The decision by United States President Donald Trump not to bomb Iran in retaliation for its missile strikes against US military bases in Iraq (themselves retaliation for the assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani) has eased fears that the US would launch another war in the Middle East.
However, the threat of a shooting war against Iran remains. The US has imposed economic sanctions against Iran ever since the 1979 revolution that overthrew Mohammad Reza Shah and his extremely repressive government, which was installed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a coup in 1953.
What the US government — under both Democrats and Republicans — has never forgiven, is that the months-long general strike, demonstrations and insurrection in Iran in 1978–79 that overthrew the Shah, also challenged the US domination of the country. This included the presence of US military bases that, together with the garrison state of Israel, were a threat to the peoples of the region.
The economic sanctions the US has imposed on Iran for 40 years are acts of war.
The US empire rests on its military power, including approximately 800 bases around the world. It also rests on the economic power of Washington over the global financial system, epitomised by the US dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.
This has enabled the US to wage direct economic war against Iran, and to force other countries, their banks and businesses to join its sanctions, or become targets themselves.
Under the 2015 nuclear deal, reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the US, Britain, Russia, France and China — plus Germany and the European Union, some sanctions against Iran were lifted. In return, Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear weapons program.
When Trump pulled out of that agreement, he reinstituted those sanctions and intensified them to the point where Iran’s oil production has been severely curtailed.
Oil exports are Iran’s major source of income, and the result has been great hardship on the Iranian people.
Trump hopes this will cause enough misery that the Iranian regime will capitulate, and a new US protectorate can be installed. This will not happen.
Why the US hates Iran
To understand why, it is necessary to review some history. While the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah was carried out by the working people in a great uprising, there was no working-class party that could have led that uprising to the conclusion of establishing workers’ power, achieving political democracy and opening the way towards socialism.
The clergy, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, a fierce opponent of the Shah, was able to gradually take control and establish a repressive theocracy. While the hopes of 1979 were dashed, there has remained one important gain — independence from US imperialism.
The Iranian masses’ rejection of US domination has been demonstrated in many ways in the past 40 years.
One was the resistance to the US-orchestrated invasion of Iran by Iraq under Saddam Hussein (Washington’s “good guy” at the time). The resulting war, which lasted for most of the 1980s, resulted in as many as one million dead, but the Iranian people remained firm.
During this war, the Iranian theocracy solidified its hold on power, as the main focus of the Iranian people was on defeating the invasion.
There have been huge anti-US demonstrations against the assassination of Soleimani across Iran, by all sectors, including both supporters of the regime and its opponents.
Under the strangulation of US-imposed sanctions, it is possible that Iran will carry out further attacks against US forces in the region, initially via Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Lebanon and other countries.
This could lead Trump to directly attack Iran, initiating a war throughout the Middle East.
It is against this danger that we must demand the US get out of the region, stop threatening Iran, stop new armed forces being sent there and end its sanctions.
Leaving aside the fact that the greatest nuclear threat to the world is the US and its backing of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, its tensions with Iran and North Korea over nuclear weapons could be easily solved.
US undermines peace
As far as North Korea is concerned, the US could finally end the Korean War after 67 years, establish peaceful relations, end its sanctions and withdraw its troops from South Korea and its nuclear-armed ships and submarines in the western Pacific. This would meet all the conditions the North Korean regime has set for its complete nuclear disarmament.
The US could end its virtual 40-year state of war with Iran, establish peaceful relations and end the sanctions. It could also end its support of Israel’s nuclear threat.
However, not one single politician in either the Democratic or Republican parties even hints at going in this direction.
Most of the present Democratic candidates seeking the nomination for president oppose Trump’s reckless ratcheting up of threats against Iran and his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. However, none of them call for the lifting of sanctions, or even ameliorating them, including the “progressives” Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The Iranian retaliatory missile strike demonstrated the accuracy and capability Iran’s missiles have. They can reach US bases throughout the region. A US bombing campaign would be answered, which may give cooler heads than the president’s cause to avoid an all-out war.
Trump initially claimed that Soleimani’s assassination was a preventive action to forestall attacks on US military bases and embassies. When no evidence was presented, Trump and his spokespeople mumbled and fumbled.
Then, it was disclosed that on the same day as Soleimani’s death, another (unsuccessful) assassination attempt was made on an Iranian military official in Yemen. He could hardly have been targeted for planning to attack US bases and embassies, because there are none in Yemen.
A more plausible explanation has emerged. Some weeks before the assassination of Soleimani, the New York Times reported that the leadership in Saudi Arabia had sought out back-channel contacts with Iran, in an attempt to contain the tensions between the two countries.
There are credible reports that Soleimani, who was not only a military leader, but an Iranian diplomat, was on a mission to discuss the Saudi initiative with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and then with Iraqi pro-Iran militias (he had just come from Lebanon into Iraq when he was assassinated). He might have gone on to Yemen, where Iran is backing the Houthi forces in the civil war with Saudi-backed forces.
According to this hypothesis, the assassination and attempted assassination in Yemen were intended to disrupt that diplomacy, as the US opposes it and wants to ratchet up hostilities between the two countries.
Protests in Iraq and Iran
Prior to Soleimani’s assassination there were huge demonstrations against the regime in Iran, largely because of the dire economic situation. These were met with violent repression, including many deaths.
While the repression seems to have succeeded in quieting the demonstrations, the assassination of Soleimani galvanised an anti-US response that united both regime supporters and opponents.
Then Ukraine Flight 752 crashed soon after takeoff from Tehran. After initial denials, the regime was forced to admit after three days that the plane was shot down by their forces by accident. This re-ignited fury against them for lying and new demonstrations erupted, including charges that the regime was so corrupt it let such an error happen.
These largely student demonstrations condemned the regime’s repression and opposed the US presence in the region.
Some in the media have said these demonstrations expressed pro-US sentiment. While there may be some Iranians who want the US back, the huge demonstrations condemning the assassination of Soleimani say otherwise.
Soleimani was a national hero in Iran. He was not viewed as part of the corruption that has characterised the regime. He and his family lived modestly. He was venerated in Iran for helping to lead the struggle against ISIS in Iraq. ISIS targeted Shia Iran and Shias in Iraq, as its main enemy.
Trump claimed that Iraqis were “dancing in the streets” celebrating the assassination on their soil. But few Iraqis supported this violation of their sovereignty.
An Iraqi militia leader was also killed in the assassination of Soleimani.
The Iraqi militias, which initially opposed the US occupation in 2003, including those supported by Iran, grew in the fight against ISIS. They have their own reasons to oppose US troops in Iraq.
There were also demonstrations against the weak and corrupt Iraqi government prior to the assassination, which were met with severe repression by government forces. The demonstrators were largely Shia, repressed by the Shia-led government.
The Iraqi demonstrators did oppose Iranian influence on the corrupt government, but that did not mean they wanted a new US occupation, when the one they lived through destroyed their country.
While the internal situation in Iraq and Iran remains unclear, the US presence, threats of war and acts of war undermine the struggle for democracy and an end to corruption.
That is another reason to demand that the US get out and end its sanctions.