Neither Tehran nor Washington, bring all the regimes down.
Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to international relations recently will be aware that tensions between the US and Iran are increasing at an alarming rate. Those of us who wish to live in a safer and more humane world should be asking ourselves: “How can I help to prevent yet another bloody conflict in the Middle East?” Ironically the answer to this seemingly difficult question is surprisingly simple. However, in order for us to understand the solution, it is essential that we analyse the situation.
I think we would all agree that the US and Iran are part of human civilisation. So what are the situations of the humans in these countries? Let us look at the faces behind the flags.
Life is an uphill struggle against poverty, unemployment and low wages for the majority of people in Iran.
In March 2010 the Iranian regime’s Supreme Labour Council set the monthly minimum wage for workers at 300,000 tomans (NZ$350). That amount was not even enough for a single person’s basic needs, let alone those of a worker’s family. According to the Mehr News Agency; “Many women now work as clerks, operators and in service jobs and are even deprived of the minimum wage.” Even the most conservative estimates by the Iranian government put unemployment at around 12% and the number of people living below the poverty line at 30 million.
Life is an uphill struggle against poverty, unemployment and low wages for the majority of people in Iran. However there are some who live a different lifestyle. Let’s have a glimpse into the world of the Iran’s super rich. Last year Iranian financiers suspected of growing rich through links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were caught flaunting their wealth on millions of dollars worth of cars. Buyers in just three cities imported some 48 top-of-the-range sports cars between March and July 2011: Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. According to an investigation backed by the European Union. Many of the cars are owned by shareholders in banks that are heavily indebted to the government.
Scandals like this are commonplace under Ahmadinejad's government. Last September Mahmud Reza Khavari, CEO of the country's largest state bank, Bank Melli, resigned over allegations of embezzlement worth $2.6 billion. He was reported to have fled to Canada.
Perhaps surprisingly for some, society in the US is not so different. A recent Gallup poll revealed that nearly one in five American workers are worried they will not be able to feed themselves or their families. New census data indicates an official child poverty rate of 21.6 percent; the highest rate the government has recorded since it began tracking the data in 2001. Figures from the Department of Education, from the 08/09 school year, indicates that one million students are now homeless. Officially, 49 million people, more than 16 percent of the population, are living in poverty.
Meanwhile Forbes magazine released its annual tally of the 400 richest Americans, whose combined net worth has soared to $1.53 trillion, up 12 percent since last year. To even make the list, it was necessary to have a fortune of at least $1.05 billion, more than ten thousand times the median net worth of an American household.
In the US also life is a constant struggle for the majority of people whilst a small group of super rich enjoy unimaginable wealth. We have seen that there are some similarities between the two nations with regard to social inequality. Now let us look at the political tensions that have been building up.
The Iranian regime has repeatedly insisted that it has no plans to build a nuclear weapon. However, when Iran announced two weeks ago that its Fordo uranium enrichment plant was operational, the US responded with threats of military action.
Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Soltanieh, described the US reaction as “exaggerated and politically motivated.” According to Iran, the Fordo plant will enrich uranium to the 20 percent level required to produce medical isotopes. Soltanieh pointed out that the IAEA has installed cameras in the plant to monitor operations and carries out regular inspections to ensure enriched uranium is not diverted to military purposes.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged that Iran was not building a nuclear bomb at present. However he stated that Iran was “developing a nuclear capability” and “that’s what concerns us.” He warned: “Our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon.”
The US and European Union have imposed embargos on Iranian oil exports that are ruining the country’s economy. Europe alone accounts for about 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports which are the country’s main source of income.
Japan has already taken steps to reduce its oil imports from Iran and is preparing for an embargo following a visit from US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba told the media that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (both enemies of Iran) had been approached to supply more oil as Japan wound back its imports from Iran. Japan and South Korea account for about 25 percent of Iran’s oil exports.
Iran’s oil exports have not been the sole focus the economic pressure from the US. President Obama recently signed into law a measure that would exclude corporations doing business with Iran’s central bank from the American financial system: resulting in a 20% drop in the value of the rial against the dollar. Furthermore Japan’s state-owned exploration company Impex has already bowed to US pressure to abandon its joint development of the Azadegan natural gas field.
The US has also attempted to pressure China into winding back their oil purchases from Iran. This however was unsuccessful as China has developed close economic relations with Iran and continues to purchase large quantities of Iranian oil, in part to avoid being dependent on close American allies such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. China has publicly opposed the imposition of further penalties on Iran via the UN Security Council and has so far refused to back Washington’s sanctions. China’s vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, declaring: “Regular economic and trade relations between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue.” The US could punish Chinese corporations for trading with Iran; a move that would dramatically heighten economic tensions between the US and China.
In response to this ongoing blatant provocation from the US, Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, carrying out a 10-day war game to prove its military ability. The strait at its narrowest is 54 kilometres wide. It is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum exporting Persian Gulf and is one of the world's most strategically important choke points.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the US would not tolerate such action. “That’s another red line for us, and we will respond to them,” he said. General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that the US “had invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that... We would take action and reopen the Straits.”
Eager to demonstrate Iran’s available allies Iranian President Ahmadinejad travelled to Latin America. He visited nations whose leadership shares a common hatred for the US including Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador. The president of Venezuela; Hugo Chavez defended Iran’s nuclear program and referred to their mutual enemies as “devils,” as he has in the past.
Threats from the US are being accompanied by a relentless campaign in both the US and international media to demonise Iran as a rogue state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Including completely erroneous allegations that Iran is building a missile base in Venezuela.
Meanwhile in Iran parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani has announced that several people have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Roshan died in a car bomb explosion last Wednesday. Police say a motorcyclist attached a magnetic mine to the car Roshan was travelling in. Iranian officials have said that the United States and Israel were behind the assassination. Both have denied any involvement.
The Iranian regime has also signaled a harder line, by imposing a death sentence on Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a US citizen and former Marine convicted of spying. The US has denied that Hekmati was a spy. These allegations come amid a series of assassinations and a program of sabotage directed against Iran’s nuclear and military programs over the past two years, indicating that Israel is waging a covert war inside Iran, with US support.
So what’s really going on? Why is the US government behaving like this? In order to understand the motivation of the US we need to be aware that Iran has the 3rd largest crude oil reserves on the planet with 138 billion barrels. This is of fundamental importance for two reasons.
Over 50% of global energy needs are met by oil.
Firstly we live in a world run by oil. We use oil to make petrol, diesel, jet fuel, bunker fuel and kerosene. Oil powers our cars, trucks, planes, ships, homes, ports, factories and offices. We use it to make pesticides and fertilizers, plastics and waxes, tar, sulphuric acid, asphalt, petroleum coke, paraffin wax, synthetic rubbers, cosmetics, perfumes, industrial solvents and much much more. Oil makes everything and moves everything. Over 50% of global energy needs are met by oil. We even need oil to build renewable energy facilities. If we ran out of oil tomorrow, industrialised human civilisation would collapse and billions of people would die.
Secondly the US is the strongest imperial power of our day. The US has over one thousand military bases around the world. They are the largest producer and exporter of weapons. They have the world's biggest military budget comprising 36 percent of total world military spending and using up more than 50 percent of their own national budget. It is vital that the US controls as much crude oil as possible in order to remain the dominant economic and political force on the planet. It achieves this using its armed forces, heavy influence over other nations around the world and all the while it keeps its citizens in the dark as much as possible using a compliant corporate media. Since the end of World War Two the US has bombed China, Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, Belgian Congo, Dominican Republic, Peru, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, Iran, Panama, Iraq, Kuwait, Somalia, Croatia, Bosnia, Sudan, Afganistan and Yugoslavia. (It may be interesting to note at this point that although currently presented, as “one of the most dangerous nations on earth” Iran has not attacked another country for over 200 years) The confrontation with Iran is part of a global imperialist strategy that goes far beyond concerns with Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. US imperialism is seeking to establish its unrivalled influence over the key energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.
War with Iran would of course bring other benefits to the ruling elite in the US. For a start US corporations would be able to make sickening amounts of profits from the sale of weapons, ammunition and other equipment required for a large scale armed conflict. Unfortunately disaster capitalism is big business; when an imperialist nation such as the US destroys infrastructure in other countries they are able to make billions of dollars in profits by giving US corporations the contracts to rebuild. Not only this but they are able to open up Iran for business, taking control of the financial institutions and bringing in more US corporations to turn a profit from the demand for goods and services.
The US invaded Iraq with a military force made up of American working class people sent to kill and be killed.
The working class do not benefit from war. For them it brings only increased suffering. Take the Iraq war for example. Iraq has the 4th largest oil reserves on the planet with approximately 115 billion barrels. People were sold the same stories we are hearing now about the development of nuclear weapons, which of course later turned out to be a total lie. The US invaded with a military force made up of American working class people sent to kill and be killed. They massacred over a million men, women and children living in Iraq. Meanwhile companies like Halliburton (a corporation responsible for the construction and maintenance of military bases, oil field repairs, and various infrastructure rebuilding projects) collected $17.2 billion in Iraq war related revenue from 2003 to 2006 alone.
There is no solution to the seemingly inevitable armed conflict between Iran and the US that does not begin with an attack on the wealth and power of the corporate and financial oligarchy of both nations. The majority of citizens in both nations are victims to class society and free market capitalism. In order to ensure that the basic needs of all people in both countries are met we must expropriate the vast fortunes of the ruling elite. The financial institutions and corporations they control must be taken over and run democratically in the interests of social need and the benefit of all human life.
Iran had a revolution against the Shah (a brutal dictator) relatively recently in 1979, however, it was unsuccessful in that Khomeini (a prominent leader of the revolution) and the clergy leadership actually represented a counter-revolution against the genuine struggle of the working class. In the end they represented the interests of the old privileged classes and of global capitalism. This is portrayed in the single fact, that in spite of all the thunderous shouts of "death to America" they never did anything to hurt or even weaken the position of American imperialism. On the contrary they were later revealed to have borrowed money and bought arms from many western countries, including the US. The true leaders of the Iranian revolution were those worker leaders who lead the general strike. Without them, the Shah would not have been toppled and the history of the revolutionary movement would have been many times bloodier, probably ending with a massive defeat or at best a bloody civil war.
To prevent this derailing of the revolution by the petit bourgeoisie and in order for lasting radical change to become reality we need to organise the independent industrial and political mobilization of the working class around the world in mass struggle, aimed at the conquest of political power and the socialist transformation of economic life. Only then can we begin the transition away from fossil fuels, imperialist wars, unnecessary suffering and the destruction of our planet towards a truly sustainable and prosperous future for all.
-Shane M., SA