Workers Vanguard No. 887
2 March 2007
No to UN Sanctions!
Down With U.S. War Moves Against Iran!
Imperialists Out of Iraq, Afghanistan Now!
FEBRUARY 27—Having already reduced Iraq to a living hell under the U.S. occupation, the Bush administration is carrying out one provocation after another against Iran while steadily beefing up military forces in and around the Persian Gulf. Two U.S. aircraft carriers have been positioned near the Iranian coast. BBC News online (20 February) reports that the U.S. has readied plans for attacks on Iran, to be triggered either by confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon or a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq
if it were traced directly back to Tehran. A U.S. bombing campaign would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.
At Washingtons behest, the UN Security Council in December demanded that Tehran halt its uranium enrichment program and imposed a first round of sanctions on Iran, barring technology sales that could be used for nuclear or missile development. Washington imposed additional sanctions targeting specific Iranian banks and other companies. This came after almost three years of inspections in which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program.
U.S./UN sanctions are having a marked impact on the Iranian economy, especially on oil production, its lifeline. A number of oil fields are in dire need of modern technology to reverse their normal decline (such as by reinjecting natural gas to flush out more oil), for which Iran needs foreign technical expertise. U.S. officials have warned oil companies that they risk financial sanctions if they help promote Irans oil development. American military threats are also having an economic impact. Oil companies are simply assessing risk, including what some see as the real risk of a military strike against Iran, said a former State Department official. Some are deciding its not worth it (New York Times, 13 February).
As we go to press, stock markets around the world have taken a huge hit, with U.S. shares marking their greatest losses since markets were reopened after the September 11, 2001 attacks. While the sell-off was triggered by a large drop in Shanghais stock index, the London Financial Times online reported today that concerns over Iran, worries about the US subprime mortgage market and a warning from Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, about a possible US recession punctured recent market optimism.
As revolutionary opponents of U.S. imperialism, the Spartacist League opposes any economic sanctions against Iran, which are acts of war. Both the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq were preceded and prepared by UN-imposed sanctions. In the event of military attack against Iran by U.S. imperialism or by Israel—the only nuclear-armed country in the Near East—or by any other force operating on behalf of the imperialists, our stand as Marxists is one of revolutionary defensism: for the military defense of Iran against imperialist attack without giving an iota of political support to the reactionary Tehran regime. As we wrote last year in Imperialists Threaten Iran (WV No. 869, 28 April 2006):
As the bipartisan threats demonstrate, the greatest menace to the workers and oppressed of the world is the U.S. imperialist rulers—who have not only acquired the means to destroy the world several times over, but who have actually carried out nuclear holocaust, incinerating some 200,000 Japanese people in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Iranian regime says that its nuclear energy program does not include plans to develop the bomb. The fact of the matter is that in the context of threats by the nuclear-armed imperialists, Iran clearly needs nukes to defend itself and deter a U.S. attack. In todays world, possession of nuclear arms has become the only real measure of national sovereignty.
It takes some chutzpah for the U.S. rulers to complain about Iranian interference in Iraq. The destruction of Iraqi society under U.S. occupation has engendered the horrors of mass murder and population expulsions. Almost daily, scores of civilians die in the ethnic and communal slaughter unleashed by the war and occupation. Bodies, often showing signs of hideous torture, turn up constantly in sewers and garbage dumps, victims of murderous militias and death squads that often overlap with the police and military. The flight of Sunnis and Shiites from once-mixed neighborhoods has turned into the greatest refugee crisis in the Near East since the Zionists 1948 expulsion of Palestinians and the creation of Israel. According to the UN, two million Iraqis—about 8 percent of the prewar population—have fled the country, mostly to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Iraqs smaller Christian and other minorities are threatened with being eradicated from their homeland.
In the leadup to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, we called for the military defense of both countries without giving any political support to the reactionary Taliban cutthroats or the bloody capitalist regime of Saddam Hussein, which had slaughtered thousands of Communists, trade unionists, Kurds and others. Today, we call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia. As we did when Bush launched these wars, with bipartisan support, under the rubric of the war on terror, we call on the U.S. proletariat to wage class struggle against the capitalist rulers at home.
Mass slaughter is the concentrated expression and ultimate logic of the normal brutal workings of the capitalist system. The atrocities visited on the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, the pounding attacks on the lives and livelihoods of working people and minorities in the U.S. and around the globe—this is the face of imperialism, of the irrational, anarchic, profit-driven capitalist system in its epoch of decay. The only road to putting an end to the horrors engendered by this system is that of socialist revolution. To lead the U.S. proletariat in smashing the American imperialist order requires a revolutionary workers party, forged through the struggle to break the working class from its allegiance to the Democratic Party, the other party of war and racism.
Democrats Left Camp Followers
Bushs Iraq debacle has had as a consequence the growth of Iranian influence in Iraq and the region. As a University of California professor—and cousin of the king of Morocco—described the situation in an article titled All the Ingredients for a Strategic American Disaster (Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2007): The winner is obviously Iran. The American strategy of dismantling the army and Baathist structures of the Iraqi state led to the elimination of Tehrans traditional enemy, while American confidence in the Shiite clerics has helped Irans allies inside Iraq. Washington has thus strengthened the very state it claimed to be fighting. The New York Times (18 February) chipped in: Iran has strengthened ties with Syria, built the militia Hezbollah into a state within a state in Lebanon and offered support to the radical Palestinian group Hamas. But the cornerstone to its regional plans lies in Baghdad.
Bushs Democratic Party opponents are voicing skepticism about his claims against Iran—as are governments and editorial writers around the world. But the Democrats portray Iran and its developing nuclear capacity as a threat just as starkly as do the Bush gang, differing only in the means to contain it. Among the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson called in the Washington Post (24 February) for directly engaging the Iranians about their nuclear program, noting that saber-rattling is not a good way to get the Iranians to cooperate. Richardson is here repeating the line of the bipartisan Baker commission, which also complained about the Bush governments unilateralism in attacking Iraq without the support of the international community. Nevertheless, Richardsons bottom line was: For the United States to attack Iran without exhausting all diplomatic options would be a terrible mistake.
For his part, John Edwards has parroted Bushs warning that all options are on the table in regard to Iran, while a February 14 statement by Hillary Clinton called for Bush to seek Congressional approval before any military action. Barack Obama, who has cast himself as the antiwar candidate, earlier told the Chicago Tribune (25 September 2004): Launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in. On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran.
The Democrats rode to victory in the November Congressional elections largely because of popular opposition to the Iraq occupation. In this they were aided by the antiwar movement built by the reformist left. The various antiwar coalitions supported by the Workers World Party (WWP), Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), International Socialist Organization (ISO), Socialist Action et al. pleaded with the imperialist rulers to bring peace to the Near East and to reorient their priorities. With their timeworn calls for money for schools and jobs and not war, these reformists demand that the rulers of the capitalist profit system serve the interests of those they exploit and oppress.
The reformist lefts fundamental allegiance is to bourgeois democracy: the political shell for the dictatorship of the capitalist class. Thus the ISOs Socialist Worker (8 December 2006) wrote following the Democrats electoral victory: The long dormant antiwar movement must take to the streets to remind this countrys ruling elite that they ultimately must answer to the people they govern. Now comes the obvious next step: directly appealing to the Democratic Party, which has dutifully voted funding for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars/occupation, to now use the power of the purse against the White House.
At a February 11 rally for Barack Obama at the University of Illinois-Chicago, protesters including ISO members unfurled a banner that read: Obama: Stand Up! Cut the Funding! Chiming right along are the calls issued for the March 17 March on the Pentagon by the PSLs ANSWER coalition and the WWPs Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC). Where ANSWER pleads, From Iraq to New Orleans, Fund Peoples Needs Not the War Machine, TONC intones, We Must Force Congress to Cut Off War Funding.
Promoting themselves as the party that can best wage the war on terror, the Democrats who oppose Bushs Iraq occupation all embrace the murderous occupation of Afghanistan as a just war in retaliation for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, opposed Bushs troop increase in Iraq by declaring that the president should send all of the 22,000 troops of the Iraqi surge to Afghanistan. Extricating U.S. forces from the Iraq quagmire could also give Washington more flexibility to pursue its threats against both neocolonial Iran and the North Korean deformed workers state, and to pursue as well the imperialists strategic goal of capitalist counterrevolution in China, the most powerful of the remaining societies where capitalism was overthrown.
Thousands more U.S. troops are now being redeployed to Afghanistan. Britain is adding its own extra contingents, even as it pulls out a quarter of its forces from southern Iraq. With the capitalist media braying about the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, even Pakistan, a longtime U.S. asset in the region, is feeling heat from Washington. According to press reports, on his recent trip to Pakistan, Vice President Cheney threatened the Musharraf regime with a cutoff of aid if it did not move against Taliban-linked forces near the Afghan border. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, a New York Times (26 February) article stated that the White House has ruled out unilateral strikes in the area for the time being.
When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, none of the reformist groups raised the elementary call for the military defense of those countries. Now, an ANSWER statement on its March 17 protest does not even mention the occupation of Afghanistan, not to speak of Bushs threats against Iran. This is a good measure of the U.S. lefts capitulation to the rulers war on terror as it tails the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism.
War Lies, and More
In January, Bush threatened that U.S. forces would seek out and destroy Iranians supposedly arming and training insurgents in Iraq. In a calculated provocation, American troops the next day seized five Iranians who even Iraqi officials maintained were diplomats. U.S. officials then upped the ante by revealing that Bush had authorized the military to kill or capture Iranian agents in Iraq. A New Yorker online article (25 February) by Seymour Hersh quotes a former senior intelligence official saying that the word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can and that they had five hundred locked up at one time. A former National Security Council official told Hersh: This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.
Hersh noted that with the two carrier strike groups near Iran due to be relieved in the spring, there is worry within the military that the two groups may be ordered to stay in the area after the new carriers arrive. The former intelligence official told him that contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. Many commentators have said that the U.S. is looking for a new Tonkin Gulf incident, referring to the cooked-up 1964 attack on a U.S. warship by North Vietnamese forces that provided the pretext for a massive escalation of American forces in Vietnam.
To bolster Washingtons claims that the highest levels of the Iranian government were targeting U.S. forces in Iraq, American officials pointed to captured armor-piercing explosives that they said were fabricated in Iran. But attempts to whip up anti-Iran sentiment are falling flat. First it was revealed that a press conference originally scheduled for late January had been repeatedly postponed because the evidence was so dubious that no official in Washington would take responsibility for it. (The briefing was finally presented off-camera by anonymous officers in Baghdad.) Then the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff contradicted the revelations, insisting that he saw no evidence of Iranian government involvement. Bush had to admit that he did not really know if attacks were ordered from the top echelons of the government in Tehran (New York Times, 15 February).
Having retailed the lies about weapons of mass destruction that served as a pretext for the Iraq war, even the pliant bourgeois press has expressed skepticism about the administrations claims concerning Iran. But they did not pursue such obvious questions as why the supposed Iranian weapons displayed for reporters had English markings. An Iranian UN official aptly noted in a letter to the New York Times (26 February), The evidence that has been produced is preposterous (the dates on the evidence are in American date format—month first, day second—whereas the rest of the world does not use this format). And, as Paul Krugman wrote in the Times (12 February), close U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is believed to be a major source of financial support for Sunni insurgents—and Sunnis, not Iranian-backed Shiites, are still responsible for most American combat deaths.
In any case, as revolutionary opponents of U.S. imperialism, we recognize that when the insurgents in Iraq carry out strikes against the U.S. occupiers, such acts coincide with the interests of the international proletariat. However, we do not imbue these forces with anti-imperialist credentials and stand in intransigent opposition to the murderous communal violence that is often carried out by the very same forces fighting the occupation armies. Should the Iraqi proletariat raise its head, it would face not only the savagery of the imperialists but also the brutality of the reactionary Islamic fundamentalists and bourgeois nationalists that dominate the resistance.
In regard to the hysteria over Iranian nukes, as the UN Security Council considered imposing further sanctions, the London Guardian (23 February) reported: Much of the intelligence on Irans nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by American spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded. The United States has a long history of fabricating evidence, declared an Iranian government official (New York Times, 13 February). Thats for sure. In the 1980s, when Washington was funneling vast quantities of arms and money to the Islamic fundamentalists fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan, the CIA sought to cover its tracks by supplying the mujahedin with Russian guns purchased from international arms merchants. Washingtons support to religious reaction in Afghanistan demonstrated how U.S. imperialism fostered the growth of Islamic reaction during the Cold War as a counterweight to Communism and secular nationalism in the Muslim world.
While the bulk of the left howled along with the imperialists against the Soviet intervention, we said, Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! We noted this was one of the few genuinely progressive acts by the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, offering the possibility of extending the social gains of the 1917 Russian Revolution to the oppressed peoples and women of Afghanistan. The Kremlins treacherous withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1988-89 was the opening for the victory of imperialist-backed counterrevolution throughout East Europe and within the Soviet Union itself. The restoration of capitalism in East Europe and the former Soviet Union—a historic defeat for the world proletariat—has brought devastation to the working people of those societies and emboldened the imperialists in their attacks globally while fueling the resurgence of religious reaction throughout the world.
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
Far from being anti-imperialist, as the Workers World Party claims, the Iranian clerical regime would be perfectly amenable to a reconciliation with Washington, if conditions permitted. The Iranian mullahs observed a tactful silence during the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. They strongly encouraged the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and played a key role in the negotiations that set up a quisling government in Kabul under Hamid Karzai. Since then, Tehran has arrested hundreds of suspected Al Qaeda fighters streaming into Iran from Afghanistan, turned them over to Saudi Arabia and other countries and provided names, photographs and fingerprints to U.S. intelligence officials.
According to a number of press reports, Tehran offered in 2003 to end its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas and to help the U.S. stabilize Iraq in return for Washington lifting sanctions and dismantling the Mujahedin Khalq, an Iranian opposition group with bases in Iraq. The offer was reportedly rejected out of hand by Vice President Cheney.
The reactionary 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution that overthrew the CIA-backed Shah was supported by the bulk of the left internationally in the name of anti-imperialism. This included the pro-Moscow Tudeh (Masses) party in Iran, which had a base among the countrys strategic, heavily Arab oil workers. Uniquely on the left, the International Communist League (then the international Spartacist tendency) gave no political support to Ayatollah Khomeinis forces. We warned that absent a decisive break by the working class with the Islamic forces, the 1978-79 upheaval would have a disastrous outcome. We said: Down with the Shah! Dont bow to Khomeini! For workers revolution in Iran! After taking power, the mullahs enslaved women in the veil, slaughtered thousands of leftists and trade unionists and intensified repression against Kurds and other minorities.
The current regime has continued the murderous repression. On February 24, Iranian soldiers near the Turkish border killed 17 militants associated with the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party based in Turkey. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who says that Israel should be wiped out from the map of the world, has called the slaughter of six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust a myth and last year organized a conference with Holocaust deniers from around the world, including outright fascists.
In one significant way, Iran is, in this period, an anomaly in the Near East. The growing opposition in that country to the current regime appears to have a significant secular component, as many aspire to free themselves from stifling religious rule. Ahmadinejad took the presidency in June 2005 having promised to provide more jobs, fight corruption and redistribute wealth. However, inflation has exploded, with the price of staples like bread and meat rising as much as 25 percent, students are disaffected, workers strikes have been growing and the Kurdish and Azeri north, the Arab southwest and the Baluchi southeast are simmering. In Decembers municipal elections, the presidents political allies suffered an embarrassing defeat.
It is the task of the working class in Iran, leading women, national and ethnic minorities and all the oppressed behind it, to overthrow the Persian-chauvinist Islamic regime. Key to this perspective is the forging of a Marxist workers party. Such parties must be built throughout the Near East to unite the proletariat—Arab, Persian, Kurdish and Hebrew, Sunni and Shiite, Muslim and Christian—in struggle against imperialism and against the Zionists, mullahs, colonels, sheiks and all the other capitalist rulers. The fight for workers rule in the Near East crucially includes shattering the Zionist garrison state from within through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution.
This is the Trotskyist perspective of permanent revolution, which vitally includes the fight to extend working-class rule to the imperialist centers, not least through the struggle for socialist revolution in the U.S. In the struggle for a socialist federation of the Near East, Marxist workers parties are essential to break the proletariat of the region from fundamentalism, nationalism and illusions in imperialist democracy. The Stalinized Communist parties of the Near East, which made a mockery of this revolutionary perspective with their support to various bourgeois forces, share responsibility for the growth of Islamic fundamentalism among the working and oppressed masses.
Down With U.S. Imperialism!
As further sanctions loom, the Iranian government has taken the just stand that it will defy UN strictures against its nuclear development. While Russia accommodated the U.S. by voting for UN sanctions, it has also provided Iran with $700 million worth of TOR-M1 antiaircraft batteries, whose likely target in the event of conflict would be American fighters and bombers (New York Times, 18 February). Russian leaders were already furious over the eastward expansion of NATO which, having signed up the former Soviet republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, is now making overtures to Georgia and Ukraine. At a security conference in Munich in February, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin lashed out at the U.S. over its plan to install a missile defense system—supposedly directed against intercontinental missiles launched by Iran!—in Poland and the Czech Republic.
It is particularly criminal that representatives of the Chinese deformed workers state voted on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. The Chinese Stalinist regime has also collaborated with the imperialists in the ongoing negotiations aimed at stopping North Koreas development of nuclear weapons. We stand for the unconditional military defense of the Chinese, North Korean, Cuban and Vietnamese deformed workers states against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution. We support Pyongyangs testing and development of nukes as a deterrent against imperialist blackmail and hailed Chinas successful anti-satellite weapons test in January.
Beijings aid to the effort to disarm North Korea—an expression of the Stalinist policy of peaceful coexistence with imperialism—undermines Chinas own defense. We fight for workers political revolutions to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies and replace them with regimes based on workers democracy. Such revolutionary regimes must be guided by a program of revolutionary internationalism, fighting to extend proletarian rule through international socialist revolution.
In the U.S., we seek to mobilize the proletariat in struggle against its own ruling class—the deadliest terrorist force on the planet. After Bush announced the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, we wrote in Imperialists Escalate Bloody Iraq Occupation (WV No. 884, 19 January): It is the road of class struggle that points the way toward smashing imperialism from within, through socialist revolution. If there is to be a future for coming generations of working-class and minority youth other than one of grinding exploitation, joblessness, mass imprisonment or use as cannon fodder, if the impoverished masses of the world are to have a future other than starvation and slaughter, this whole system must be torn up by its roots and replaced by a rational, planned economy under workers rule internationally.