dwarf the Iraq catastrophe.
20. The cause of democracy in Iran will suffer gravely if the country is attacked. President Bush’s “axis of evil” rhetoric severely undermined the reformist movement in Iran at a time when the country’s president promoted Dialogue Among Civilizations. Bush’s hostile posture strengthened the hands of Iranian hardliners and contributed to the reformist movement’s electoral defeat in 2005. That setback would be dwarfed by the consequences of a military assault on the country.
Copyright 2008, CASMII
Those red-blooded investors–perhaps speculators positioned to profit from oil prices going even higher and maybe spoiling for a conflict with Iran–should consider U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s comment on the consequences of a U.S. strike against Iran.
“We’ll create generation of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America,” Gates told the Democratic caucus at a Senate luncheon, according to a participant.
‘We’ll create generation of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America,” he told the Democratic caucus at a Senate luncheon, according to a participant. A U.S. strike against Iran might seem unlikely, but Vice President Dick Cheney is in hot pursuit of a “casus belli” to start hostilities, according to an article carried in the July 7 issue of the New Yorker magazine released yesterday.
from the Huffington Post:
Sixty percent of this oil is in fields within a triangular area of the Middle East the size of Kansas. In that speech Cheney said: “The Middle East with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”
This small Middle East triangle encompasses the oil fields of northeast of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the southwestern part of Iran, along with Kuwait, Qatar and the Emirates. The US controls Iraq. It has friendly governments in the other states.
Iran is the exception. The US now surrounds Iran. full article
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 opepating 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.
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.