Iran: Imperialism is damned whatever it does
Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely legitimate
On 10 April, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had succeeded in enriching uranium and joined the ‘nuclear club’. This was achieved in the teeth of ongoing insistence on the part of western imperialism that Iran abandon its nuclear development programme, notwithstanding the fact that it was doing nothing more than it is entitled to do under every non-proliferation treaty. In fact, in March the UN Security council had given Iran 30 days to halt its nuclear research or risk sanctions. Iran has ignored all this sabre-rattling, insisting that its nuclear programme only has civilian purposes in mind. But whether this is so or not, the fact is that Iran is estimated variously at being between 3 and 10 years away from being able, if it so wishes, to produce weapons grade uranium – that is to say, fuel which is 90% or more uranium 235, as opposed to fuel for civilian use, which only requires 2-3%.
If Iran does go ahead to develop nuclear bombs, it is in a strong position to resist all or any imperialist attacks, since obviously the consequences of Iran deploying nuclear missiles in retaliation for any attack directed against it would cause devastating losses to the attackers that would far outweigh any benefits they could gain from seizing control of Iran.. This in turn would mean that western imperialism, unable to dominate Iran militarily, would not be able to protect its multinationals’ interests in looting Iranian oil and in driving all internal competition out of the Iranian market. The imperialists’ thirst for profit, however, which drives their desperate struggle for world domination, cannot countenance any country breaking away from the imperialist economic stranglehold. The Iranians, however, appear to have every intention of doing just that, and this is the reason why Iran has been dubbed a ‘rogue state’ unfit to have nuclear weapons. It is their desire for economic independence which makes them “irresponsible” and their religion “fanaticism”.
To prevent Iran breaking away from super-exploitation, there is a section of the imperialist bourgeoisie clamouring for nuclear assaults on Iran now, before it is too late … i.e., before it has nuclear weapons of its own which will effectively deter attack. Seymour Hersh, a respected journalist said to have very good contacts within the US administration, has published in early April an article in the New Yorker claiming that “Pentagon plans presented to the White House include the use of a ‘bunker-buster’ tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground sites in Iran because of concerns that conventional strikes would not be ‘decisive'” and, furthermore, that “some senior military officers are so alarmed about Mr Bush’s willingness to use nuclear weapons that they are ready to resign in protest.” (Tom Baldwin, ‘The idea of a US nuclear attack on Iran is just nuts, says Straw’, The Times, 10 April 2006).
At the same time, “American news reports have revealed that the US is making covert contingency plans for both a military attack and for regime change in Iran. US special forces teams have teamed up with anti-regime Arab insurgents in South Iran, and Washington has dramatically increased funding for exile groups who want to overthrow the regime” (Owen Matthews, ‘Actually, Bush is the problem not the solution’, Daily Mail, 13 April 3006).
Simon Jenkins in The Guardian of 12 April says (‘If ever there was a nation not to drive to extremes, it is Iran’): “This week’s most terrifying remark came from the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. He declared that a nuclear attack on Iran would be ‘completely nuts’ and an assault of any sort ‘inconceivable’. In Straw-speak, ‘nuts’ means he’s just heard it is going to happen and ‘inconceivable’ means certain. Even the Daily Telegraph thinks Jack Straw’s words bode ill for peace: “Jack Straw is making exactly the same noises that the Government did in March 2003 when it spoke about the likelihood of a war in Iraq. Then the Government said the war was neither inevitable or imminent and then attacked”. At any rate, Hersh’s article, referred to above, indicated that there was “tremendous unease” within the British government about what Mr Bush might do, and The Independent of 20 April (‘Blair and Straw at odds over support for US military action against Iran’, Colin Brown and Andy McSmith) reports that “Jack Straw has warned Cabinet colleagues that it would be illegal for Britain to support the United States in military action against Iran. But Tony Blair has backed President George Bush by warning that ruling out military action would send out a ‘message of weakness’ to Iran’.
All this goes to show that a pre-emptive military strike against Iran is under serious consideration and would appear to be on the cards. Sarah Baxter, writing in the Sunday Times of 9 April, (‘Gunning for Iran’) thinks, however, that the strike is most likely to take place if at all in the course of 2008: “The Sunday Times understands that a strike with a conventional weapon is much more likely. By 2008 a new bunker-busting missile called Big Blu should be available in the US air force. The 30,000 lb behemoth is being designed for dispatch by the B-series stealth bombers and can penetrate 100ft under the ground before exploding.
“Trident ballistic missiles, newly converted to carry conventional warheads may also be on hand by 2008, providing Bush with further options…
“Senior military planners at the Pentagon met recently to assess … an attack’s changes of success. They told the White House that they had yet to map all of Iran’s nuclear enrichment sites and that several were buried under deep granite mountains. A strike now could set the mullahs’ programme back only a couple of years at most.
“Fast-forward to 2008 and the picture changes. By then more intelligence will have been gathered on the location of the sites. And, crucially, Big Blu should be ready.
“The damage, if not total, say experts, would be considerable … Air strikes by a handful of B2 bombers, flying out of the British dependency of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, would be enough to demolish the most critical Iranian nuclear sites such as Natanz, Arak and Isfahan”.
Bourgeois opposition to war
When it comes to committing acts of war against Iran – which would, as in the case of Iraq, be completely illegal and therefore criminal by the standards of international law to which the imperialist powers all claim to adhere! – there is by no means unanimity in the bourgeois camp that this is a course of action that will promote their interests. We have already seen that British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, for the moment at least is prepared to state that he considers that any plan for a nuclear strike against Iran would be ‘nuts’. In fact, in the opinion of Colin Brown and Andy McSmith in The Independent of 20 April (‘Blair and Straw at odds over support for US military action against Iran’), “most Labour MPs support Mr Straw’s strategy and would revolt if Mr Blair showed any sign of lending support to a US strike against Iran ” And furthermore, “Mr Straw was given tacit support at a meeting of European Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg last week”.
If Labour MPs and European foreign ministers are opposing military action against Iran , it is by no means due to any new-found respect for the tenets of international law, but real fear as to what the consequences of such action might be.
The price of crude oil has already reached the record level of $75 a barrel, but would certainly rise higher were Iran to be attacked. Iran is in a position not only to hold back supplies of oil to the international market from its own oilfields, but also to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, making it impossible to move any oil from the Middle East. This could not but be disastrous for the imperialist economies. Ray Massey in the Daily Mail of 19 April (‘£5 a gallon’), reports that the International Monetary Fund has estimated that a rise of $5 in crude prices slows growth in the UK by 0.1%. One can just imagine the effect of the price of oil rising to $100 a barrel or more, which is the likely effect of a military strike on Iran!
Another concern is that there is no guarantee that any military strike would in fact succeed in wiping out Iran’s military capability. Naturally, the US and its British allies have been studying the question of what would be the likely outcome of war against Iran. Shenzhen Daily reports that “Air Force planners have modelled attacks against existing Iranian air defences and targets, while Navy planners have evaluated coastal defences and drawn up scenarios for keeping control of the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the oil-rich Gulf.” However, these studies have not concluded that the US would win this war, any more than similar studies did in 1997 when ” After long debate, the highest levels of the military could not forecast a way in which things would end favourably for the United States” (see Richard Clarke and Steven Simon, two military experts, in the New York Times on Sunday 16 April.) David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security and former UN weapons inspector is quoted by Jonathan Steele and Julian Borger in The Guardian of 18 April (‘US refuses to discuss Iran’s nuclear plans in face-to-face talks on Iraq’) as saying, having analysed satellite images of Iran’s nuclear plants, “Taking out the nuclear weapons programme in Iran seems to be nearly impossible. They have so many underground sites now, you don’t know what to hit … The times for military strikes that could have taken out the weapons programme are gone”.
A further point is that such a strike would undermine attempts to build up a body of support for pro-imperialist compradors in Iran. Many bourgeois opponents of war against Iran consider that the Iranian regime is unlikely to be able to do much to improve the conditions of the masses in Iran, and, that being the case, it is better to wait on the sidelines as ‘concerned friends’ until the people of Iran themselves are in favour of regime change. As it is, “even those who dislike the regime hate even more being pushed around by America. In this light, America’s favoured approach of sweeping UN sanctions – backed by the threat of force – may be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
“Surely better, then, to win their hearts and minds than drop our bombs on them.” (Owen Matthews, ‘Nuke Iran?’, Daily Mail 13 April 2006).
Yet again, the imperialists are worried that as a result of such a strike, the Iranian regime would step up its support for Middle Eastern resistance movements, especially in Iraq, with the result that the Iraqi Shias, on whose leaders imperialism is relying to act as its stooges in Iraq, are mobilised by their fellow Shias from Iran to turn against imperialism in a big way. Raymond Whitaker in The Independent on Sunday of 9 April says a ‘Pentagon adviser’ told Seymour Hersh that “the southern half of Iraq, where Britain’s 8,000 troops are based, would ‘light up like a candle’ in the wake of any strike on Iran, while a general said that, despite the British presence, ‘the Iranians could take Basra with 10 mullahs and a sound truck'”.
Last but not least, not only would striking Iran not bring about the desired results, but it is quite likely to result in an unacceptable level of military losses for imperialism. Con Coughlin in The Daily Telegraph of 11 April (‘The West can’t let Iran have the bomb’) reminds us that “Apart from starving the West of vital oil supplies by closing the Straits of Hormuz, the Iranians have advance ballistic missile capability that can hit targets throughout the Middle East – including Israel.” Even that is not all: the US strategic analyst Mark Gaffney, is quoted by David Hirst in The Guardian of 4 April (‘If one side goes nuclear, the other is bound to follow suit’) as warning “that a US assault on Iran could end in a catastrophe comparable to the massacre of Roman legions at Cannae by Hannibal’s much inferior army. For in one field of military technology, anti-ship missiles, Russia is streets ahead of the US. And Iran’s possession of the fearsome 3M-82 Moskit could turn the Persian Gulf into a death trap for the US fleet.”
Domestic opposition to war in imperialist countries
People have learnt from the war in Iraq that these illegal wars are costly and unwinnable. Both the British and US governments have suffered considerable public disgrace as a result of the lies that were told in connection with the ‘casus belli’ (the facts which give rise to a pretext to take military action) in the case of Iraq. The same governments are still in office today now that military action is being contemplated against Iran. Since Iran has not committed any illegal act whatsoever, much less one which justifies war, there could not be acts of aggression against Iran without further lies to “justify” them. It has been suggested that George Bush is contemplating claiming that bird flu emanates from Iran’s biochemical weapons programme and is evidence of an act of aggression by Iran against the whole world. However, even without the Iraq lies, any allegation of this kind is too ludicrous to be taken seriously. Blair and Bush are both making themselves unelectable by their deeply unpopular and dishonest warmongering. As Andrew Sullivan points out in the Sunday Times of 16 April, “What we’ve seen in the past few months is a cratering of support for the president. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms the pattern: 60% disapprove of Bush’s performance and 38% approve. But when you look more closely at the numbers, you find something more remarkable. A full 47% of Americans ‘strongly’ disapprove; only 20% ‘strongly’ approve. Half the country, in other words, don’t just disapprove of Bush; they’re furious with him.” Equally in Britain support for the warmongering Labour Party is draining away fast, notwithstanding a million opportunist attempts to blame everything on Blair and to imply that the Labour Party is basically all right, provided it gets rid of its ‘rogue leader’.
With the bourgeoisie split right down the middle on the question of a military strike against Iran , it is impossible to predict whether it will take place or not. Imperialism is damned whatever it does. If it allows Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent, it will have to put up with the Iranian economy slipping out of its control. It could wait to see if the Iran leadership loses its popular support and it is able to persuade Iranians that submission to unbridled imperialist super-exploitation is the only solution to their problems, but that will take time and besides there is no certainty of the intended outcome being reached. If it tries to intervene militarily to stop Iran developing a nuclear deterrent, such a course carries with it incalculable risks and might end up by setting the entire Middle East aflame with fires which turn into a gigantic crematorium for the invaders.
The proletarian viewpoint
The working class, however, is beholden to neither section of the imperialist bourgeoisie but needs to look exclusively to its own class interests. It opposes war against Iran, as against Iraq, because it is the working class and the oppressed people who are the cannon fodder. Any failure on the part of the working class to oppose such a predatory imperialist war would simply make the proletariat an accomplice of its ruling class. While opposing all such wars, the proletariat needs to concentrate all its forces on the obstruction of capitalism at home and expropriate the blood-sucking imperialist bourgeoisie. That is the surest guarantee of meaningful prosperity for the working class. If our bourgeoisie was expropriated by the working class and all means of production were as a result put to work to produce for the purpose of meeting the needs of the working people, the working class in this country would be far better off than it is now, even though imperialist superprofits enable even working class people in this country to enjoy a higher standard of living than they would have if they were living and working in oppressed countries. The working class in this country therefore has no objective long-term interest in imperialist wars, and no interest in perpetuating the superexploitation of the working masses of other countries. Our duty is clear: to oppose all and any imperialist wars, including any war that might break out against Iran, and to support wholeheartedly and without reservation the resistance of oppressed peoples, including the people of Iran, against imperialist aggression.