Iran: Tehran holds firm

Facing down the continuing aggressive bluster emanating from Washington and Whitehall, Iran continues to hold true to her path of peaceful independent development. She steadfastly refuses either to undo the electoral verdict of her people, to dismantle the important sectors of the economy that remain state-owned, or to abandon the programme to secure her energy security needs through the development of atomic power.

When Obama issued his brusque ultimatum to Tehran – in effect, go back to the UN by mid-September to prove a negative, that you don’t plan to build nuclear bombs – the latter’s response was measured and statesmanlike.  President Ahmadinejad announced that his country was “ready to hold talks on international cooperation and ways to resolve ongoing economic and security problems in the world”, but made it clear that there would be no haggling over Iran’s right to develop its nuclear energy programme.

This same principled stance has characterised the subsequent talks in October.  Tehran explained that, in order to feed its medical research reactor, it required a supply of fully enriched uranium.  Whilst it is entirely legitimate for Iran to access her own light-enriched uranium and complete its enrichment herself, she accepted that another option might be for members of the “nuclear club” to supply some of her requirements.  This might be achieved either by Iran exporting some of her light-enriched material to Russia for full enrichment and return, or simply by the import of the fully enriched product. Iran has continued to make clear throughout that none of these potential arrangements can in any way compromise the country’s right to a civil nuclear programme, with Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki telling a recent news conference that there were no plans to halt the uranium enrichment work, spelling it out that “Iran will never abandon its legal and obvious right”. (International Herald Tribune (IHT), 21 October, ‘Iran Threatens to Back Out of Fuel Deal’ by David E. Sanger).

Washington’s real motivation in the Vienna talks showed through in a comment from Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary. He told journalists that “Our object is to get a sizable amount of low-enriched uranium out of the country of Iran, making the world more secure”.  Other officials confided that such an arrangement “would set aside, for about a year, fears that Iran could use the fuel to produce a nuclear weapon” (ibid.).  So far as the US is concerned, the sole purpose of such proposals is to sabotage Iran’s plans for energy security. Needless to say, when Tehran responded by requesting guarantees that fresh supplies of fully enriched plutonium would be provided, this reasonable request was then misrepresented as obstructionism on Iran’s part!

However there are signs that this clumsy piece of diplomatic chicanery is not achieving its desired end. By taking negotiations down this line, discussing how best to get the country’s semi-enriched feedstock processed or replaced, the UN is quietly dropping its earlier groundless objections to all processing.. As Mr Mottaki pointed out to journalists, “The meetings with world powers and their behaviour shows that Iran’s right to have peaceful nuclear technology has been accepted by them” (ibid.).

One reason the UN is not dancing so assiduously to Obama’s tune as he might like are the positions adopted by China and Russia.  In June Sinopec signed a $5 billion contract to develop the South Pars natural gas field in Iran.  The following month Chinese companies were invited to join a $42.8 billion project to build seven oil refineries and lay a pipeline across Iran spanning over a thousand miles. Then in August came yet another deal between the two countries, this time to help Iran expand two more oil refineries (IHT, 30 September 2009, ‘China’s Ties With Iran Complicate Diplomacy’ by Michael Wines).  The cooperation over oil refineries was particularly timely, given Washington’s ill-fated efforts to take the opportunity posed by Iran’s relative backwardness in refining capacity to whip up a ban on exporting petrol to Iran!

Both China and Iran benefit from this relationship.  China needs the energy resources to fuel its own rapid modernisation.  At the same time it needs to loosen its dependence upon Middle East oil, the supply routes for which are so jealously watched over by the US Navy.  So it is that for the last five years Iran has exported more oil to China than to any other single market.  In return, Iran benefits from Chinese know-how as well as the machine tools, locomotives and other means of production which she can supply.  Given this friendship, it is not hard to see why China, as a permanent Security Council member, does her best to resist US demands for the UN to impose tougher sanctions against Tehran.

Russia’s own trading and diplomatic links with Iran prevent Moscow too from joining Washington’s Tehran-bashing at the UN.  As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put it, “The most important thing is Iran is ready for a comprehensive discussion of the situation, what positive role it can play in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region … Some of the sanctions under discussion, including oil and oil products, are not a mechanism to force Iran to cooperate … They are a step to a full-blown blockade, and I do not think they would be supported at the UN Security Council … Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way” (New York Times , 11 September 2009).

Back in June Washington’s all-out black propaganda campaign against the re-election of President Ahmadinejad was an exercise of “soft power” which utterly failed to topple the popular elected government.  After the corrupt farce of the occupation-supervised Afghan ‘elections’, all further talk of supposed “irregularities” in Iran’s  polling arrangements has effectively been silenced by universal derision.

Renewed pressure from Washington to stampede the UN into stiffening the sanctions regime is similarly running into the sand.  However, nobody should suppose that, in the event of a failure of “soft power”, Washington will not be tempted to resort to “hard power”, blinded to the consequences of such a course.  Some indication of how far aggressive Anglo-American imperialism is prepared to go in defence of its right to plunder and dominate the world was given by events on the very eve of the latest Vienna talks.  The day before talks recommenced, at least five Revolutionary Guards were reportedly killed and dozens of other people left dead or wounded in two bomb attacks near the Pakistan border.  The New York Times quoted a Revolutionary Guards’ spokesman as saying “Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus, and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them” (New York Times, 20 October, 2009, ‘Iran Blames U.S. and Britain in Attack’ by Michael Slackman).  According to the paper, responsibility for the outrage was claimed by an armed group of Sunni Baluchis named Jundallah, which Iran has claimed is bankrolled and armed by the US.  Given the vicious divide and rule tactics employed in the Iraq occupation, it is significant that, by the ILNA (Iranian news agency) account, the bombers “struck early Sunday as the Guards prepared to bring regional Shiite and Sunni leaders together for a conference in Pishin to try to improve relations among the different communities”.  Further, “In one attack, a suicide bomber wearing a military uniform and an explosive belt entered a mosque where Guard commanders were organizing a reconciliation meeting” (ibid.).

Whether black operations to inflame tribal and confessional tensions qualify as “soft power”, “hard power” or “smart power” we must leave the reader to judge.  What is certain is that, confronted by such dirty tricks, backed up by endless provocative naval manoeuvres by the US and Israel, Iran is acting in the best interests of peace in the region by looking very seriously to the defence of her national sovereignty, by whatever means imperialist aggression renders necessary.

It is in this light that we congratulate Iran on the recent successful test firing of upgraded missiles announced by Press TV on 28 September.  The report quoted Brigadier General Hossein Salami as follows: “We have increased the range of these missiles, upgraded the technical and navigation systems, and decreased their launch times in a way that gives them quicker launch capabilities”.

In a world dominated by aggressive imperialist powers armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, it would be folly for less powerful countries to neglect their national defences.