The following article, by a supporter of the ICC, was written before the recent attack on the British Embassy in Iran. On 29 November student protesters broke into the embassy building causing damage to offices and vehicles. Dominick Chilcott, the British ambassador, in an interview with the BBC, accused the Iranian regime of being behind the ‘spontaneous’ attacks. In retaliation the UK expelled the Iranian embassy in London.
These events are another moment in the growing tensions in the Middle East between the west and Iran. Firstly around the issue of nuclear weapons and secondly over Syria.
The recent IAEA report into Iran’s nuclear programme said Iran is developing a nuclear military capability. In response the UK, Canada & the USA have introduced new sanctions. In recent days Iran claims that it has shot down a US drone attempting to gather military intelligence.
In Syria the article mentions the collaboration between the Assad regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the massacre of the Syrian populace. They also had a hand in the sacking of the British embassy in the guise of their youth division, the Basij.
As well as inter-imperialist rivalries we should not forget internal rivalries within the national bourgeoisies themselves. This summer it became clear that there was a growing rift between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Despite Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic rants and sabre rattling rhetoric he represents a faction of the Iranian bourgeoisie that wants to maintain some sort of relationship with the west. Khamenei has had some of Ahmadinejad’s close allies arrested and supporters within the government sacked. In response Ahmadinejad went on strike for 11 days refusing to carry out his duties. The recent events around the sacking of the British embassy are being seen by some media analysts as part of this feud. Khamenei and his conservative supporters are considered to be behind the attacks as a way of undermining Ahmadinejad’s more conciliatory policy. This in turn will undermine him in the eyes of the Iranian voters with the next elections coming in 2012. (see: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/12/02/uk-iran-britain-policy-idUKLNE7B101120111202)
With tensions between Iran and the west growing there is speculation about war. Are the workers in the Middle East and in the west ready to be mobilised to support another major war? Workers the world over are being forced to take the burden of the financial crisis on their shoulders and are beginning to fight back. War means more austerity, more violence against workers, more despair. Workers have no stake in these bloody imperialist massacres. The only way forward is the destruction of capitalism itself.
After eight months of protest, originally part of a regional and international movement against oppression, unemployment and misery, here involving Druze, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, men, women and children, events in Syria have continued to take a darker turn with new, dangerous developments.
If, in defending their own interests and strategies, the USA, Britain and France are wary of a direct attack against Iran, then contributing to an assault on its closest ally, the Assad regime in Syria, is, in the rationale of inter-imperialist rivalries, the next best thing in pursuing their squeeze on the region and the Khamenei regime. The brutal security forces of Assad, backed with logistical support of “3-400 Revolutionary Guard Corps” from Iran (Guardian, 17.11.11), has massacred thousands of the populace and given rise to the lying, hypocritical ‘concern for civilians’ from the three main powers of the anti-Iranian front above. As in Libya, the US is ‘leading from behind’, this time having pushed the Arab League (splitting off Assad’s Algerian, Iraqi and Lebanese allies), of which Syria was a leading force, to suspend its membership and issue it with subsequent humiliating deadlines.
At the forefront of this phoney concern for life and limb is the murderous regime of Saudi Arabia, which a while ago sent a couple of thousand of its crack troops, in British-made APCs, to crush protest in Bahrain as well as to protect American and British interests and bases there. Underlying the hypocrisy, the confirmation of Syria’s suspension for its ‘bloodshed’ was made by the Arab League meeting in the Moroccan capital Rabat on November 16th, as that country’s security forces were attacking and repressing thousands of its own protesters. There are wider imperialist ramifications to the Arab League action in that its decisions have been condemned by Russia but supported by China.
It’s not only the Arab League that the USA and Britain are pushing forward from the corridors but the regional power of Turkey which was also involved in meetings in Rabat. After seemingly dissuading Turkey from setting up some sort of buffer zone or ‘no-fly zone’ on the Turkish/Syrian border, the US administration has now moved on with Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, saying last week “We very much welcome the strong stance that Turkey has taken...” The exiled leader of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood also told reporters last week that Turkish military action (to protect civilians of course) would be acceptable (Guardian, 18/11/11). The possibility of a buffer zone along the now heavily militarised Turkish/Syrian border would see the shadowy ‘Free Syrian Army’, largely based in Turkey (as well as Lebanon) and, at the moment, greatly outnumbered by the Syrian army, able to muster and move around with much heavier weaponry. Within this convergence of imperialist interests, this nest of snakes – containing inherent and further problems down the road – is the USA, Britain, France, the majority of the Arab League, Leftists, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi jihadists of Syria who have also taken a greater role in the anti-Assad opposition. Further regional destabilisation and potentially greater problems are evidenced in Turkish President Gul warning Syria that it would pay for stirring up trouble in Turkey’s Kurdish south-east and “Washington’s renewed willingness to turn a blind eye to Turkish military incursions against Kurdish guerrilla bases in northern Iraq” (Guardian, 18/11/11). All this instability, fed by all these powers and interests, make a military intervention by Turkey into Syrian territory all the more likely.
The ‘Free Syrian Army’ itself has been involved in sectarian murders and killings of civilians inside Syria and, operating from its safe havens outside the country, has been fighting and killing government forces and police, thus inviting retribution against the civilian population. The Syrian National Council, which appeared last month, has also called for military intervention against the Assad forces while another opposition force, the National Coordination Committee has denounced this position. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has already met the opposition forces in Paris and, in an upgrading of relations British Foreign Secretary Hague met opposition forces in London on 21 November. It’s wasn’t made clear who these ‘opposition forces’ were and whether they included the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian National Council, the NCC, the Kurdish opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi jihadists. Further opposition ‘coalitions’ include Stalinists, eleven Kurdish organisations, tribal and clan structures plus a bewildering array of initials of conflicting interests. At any rate, Hague has called for a “united front” and has appointed an “ambassador-designate” to them.
Tehran, the ultimate target
For a while now, the US, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been ratcheting up the anti-Iran hysteria and this is what lies behind their support for the Syrian oppositions and their ‘concern for civilians’. On Iran’s eastern border are over a hundred thousand US troops in Afghanistan; to the north-east is Turkmenistan with its US military bases. In the south Bahrain with its American and British naval bases; also Qatar with its US Forward Command HQ and leading anti-Iran cheerleader, Saudi Arabia. Iran’s only breathing space now is around its western border with Iraq and even here US and British Special Forces will probably maintain their terrorist attacks inside Iran. Off the coast of Iran is a massive build up of US warships in the Persian Gulf and in the wider Gulf region the US will beef up its ‘assets’ in Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE that it has had to run down in Iraq. And recent revelations (Guardian, 3/11/11) showed that the UK was advancing contingency plans for linking up with US forces in a possible naval and airborne attack against targets in Iran. Less than a thousand miles away is nuclear-armed Israel, who was implicated in the Stuxnet virus attack which succeeded in shutting down around a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and the death of Iranian scientists including one leading nuclear expert, Major General Moghaddam, killed along with 16 others in a huge explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base near Tehran ten days ago. Back in 2007, Bush got the approval of Congress for a $400 million programme for supporting ‘ethnic’ groups in Iran, as well as intelligence and sabotage plans and the US strategy of squeezing Iran goes back much further than that.
Again, the hypocrisy of democracy is almost beyond belief: despite the rhetoric about disarmament, the British American Security Information Council says that the US will spend $700 billion on upgrading its nuclear weapons facilities over the next decade and “other countries, including China, India, Israel, France and Pakistan are expected to devote formidable sums on tactical and strategic missile systems” (Guardian, 31.10.11). The report goes on to say that “nuclear weapons are being assigned roles that go well beyond deterrence... war fighting roles in military planning”. In respect of Israel, the report says: “... the size of its nuclear-tipped cruise missile submarine fleet is being increased and the country seems to be on course, on the back of its satellite launch rocket programme, for future development of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM)”. Britain, which was instrumental in providing Israel with nuclear weaponry, is not mentioned in this British-commissioned report.
Everyone knows that an attack on Iran would be crazy: even Mossad and Shin Bet, Israel’s external and internal security agencies. Using their usual channel of leaking against their politicians, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida, the two agencies have expressed their serious doubts and the recently retired boss of Mossad, Meir Dagan, called the prospect of an attack on Iran “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. But stupid or irrational doesn’t make it unlikely – look at the wars in Iraq and the Afghan/Pakistan long-running monumental completely irrational nightmare. Syria is becoming another step in transforming the covert war against Iran into its overt expression. It has nothing to do with ‘protecting civilians’ but everything to do with advancing the increasingly irrational aims imposed by imperialism on a decayed economic system.