The new imperialist provocations against Iran and the possible consequences
6 February 2012. A World to Win News Service. By A. Peyman. Since the new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano presented his report on Iran's nuclear programme last November, harsh words have been exchanged between the Western powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran. These tensions have the potential to create another war in the Middle East, a volatile region of the world already racked by several wars and violent conflicts.
The latest IAEA report accused Iran of efforts to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level, carrying out research on the production of warheads and planning to manufacture missiles capable of carrying those warheads. This has been the toughest report on Iran's nuclear programme so far and could be considered a leap in the agency's position on the issue.
The previous IAEA report referred to what it called obscure points and unanswered questions in regard to the Iranian nuclear programme but never accused Iran of actually taking steps to produce nuclear weapons or claimed that there was evidence that the regime intended to do so. The shift in the IAEA's stance does not represent new evidence, but a change in political position.
The credibility of the IAEA report has been attacked by many technologically and politically knowledgeable people, including the prominent journalist Seymour Hersh, who has been investigating possible military action against Iran for the last decade. He argues that the new report cites little the intelligence material produced after 2003 – and points out that a still-secret but well known 2007 US intelligence assessment concluded that Iran abandoned some apparently weapons-related programmes that year. ("Iran and the I.A.E.A.", New Yorker, 18 November 2011).
In fact, the IAEA report's conclusions were directly contradicted by the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) founded by nuclear weapons expert David Albright, who formerly worked with the IAEA. In a recent draft report Isis wrote, "Although Iran is involved in nuclear hedging" (seeking the ability to produce and deliver nuclear weapons if and when it chooses to do so), "no evidence has emerged that the regime has decided to build nuclear weapons." The Guardian article revealing on this document adds, "The report tracks closely with what is known of official US government assessments." (Isis-online.org, Guardian 25 January 2012)
This was indirectly confirmed by no less than US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. On 18 December last year he told the CBS TV network that Iran is less than a year away from the capability to make a nuclear weapon. However in an interview with the same network on 8 January 2012, he said, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? no. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capacity. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon."
Sanctions and provocations
In fact, the recent IAEA report provides the excuse that US and its allies were waiting for to intensify their pressure, including sanctions, at a much higher level, and could even be taken as a pretext for military action against Iran.
At the end of 2011 US President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that would generally deny access to the American financial system for foreign financial institutions that do significant business with Iran's Central Bank, the government agency that usually collects payment for most of Iran's oil and other commodity exports.
This could be considered an effective embargo not only on Iran's oil sales, but also any kind of trade with Iran. The European Union approved an even stricter total ban on oil imports from Iran as of next July.
This puts tremendous pressure on Iran's financial system and the country's economy.
After years of negotiations in which Britain, Germany and France failed to compel the Iranian regime to halt its uranium enrichment programme, the issue was referred to the UN Security Council. The Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran so far. At the beginning they claimed that the sanctions were designed not to harm the masses of people but only targeted the nuclear programme and those involved. But now the Western powers are broadening the sanctions to a degree meant to bring the Islamic regime to its knees, and this will surely have a drastic effect on the Iranian people.
When Russia and China declared their opposition to any further sanctions against Iran, blocking any more Security Council resolutions, the US and EU went ahead with their unilateral plans to turn up the heat on Iranian regime.
Amidst the rise of concerns about possible military action against Iran, various politicians in the West and even some Israelis officials have continued to insist that they have no desire to launch military action against Iran – that they are stepping up the pressure to make military action unnecessary. For example, in his later CBS interview Panetta said, "the responsible thing to do right now is to keep putting diplomatic and economic pressure on them."
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament that "all options remain on the table" but that his government did not "want to see military conflict over this" (BBC, 24 January) German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle declared that his country would not take part in any discussions related to military intervention, saying that such action would be "counterproductive". Alan Juppe, the French Foreign Minister, warned that military intervention would be the worst thing and it would "drag us into an uncontrollable spiral." (AFP, 14 November)
It seems that the Western power politicians are assuring the people they are not for a military option, at least at the present time. But forms of pressure short of war can pursue the same aims as larger-scale military actions and could prepare the terrain for them.
First of all, the sanctions are taking dimensions that would increasingly effect everyone in Iran and ruin the economy in a way that would hurt ordinary people the most. The imperialists hope this will make it easier for them to interfere in the country's internal affairs.
Secondly, the pressure has not been limited to economic sanctions or the so-called diplomatic isolation of the Islamic Republic, but also includes activities such as sabotage, assassination and other covert operations.
On 11 January this year, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist, was killed by a magnet bomb stuck onto his car by two motorcyclists as he was being driven to work in morning rush hour traffic. The Iranian regime and some media accused the US and Israel. While the US government officially condemned the killing, high-ranking Israeli intelligence service (Mossad) officials bragged about the effectiveness of the terrorist campaign that has killed four other Iranian nuclear scientists in similar circumstances over the last few years. (The New York Times, 29 January)
At an Iranian missile base on 12 November an explosion killed the Pasdaran commander in charge of Iran's missile programme, Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, along with 16 other men, and destroyed much of the base. Such actions are consistent with Israel's practices in the past.
Despite the US government's attempts to distance itself from this campaign, some people believe that the US might have provided the intelligence that made these attacks possible and left the dirty work to the Israelis.
It is now clear that one of the tasks being implemented by the American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is to spy and to carry out other covert operations inside Iran. The downing, deep within Iran, of a US RQ-170 drone that can fly at high altitude to avoid radar detection brought some such operations to light last December. Washington also recently admitted that it is flying drones from American installations in Iraq. The Iranian Fars news agency (2 January) quoted a senior Revolutionary Guards air force wing commander who said that while the US was mainly using its drones over Afghanistan and Iraq, "some" had entered Iranian air space. He claimed that Iran had shot down "many" over the Persian Gulf.
Members of US think tanks openly discuss the advantages of covert operations inside Iran iand sabotage instead of full military engagement, at least for the time being. For example, Patrick Clawson, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, "Sabotage and assassination is the way to go, if you can do it. It doesn't provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran, which could strengthen the regime. And it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high." (NYT, 11 January 2012)
In addition to these covert actions, it has been reported that on 12 January the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, equipped with 80 jet fighters and helicopters, was in the Arabian Sea on its way to the Persian Gulf, also the destination of the carrier US Abraham Lincoln, usually based in the Indian Ocean. On 17 January it was reported that the British Navy's HMS Daring left the UK for the Persian Gulf. Despite Paris's stated loathing of the "military option", the American and British vessels were joined by a French warship that sailed between the Straights of Hormuz.
So as economic pressure is being applied to Iran, it seems that preparations for a war are also taking place.
However whether or not all this will lead to a war against Iran is not clear. In fact, given the present economic and military situation for the US and the West as a whole, and some opposition within the ruling circles of the imperialist powers including the US, the current provocations may not necessarily lead to a war or open military action against Iran at the present time. But "all options are on the table" means exactly what it says. And given the sensitivity of the region and the tensions in the relations, things could get out of hand despite anyone's intentions.
Whatever happens in this current round of tension, what the imperialists are doing today could be considered preparation for war and helping to pave the way for that. The decade-long economic sanctions against the Saddam Hussain regime before the 2003 invasion not only made life difficult and often painful for the Iraqi masses and caused the death of many thousands of children due to the lack of medicine and malnourishment. They also destroyed the dependent economy of the country, stripped it of its weapons, and, when the US ruling class thought they were ready for a war in the Middle East, these measures had prepared the terrain just as an artillery barrage can be used to "soften up" the enemy and prepare the way for a frontal assault.
In fact the Iranian regime has been on the US target list for a long time, not principally because of Iran's nuclear programme but based on American global interests. Along with Iraq and North Korea, US President George Bush's 2002 "axis of evil" included Iran. At that time it was widely believed that Bush was planning to attack Iran, but as the wars in Iraq and later Afghanistan, two countries bordering Iran, ran into difficulties and did not go according to plan, Iran's case could be said to have been postponed. It is hard to imagine that it was abandoned.
In fact whatever the US global strategic plan might be now, the key role of the Middle East for global domination has been not changed.
At the present time the US faces some serious obstacles to waging another war in the Middle East. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have not turned out well for Washington. The US has had some success, but few would say that the US's overall position in the world has been strengthened by them. Then there is the economic crisis that is so deeply affecting the Western imperialists.
Further, any war against Iran is not likely to have the approval of the Security Council, because Russia and China have already declared their opposition even to tougher sanctions. Russia, in particular, has already started to warn against any military action. The Russian Deputy Prime Minster and envoy to Nato Dimitri Rogzine said that it would consider "any military intervention in Iran as a threat" to its security. (BBC, 13 January)
China, however, has given mixed signals, cooperating with the sanctions but refusing to go along with the Security Council's imposition of new ones, arguing that "sanctions threaten global trade more than any individual nation." (NYT, 20 January)
In a way, the US is targeting the interests of these countries as well as the Iranian regime. What is important for the US is control over a region that is key to its global strategic interests. If Iran is not cooperating in the way that the US requires, the US is not controlling the region. What is more frustrating for the US and the EU as well is that in reaction to the pressure from the West and maybe for other reasons as well, Iran has turned more to the East, i.e. Russia and China. Iran's main business partner is no longer Germany or the EU, but China. In the first four months of 2011, 80 percent of Iran's income from selling oil and gas passed through Chinese and Russian banks.
Another new factor has to do with the uprisings in the Middle East and the North African countries, on the one hand, and the Nato invasion of Libya on the other.
The Western imperialist are aware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is isolated and hated by the Iranian masses. The uprisings in the Arab countries makes it easier to envision a rising by the Iranian people. The US and EU might be hoping to take advantage of the situation. And by increasing the pressure on the people, they may be hoping to be able to intervene militarily using the Libyan model in Iran. At least that is being considered and could be taken as a possibility.
The debate about whether or not to strike Iran right now that is going on in the US, between the US and other imperialists, and within the Israeli power structure, reflects not only different interests in some cases, but also different estimates of the potential gains and costs to the reactionary interests at stake.
There are already two wars going on in the region (Iraq and Afghanistan), as well as Israel's armed occupation of Palestine. Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Kurdistan in Turkey are not at peace either, so the imperialists could lose control of the situation completely and the turmoil could spread far beyond Middle East. An instability that is now unimaginable could result. The fast spread of the uprising in the Arab world during last year showed how flammable the region can be.
So given all this it is logical to assume that the US ruling power and its allies have calculated that the outcome of such a war would be very uncertain and the US would risk having even more problems.
However the imperialists' logic might and could be different and the force of necessity could overcome whatever logic or what might seem reasonable. In another words, they see the things with their own lens, which makes prediction very hard and perhaps impossible. But what is clear is that when their interests are at stake, they need no justification and long ago demonstrated that there is no brutality they will shrink at.
So intensifying the pressure on the Iran is directly or indirectly linked to preparations for a war or a military action in the future unless the Iranian regime agrees to come to terms with the Western powers. Even that might or might not immunize the Iranian regime against intervention.
In any case, what's needed is for the people of the world to rise and protest against any kind of imperialist provocation, war and intervention, to oppose any kind of imperialist intervention, refuse to support any reactionary regime and instead wholeheartedly back the peoples' fight for liberation and revolution.
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