Revolution #93, June 24, 2007

The Real and Present Danger of U.S. War on Iran…and the Urgency of Resistance

by Larry Everest

“I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran…”

-Senator Joseph Lieberman, interviewed on CBS News Face the Nation, June 10

This statement by Lieberman is the latest in a string of charges, warnings, and military threats against Iran by the Bush administration, others in the U.S. ruling class, and international allies of the United States. They reflect the rapid and profound intensification of contradictions across the Middle East, rising tensions between the Bush regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the grave danger of a U.S. military attack on Iran. Most people, including many deeply opposed to the Iraq war, are either unaware of or greatly underestimate this danger. This situation must change—now. Any U.S. attacks would be unjust and criminal no matter the pretext. It would represent a major escalation—with unpredictable consequences—of naked imperialist aggression by the U.S. in the Middle East.

Consider what has taken place in just the last two months. In mid-May, Vice President Dick Cheney stood in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Stennis, 150 miles off the Iranian coast, and declared he wanted to “send a clear message to our friends and adversaries alike” that the U.S. would “prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.”

Two weeks later, on May 23, a heavily armed U.S. naval armada sailed through the Straits of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf to stage two weeks of maneuvers directly off Iran’s coast. The three strike groups had a total of nine warships, 2,100 Marines, 17,000 sailors and 70 attack planes.

That same day the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the organization which monitors nuclear programs around the world, reported that Iran had not suspended its uranium enrichment program (through which uranium is processed for either nuclear power or weapons) as demanded by the UN Security Council, but had instead significantly accelerated its capabilities, going from operating a few dozen enrichment centrifuges to over 1,300. The IAEA also stated it could not “provide assurances about ... the exclusively peaceful nature” of Iran's nuclear program. Bush’s Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, warned, “Iran is thumbing its nose at the international community. We are not going to agree to accept limited enrichment...”

The atmosphere was so heated that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei warned of a “brewing confrontation” between Washington and Tehran and called for “defusing” the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Bush regime has orchestrated an ongoing propaganda campaign—featuring regular statements from top officials and “briefings” by the U.S. military—claiming that Iran is arming and training anti-U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is directly responsible for killing U.S. soldiers. Philip Giraldi, a former officer of the CIA, wrote: “One thing that all the stories about Iranian involvement have in common is their lack of substantiating detail. There are no names, dates, places, or corroborating information, and most rely on anonymous government sources or bald assertions that are presented as fact. Photos of alleged captured ordnance have been unconvincing. Further, the presence of the weapons, even if true, cannot be traced back to any official Iranian government body or policy through documentary or other evidence.” (

But neither lack of hard facts, nor the first direct talks between top U.S. and Iranian officials in late May over the situation in Iraq have halted the continuing calls from the right wing for decisive military action. Norman Podhoretz, a leading neo-conservative propagandist, wrote a major article in the June issue of Commentary magazine titled "The Case for Bombing Iran”--“I hope and pray that President Bush will do it." At the Republican Party debates, presidential candidates have competed over who is the most war-like towards Iran and tactical nuclear strikes have been explicitly not ruled off the table.

Meanwhile, (and after voting Bush billions of dollars to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), the supposedly “anti-war” Democratic Party has refused to stop—or even condemn--the Bush administration’s threats against Iran. In fact, all the leading Democratic presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards—have joined in the confront-Iran chorus, declaring that all options should remain on the table. Former Senator Mike Gravel pointed out at the Democratic candidates April 26 debate, “that’s code for using nukes...”

These threats and counter-threats are taking place in the context of intensifying contention in the region between reactionary imperialism on the one side versus reactionary Islamic theocratic fundamentalism on the other. And there has been a growing and broad, multi-faceted U.S. full-court press against Iran including military encirclement, covert operations to provoke internal instability, and diplomatic pressure and sanctions aimed at crippling Iran economically.

All of the charges by the U.S. are both potential pretexts to justify attacking Iran, and the United States and its allies in the region are also involved in all kinds of potentially provocative actions, which could serve as a tripwire for an attack.

Real Imperialist Necessity

In any discussion of the U.S. threats against Iran, people should remember just who we are dealing with here. Who is the aggressor here? Who are the invaders and occupiers? It is U.S. imperialism--the same Bush Regime that brought us the lies about “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. And the charges being made against Iran by the U.S. are mainly a combination of speculations, distortions, half-truths, and outright lies.

It is certainly not inconceivable, given the reactionary nature of the Iranian government and its interests and ambitions in the region, that the Ahmadinejad regime would have connections with and be giving support to different Islamic fundamentalist forces in the region.

But even if some of what the U.S. is saying about Iran is true, this would still IN NO WAY justify any kind of aggressive action by the U.S. against Iran, especially a military nuclear strike which the U.S. has NOT ruled out as an option on the table.

The Islamic Republic of Iran does pose a major obstacle to U.S. interests in the region. Those imperialist interests focus today on crushing anti-American Islamic fundamentalism, restructuring the Middle East, and strengthening the U.S. grip on the region. In this context, Iran is a big problem because of its size (three times the size of Iraq) and vast oil reserves, as well as because it’s a center of the Islamic fundamentalist trend with ties to forces in the region such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, which have often found themselves in armed conflict with the key U.S. ally Israel, and which the U.S. has labeled as terrorist.

Making matters worse for the U.S., its 2003 invasion of Iraq was designed to strike a blow at the Islamist trend and weaken Iran. Instead, the U.S. quagmire in Iraq (and the ongoing war in Afghanistan) have deepened anti-U.S. rage in the region, fueled the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, and strengthened Iran. One reason is that the U.S. invasions knocked down the two main regional powers containing Iran—Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan—while strengthening forces in those countries with deep ties to Iran.

In response to U.S. bullying (including the ongoing threat of regime change) and to advance their own reactionary interests, Iran’s theocrats have worked to preserve their hold on power in Iran and to extend their influence in the region. And it is entirely possible that Iran is taking steps—including developing ties with a variety of anti-U.S. forces in the region—to be able to respond to any U.S. attack.

The Lebanese Army’s siege of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared (supposedly to root out a fundamentalist Islamic militia) which forced tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees to flee, a spate of car bombings in Beirut, the all-out war between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine, ongoing violence in Iraq in the face of the U.S. “surge,” including the recent bombing (for the second time) of the Shia Askariya mosque in Samarra—all illustrate the contradictions raging across the region, threatening a regional conflagration, and further heightening the U.S. rulers’ necessity to try and crush those aligned against them and get a grip on the situation.

Top of the Ruling Class: No Good Options, Sharp Divisions

The U.S. rulers face deep and complex difficulties in the Middle East—in no small measure due to their own actions—and no good options. They face major, intersecting problems in the region, and they also know that acting on them could make these problems worse—or create new, or even greater, difficulties. This conundrum has reportedly sparked sharp differences at the very top of the Bush regime over how to proceed—against Iran in particular.

It is impossible to know precisely what arguments are taking place at the highest levels of the Bush administration—including because various “positions” may be being leaked in order to intensify the pressure on Iran and the “diplomatic track” being advocated certainly has a propaganda element to it of wanting to make it appear like the United States is being reasonable. But there has been much speculation that one set of officials grouped around Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favors stepping up diplomatic, economic, political, and military pressure against Iran in concert with other world powers, while holding back from a military assault, at least for the time being. This position, if true, may reflect that while these officials understand the need to confront Iran, they fear that military action could backfire and create an even worse situation for the United States.

Meanwhile, those grouped around Vice President Cheney reportedly argue that negotiations with Iran’s leadership are bound to fail and that the U.S. will ultimately have to use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and more fundamentally to crush the Islamic Republic’s influence and ambitions in the region and protect U.S. hegemony. 

These reported differences in the ruling class are not, as sometimes reported, between “pro-war hawks” and “anti-war doves.” All of the sides in this debate in the ruling class are approaching it from the standpoint of protecting U.S. imperialist interests in the region.  All understand that U.S. domination of the region is not “optional” or capricious, but foundational to their global power and sole superpower status, and to the very functioning of their system—at home and abroad. And none in these debates among the rulers approach these question from what is in the interests of the people—in the Middle East or in the U.S.—or how to liberate the Iranian people, end the crushing oppression weighing on the region, or prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

This is why no top Democrat—whose party also represents imperialist interests—has publicly opposed war with Iran, and why language forbidding such a war without Congressional consent was removed from the recent war appropriations bill.

Nor are sanctions and diplomacy necessarily incompatible with war. Such initiatives can be closely linked with assembling a war coalition for convincing people that one has gone “the last mile” for peace. (And “hawkish” public threats can also be useful in creating public opinion for war, or for attempting to intimidate an adversary.) Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s current trade and former defense minister, recently held discussions with Bush officials in Washington, DC regarding Iran's nuclear program. According to press reports, Mofaz urged the United States to try diplomacy with Iran until the end of the year, and then turn to the military option. Israel’s Channel 2 News reported that Mofaz told Rice “that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities by year’s end if diplomacy and sanctions fail to persuade Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities.” (New York Times, 6/16)

And divisions within the ruling class don’t mean that those in charge will not go forward regardless—including to cut through or pre-empt paralysis, or prevent loss of political initiative. Steve Clemmons' internet blog ("The Washington Note") of May 24 warned that Cheney’s office may be planning an end-run around opponents of military actions against Iran in the Bush administration by utilizing Israel:

“The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran’s nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz [a major Iranian nuclear facility] using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

“This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against U.S. forces in the Gulf—which just became significantly larger—as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.” (

The People Must Prevent Another U.S. War

The sharpening of contradictions has created a situation in which the U.S. imperialists are forced to pursue their objectives in the Middle East—through ongoing, perhaps escalating war if need be—no matter what most of the people they supposedly “represent” want. This has sharply revealed the enormous gulf between the needs and interests of the imperialists on top of the political system—and the interests and desires of the people of many different strata below.

It is impossible to predict with certainty if the U.S. will attack Iran or when such an attack could come. But it is clear that the situation in the region is developing rapidly and tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to rise. In this situation, and given the level of U.S. war preparations, such an attack could come quickly. If the Bush regime does attack Iran, it will no doubt claim to be doing so after exhausting all roads to a peaceful solution, and only after having been “provoked” by Iran. But again, no matter the pretext or claimed provocation, any U.S. attack on Iran would be an unjust and criminal act of imperialist aggression. It would be totally against the interests of the people—in Iran, the Middle East, and in the U.S. itself.

We in the U.S.—the country that has launched an unbounded war of conquest in the Middle East—have a special responsibility to act with boldness and determination to prevent a war on Iran. It is urgent that disaffection, loss of allegiance, and anger be translated into action and resistance—not passivity and despair. This will take tenacious struggle—including among the people themselves—but such action could spread and greatly impact the rulers' freedom to carry out their savage and reactionary plans. 

As Revolution pointed out in its editorial last week:

“The people can not impact the direction of things within the political confines and terms set by the imperialist ruling class; that is one lesson of the May 25 vote. But this does NOT mean that the people can not have a profound impact on politics. In fact, it is only by acting outside those terms that real change can come about. Mass disaffection transformed into mass political action from below can become contagious. It would be criminal, at a time when the carnage continues and the plans for worse—including attacks on Iran—are in the works, to give up now. And it would be foolish as well, at a time when the rulers have no answer to the anger and disillusion of millions, to fail to seize what could be a moment, an opening, that—in a very real and positive way—could change everything.”

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