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News :: International
US Hands Off Iran! Down With Sanctions! Trump Scraps Nuclear Deal, Threatens “Regime Change” (Workers Vanguard)
23 May 2018
Workers Vanguard No. 1134 18 May 2018
Trump Scraps Nuclear Deal, Threatens “Regime Change”
U.S. Hands Off Iran!
Down With Sanctions!
MAY 14—President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the imposition of draconian sanctions mark a dramatic escalation of U.S. imperialist aggression toward Iran. This move is completely in line with the position of anti-Iran hawks like new national security adviser John Bolton and new secretary of state Mike Pompeo, whose aim is nothing less than “regime change” in that country.
While the decision to withdraw from the deal has increased tensions between the U.S. and European imperialist powers, which have investments in Iran that are now threatened with U.S. sanctions, it has been wholly welcomed by Washington’s key Near East allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Within a few hours of Trump’s announcement on May 8, Israeli forces launched a barrage of missiles against alleged Iranian sites outside the Syrian capital of Damascus. Fifteen people were killed, including eight Iranians.
Adopted in October 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is widely considered the Obama administration’s signature diplomatic accomplishment. It was fiercely opposed by most Republicans, including adversaries like Trump and the now much-exalted, terminally ill John McCain, who in 2007 literally crooned “bomb Iran” to the tune of a Beach Boys song. In exchange for relaxing U.S. sanctions, which prevented European and other companies from doing business with Iran, the Iranian regime agreed to dramatically curtail its nuclear program and submit to international inspectors. In addition to the U.S. and Iran, Germany, France, Britain, the European Union, Russia and China signed on to the deal.
Barack Obama called Trump’s decision “misguided,” while House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi complained, “This rash decision isolates America, not Iran.” For the Democrats, the whole point of the nuclear deal was to ensure the disarmament of Iran in the face of unrelenting hostility and threats from both the U.S. imperialists and their Israeli junior partners. In response to the outright lies of Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran was subverting the agreement, Democratic spokesmen crowed that the deal “worked as intended” by preventing “Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” as liberal darling Elizabeth Warren recently tweeted.
It takes some chutzpah for the U.S. rulers to rail against Iran possibly acquiring nuclear weapons. The U.S. capitalists possess enough nuclear firepower to destroy humanity many times over. The 1945 atomic bombing of Japan, which was ultimately meant as a threat to the Soviet Union, epitomized the role of U.S. imperialism as the greatest menace to working people and the oppressed throughout the world.
In Iran itself, many doubtless recall the numerous crimes of the U.S., from the 1953 coup against nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadeq, which was orchestrated by the U.S. and British imperialists and brought back the hated Shah to power, to the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes 30 years ago this July (see “Massacre in the Persian Gulf,” WV No. 457, 15 July 1988). Nearly 300 people were killed in that atrocity. The Vincennes’s commanding officer was later decorated for his “outstanding service.”
The Iranian regime has always denied that it is developing nuclear weapons. However, Iran needs nukes to deter an imperialist attack. While the possession of nuclear weapons is no guarantee of security from an assault by the U.S., it does provide a real measure of sovereignty against the marauding imperialists.
It is the duty of the U.S. proletariat to demand an end to all sanctions against Iran and to stand for the defense of Iran against any military attack by the U.S. Our military defense of Iran against imperialism does not imply the least political support to the bourgeois Islamic regime, which enforces the fierce oppression of women, gays and national minorities and brutally represses labor struggle. But what must be understood is that U.S. imperialism is the greatest danger to the working people and downtrodden of the planet. Nothing short of the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system through workers revolution will rid the world of this menace and open the road to a socialist future.
Democrats: Murder by Sanctions
For all their bluster against Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, it is, in fact, the Democrats who have so far taken the lead in imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian people. In 1995, the Clinton administration issued an executive order barring U.S. companies from investing in Iranian oil and gas and from trading with Iran, followed a year later by a law imposing penalties on foreign firms with substantial investments in that sector. Sanctions were massively expanded under the Obama White House, which imposed dozens of them. These included his signing into law the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act and the tightening of sanctions as part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
These Obama-era sanctions had a disastrous effect on Iran’s populace. The 2010 sanctions crippled Iranian industry by depriving it of replacement parts. According to a January 4 report on the BBC, the average consumption of basic food staples such as bread, milk and meat has decreased by 30 to 50 percent in the last ten years. In 2013, as sanctions further reduced Iran’s oil revenue, the currency was devalued by more than 450 percent. Meanwhile, unemployment skyrocketed.
Some of the most dramatic impacts of the sanctions were on drugs and medical supplies. In 2012, the inflation rate in the health sector was as high as 45 percent, which resulted in many people not seeking treatment for illnesses because they could not afford it. Between 2012 and 2013, medical drugs were financially inaccessible to much of the population, as their cost had increased by 50 to 75 percent. While medicines were not directly subject to the embargo, Iran was cut off from international banking and often had to pay cash in advance for medicine, which was virtually impossible with the depreciated currency.
The JCPOA eased sanctions imposed by the U.S., United Nations and European Union, while also giving Iran access to $30 billion of its frozen assets abroad. Under the deal, Iran was able to substantially increase its oil exports, which allowed some growth in the economy—for example, working with the European company Total, Iran developed a major gasfield. Nonetheless, even with the deal, the effects of the embargoes continued to be felt, including by leaving a chilling effect that dissuaded many Western companies, especially in the banking sector, from investing. With Trump’s latest move reimposing U.S. sanctions, the peoples of Iran will be facing even more privation.
It should be recalled that the imposition of U.S.-led United Nations sanctions on Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War led to the deaths of 1.5 million human beings and the hollowing out of the country in the lead-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation. In 1996, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright, when told that half a million Iraqi children had died as a result of sanctions, coldly stated: “The price is worth it.” While Iran is more populous and powerful than Iraq, the embargoes placed upon it underline that it is a dependent country subject to imperialist depredation.
Notwithstanding their bickering and conflicting policies, the Republicans and Democrats share a common class interest: maintaining U.S. supremacy in the oil-rich Near East. Indeed, one of the key complaints of Democratic spokesmen critical of Trump’s decision was captured by Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national security adviser during his second term. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times (8 May), Rice noted, “In light of America’s abrogation of its commitments, Russia and China’s position in the region will be bolstered at our expense.” Both Russia, a regional capitalist power, and China, a bureaucratically deformed workers state, have invested billions in the Iranian economy, including by Russia in Iran’s oil fields and by China advancing Iranian banks lines of credit in euros or the Chinese yuan, rather than dollars, in order to bypass U.S. sanctions.
And with a summit scheduled between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it has not been lost on political commentators that “the United States cannot be trusted,” as Susan Rice put it in her Times op-ed. She continued: “Why would Kim Jong-un give up his nuclear and missile capability when the United States has just demonstrated that, once he does so, it might well renege on the bargain?” Indeed. Eight years after Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi ended his nuclear weapons program, he was overthrown and murdered in 2011 by forces backed by a U.S. and European bombing campaign.
From the 1950-53 Korean War to the vicious sanctions the U.S. and other imperialists continue to impose on that country, the imperialists have always been committed to capitalist counterrevolution in North Korea, a country in which capitalist rule was overthrown and a bureaucratically deformed workers state established in the years after World War II. As fighters for international proletarian revolution, we stand for the unconditional military defense of North Korea, China and the other remaining deformed workers states (Cuba, Vietnam and Laos) against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution, while maintaining our political opposition to their Stalinist regimes. We demand an end to all sanctions and welcome North Korea’s recent development of nuclear-weapons capability, which has helped stay the hand of U.S. imperialism.
Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal has certainly angered the European imperialists, who have increased their investments in Iran after the nuclear deal. Last month, French president Emmanuel Macron made a widely publicized visit to the U.S., where he tried to butter up Trump in the hopes of saving the JCPOA. This was followed by a more muted visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel (no hugs or hand-holding) and then British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who made a point of appearing on Trump’s favorite show, Fox and Friends, to try to convince him to stay in the deal.
In March, in an attempt to mollify Trump, European leaders also proposed that the European Union impose additional sanctions on Iran for its support to the Bashar al-Assad regime in the Syrian civil war and for its ballistic missile program, which is not covered by the JCPOA. It was all to no avail. In a haughty display of American imperial arrogance, Trump’s recently installed ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, tweeted: “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” After Trump pulled out of the deal, Macron, Merkel and British prime minister Theresa May issued a joint statement of “concern and regret” and pledged to work with Iranian officials to try to preserve the deal.
We do not know what will happen with what remains of the Iran deal. As one former State Department official told the New York Times (9 May), what Europe “might lose in Iran is dwarfed by the American market and the reach of the American banking system.” Additionally, European capitalists are facing the prospect of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. At the same time, there is growing sentiment to defy the Trump administration. France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, recently stated that Europe should not be a “vassal” to the U.S. while it acts as the world’s “economic policeman.” The rifts between the U.S. and the European imperialists underline the inherent fissures between these powers as they each seek to pursue their spheres of exploitation at the expense of their rivals and the world’s oppressed and working masses.
Down With U.S./Saudi/Israeli Axis of Evil!
Two countries that have welcomed Trump’s decision with open arms are Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which see Iran as their archenemy. As an unintended consequence of U.S. imperialism’s overthrow of Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Saddam Hussein regime and, more recently, because of the gains made by the Iran-backed Assad regime in the Syrian civil war, the influence of Shia-dominated Iran in the Near East has significantly grown over the past 15 years. This fact has made both Sunni-fundamentalist Saudi Arabia and Zionist Israel apoplectic.
Even before Trump’s announcement, Israel, the only nuclear-armed power in the Near East, had been hitting Iranian targets in Syria, such as an April 29 missile strike that killed 16 people. More recently, after missiles allegedly launched by Iranian forces in Syria hit Israeli military targets in the occupied Golan Heights, Israel announced that its jets had struck “dozens” of military targets in Syria. There is a very real possibility of yet more conflict between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria, as well as in Lebanon, where Iranian-supported Hezbollah made substantial gains in this month’s elections. At the same time, Israel’s bloody rulers, with the full support of the U.S., continue to wage war against the besieged Palestinian masses (see front-page article).
Meanwhile, the reactionary Saudi monarchs, claiming, with no evidence, that Iran was funding and arming Houthi rebels in Yemen, launched a savage war in that country beginning in March 2015. More than 13,000 people have been killed, tens of thousands have been wounded and over three million displaced. Nearly one-third of the population, eight million people, is on the brink of starvation. Thanks to Saudi destruction of basic sanitation, including clean water, one of the largest and fastest-spreading cholera outbreaks in world history has raged uncontrollably. One million people have contracted the disease; more than 2,000 have died.
While the Saudis have had the support of the U.S. since the war began, it has now been revealed that U.S. Green Berets are at the Saudi-Yemen border directly working with Saudi Arabia against the Houthis. We stand for the military defense of the Houthi forces and their allies against the U.S.-backed Saudi assault, without giving that movement any political support. A setback for Saudi forces would not only give a black eye to this deeply reactionary, theocratic state; it would also hinder the ambitions of the U.S. imperialists, whose interventions into the Near East have wreaked mass death and destruction. All U.S. and other imperialists out of the Near East now!
Saudi Arabia’s importance to U.S. regional interests increased particularly after Iran’s 1979 “Islamic revolution,” which came amid a social upheaval against the despised, U.S.-backed autocrat Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. At that time, the convulsive opposition to the monarchy included powerful strikes in the oil fields and throughout the country, posing the potential for the independent mobilization of the proletariat in the struggle for socialist revolution. However, the then-sizable Iranian left criminally subordinated the working class to the mullah-dominated opposition. Uniquely, our international tendency raised the call: Down with the Shah! No support to Khomeini! For workers revolution in Iran!
The establishment of a Shia theocracy resulted in the savage repression of Kurds and other minorities; the execution of strikers, homosexuals, adulterers and others accused of “crimes against God”; the stoning of unveiled women; the slaughter of leftists and the suppression of all opposition parties. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the task for proletarian militants today is to begin the work of building a Marxist party—an Iranian section of a reforged Trotskyist Fourth International. Such a party would seek to mobilize Iran’s multinational working class, standing at the head of all the oppressed, in the struggle to sweep away bourgeois rule. This perspective requires political opposition to all wings of the Iranian bourgeoisie—the mullahs, bourgeois liberals as well as to any monarchists lurking in the shadows—and implacable opposition to the U.S. and other imperialist powers, which will seek to manipulate the grievances of Iran’s masses to serve their own interests.
This perspective also requires the struggle for socialist revolution in the U.S. itself. The multiracial U.S. proletariat has every interest in opposing the depredations of its bourgeoisie. The same ruling class that wages war against the masses of the world brutalizes working people and the oppressed at home. Workers in the U.S. are exploited by American capitalists; black people and Latinos are shot down by American cops; immigrants are deported by American immigration agents; women are denied their right to abortion by American politicians and state governments.
The only class with the objective interest and social power to overthrow the capitalist order is the proletariat. The working class must establish itself as the ruling class, in the U.S. and internationally. To make the proletariat conscious of its historic task requires the construction of internationalist parties modeled on the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. This is the task to which we of the Spartacist League/U.S. and our comrades in the International Communist League commit ourselves.
This work is in the public domain