Iran Downs U.S. Drone…U.S. Attack Reportedly Called Off:
Trump’s “Restraint” Masks Heightened Danger of Devastating U.S. War against Iran…



Early Thursday morning, June 20, Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone with a surface-to-air missile. According to Iran, it had entered Iranian airspace and thus posed a potential threat. The U.S. immediately claimed the drone was in international waters and that Iran had committed an “unprovoked” act of aggression.

While Iran has published the GPS coordinates that it says show where the drone was shot down, the U.S. claims on the flight-path of the drone and whether it violated Iranian airspace are not yet backed up with similar evidence.

Early Friday, according to media reports, the U.S. was preparing to launch a military strike against several Iranian targets in retaliation. However, Trump claims that he then called off the attack at the last minute because he learned that 150 Iranians could be killed. Friday morning, he tweeted that number killed was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”1 This was widely hailed in the U.S. media (“very welcome” according to the New York Times) and by the political establishment including the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi said, “I’m glad the president did not take that” action.

It’s important, in sorting through all the claims and counter-claims, to keep some basic facts in mind:

First, notions of “unprovoked” aggression by Iran fly in the face of reality—and are a joke—when you consider U.S. actions, in the recent months and historically. The U.S. is—far and away—the real aggressor and danger here, even while the Islamic Republic is a reactionary theocracy engaged in its own maneuvers for power.

Second, there are divisions in the U.S. ruling class, including within the Trump/Pence regime and with the Democrats, on approach and policy to Iran, driven by how best to “advance” their imperialist interests, but there is fundamental unity among all of them on America’s need (and “right”) to dominate a strategically vital part of the world.

Third, far from receding, the threat of war remains real, and has escalated. And the current sanctions, economic warfare, are punishing the population of Iran.

Unprovoked Aggression, Yes… but by Whom?!

Let’s review a few things. It is the U.S., under Trump, NOT Iran, that in 2018 busted out of the nuclear deal2 that Obama and the U.S., along with other world powers, had engineered in 2015,3 a move which immediately escalated tensions. It’s the U.S., under Trump, that viciously re-imposed sanctions. These sanctions have already savaged Iran’s oil-dependent economy, slashing its exports from 3.2 million barrels/day to 0.5 million, stoking inflation over 50 percent and unemployment over 25 percent, and causing massive suffering including death from lack of medicines. So who, really, is the ruthless, bloodthirsty aggressor?

In recent months, it’s the U.S. that has deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, an aircraft carrier strike group, and thousands more troops to the region, and has threatened “the official end of Iran” if they don’t bow down. Just imagine if Iran had done anything approaching that in the Gulf of Mexico!

Amidst this tense situation, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, has claimed that Iran is supposedly linked with Al Qaeda, that it’s threatening U.S. forces in the region, and more recently that it’s been responsible for attacking oil tankers in the Gulf. Evidence for Pompeo’s allegations ranges from scanty to none. The U.S. media has mainly echoed and propagated a lot of this (even while occasional doubts and concerns are expressed)—taking it as fact that Iran is behind the attacks on tankers in vital shipping lanes, and that Iranian-backed forces in Yemen are responsible for missile attacks in Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the region.

Tom Cotton, a fascist Republican senator, has said obstruction of commerce such as shipping has historically been cause for war, with an underlying assumption that the U.S. is the righteous self-appointed police of such. What is incredibly dangerous and alarming, in accusations of provocative attacks, is that this steady drumbeat is part of building up a “casus belli”—Latin for “justification for war.”

Following all this and in this context, the U.S. sent a military drone on June 20 either into Iranian airspace (according to Iran and the GPS coordinates it published) or dangerously close. Then, when the Iranians shot down with a missile an unknown aircraft, which they claim refused to respond to their calls for identification, they’re accused of being aggressors! Meanwhile, U.S. officials cannot even guarantee the drone didn’t violate Iranian airspace,4 and have yet to provide any CONCLUSIVE proof or evidence to the contrary.

Two further points in this regard:

First: America’s mass murdering rulers are repeat offenders—at lying their way into war, with trumped-up accusations. In fact, America inaugurated its imperialist ambitions with a false allegation involving an attack on a U.S. warship, the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba,5 which was used as the provocation for the Spanish-American War and the U.S. domination in various ways of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines and other Spanish territories. In 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin “attack”6 was used to justify the steep escalation in the war in Vietnam, and in Indochina more broadly, where the U.S. killed 3 million—yes, million!—Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians. Recently, there was the big lie that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” used to rationalize the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq that has led to one million dead and five million plus driven from their homes. 

Second: As we wrote last week, the U.S. history of aggression against Iran goes back much further, and is driven by more vital imperialist interests, and is now acutely posed with challenges to the U.S. empire.

Deep Divisions… Within a Fundamental Unity on Need to Maintain Empire

There are serious differences in the U.S. ruling class—including apparently within the Trump/Pence regime itself. Some forces basically want to start launching military attacks to back Iran down, even if that leads to war. Others oppose going to “outright” war, especially with a country with a relatively strong and developed military. They fear what in the words of the New York Times could be a “cataclysm” that would ultimately hurt U.S. imperialist interests instead of furthering them.

Rather, they argue, it’s better to wage economic warfare, taking advantage of the U.S.’s dominant position in the imperialist world economy to strangulate Iran, with the threat of military decimation ever-present. They argue for continuing to tighten the noose of sanctions which have already slashed Iran’s oil exports and crippled its economy, vastly increasing the suffering of the Iranian people. At the same time, some of these forces remain “open” to war, and even see the sanctions as part of further weakening Iran in the event of outright U.S. military attack.

Embodying an unpredictable “good-cop/bad-cop” routine and their perverse synthesis of economic warfare and military threats, immediately after Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd about his concern for “proportionality” of response, he threatened “it would be obliteration like you’ve never seen before” if it came to war with Iran.

And where are the Democrats in the face of this? Are they questioning the fundamental premise and basic right of the U.S. to dominate the Middle East, or decrying the sanctions as immoral and unjust?

Let’s look at Nancy Pelosi’s comments in this regard. Pelosi, the leading Democrat and speaker of the House, said, “We are in an extremely dangerous and sensitive situation with Iran”—NOT that the U.S. is the one creating an extremely dangerous situation. She continued, clarifying, “We must calibrate a response that de-escalates and advances American interests, and we must be clear as to what those interests are. We have no illusions about the dangerous conduct of the Iranian regime. This is a dangerous, high-tension situation that requires a strong, smart and strategic approach.”

The Democrats are part of the ruling class, a party that has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity when it deemed these necessary to “advance” those “American interests.” Right now, they largely see outright war as being harmful to those interests. Reflecting these sentiments and the thinking, two figures associated with the liberal section of the Democrats and their think tanks, wrote on, “Iran is too big and strong to be toppled, and there is no strong united opposition capable of fomenting the kind of unrest that could overthrow the regime in the wake of U.S. military strikes. If the regime did collapse, it would likely be followed either by a period of instability or a government that is even more militantly anti-American.”  

At the same time, this is typical Democratic Party double-talk. Pelosi blurs who is fundamentally at fault, talks about de-escalation to satisfy the antiwar masses who the Democrats attempt to corral and domesticate, and then goes to the real deal: advancing American interests, which she never defines and which will apparently mean whatever she says that means. If the U.S. launches war, this would open the door for the Democrats to claim that they had wanted peace but now “American interests are under attack, so there is no choice but to fall in line.”

Danger and Threat of War Ever Present…

While “opting” for economic warfare is potentially part of what could have factored in Trump’s backing away from immediate military retaliation, the threat of war has NOT receded by any means.

First, it is far from clear how the difference in the Trump regime is going to resolve on the best way to deal with Iran and dominate the Middle East. It is very possible that those historically advocating for war, such as John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, will win out.7 Second, the whole situation is EXTREMELY tense with military build-up in the Persian Gulf. The situation is full of potential “trip-wires,” possibilities of accident and misunderstanding, that can ratchet up “ladders of escalation” to outright war. This would be so in any case but even more with Trump’s “America-First” logic and not wanting to be seen as weak, and what the Iranian theocracy faces, including with its own internal divisions and a population it brutally rules over.  

In the face of this escalating threat of war against Iran, it is even more critical that: All moves and actions the U.S. is undertaking in the Middle East be resolutely opposed by people in this country. The challenge posed in an accompanying article from RefuseFascism states it simply: THE QUESTION IS SHARPLY POSED TO EVERYONE WHO KNOWS RIGHT FROM WRONG: AT WHAT POINT DO YOU SAY “ENOUGH!”? This is a question—of morality, of humanity—to be asked of all. The author asks what it will take for people to do what is needed, to stop relying on the Democrats, to act, to step outside the “normal channels.”

Communists must go further and instill in people a sense that not only are the interests of the U.S. rulers NOT our interests, but the best possible outcome would be a defeat for the U.S. in whatever unjust military action it undertook.8 At the same time, people need to question… why does this system wage war over and over and over...what will it take to end America’s unending wars...and what is their responsibility in the face of this—including to repudiate American patriotism and to do all they can to end this scourge on humanity?9

1. There has been no widespread, scathing ridicule of the notion that Trump (or the U.S. ruling class) gives a damn about “proportionality.” Have these people looked on the border, where tens of thousands of migrants are being terrorized and locked up in filthy, inhuman concentration camps? Or in Yemen, where he’s armed and unleashed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to continue their war in Yemen—a war that’s killed over 85,000 children and pushed 14 million—yes, million—people to the brink of famine? [back]

2. See “Trump Shreds Iran Nuclear Deal, Threatening Millions and Another War in the Middle East,”, 5/14/18 [back]

3. See “U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal: 6 Points of Orientation,”, 7/20/15 [back]

4. At this writing, the U.S. has not released GPS coordinates of the location where they claim their drone was shot down. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports: “But a senior Trump administration official said there was concern inside the United States government about whether the drone, or another American surveillance aircraft, or even the P-8A manned aircraft flown by a military aircrew, actually did violate Iranian airspace at some point." “Trump Says He Was ‘Cocked and Loaded’ to Strike Iran, but Pulled Back,” New York Times, 6/22/19

On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “pushed back vociferously, accusing Iranian leaders of ‘selling’ false information. Pompeo called the map tweeted by Iran’s foreign minister, which purported to show the drone’s path into Iranian airspace, ‘childlike’ and said U.S. intelligence services ‘should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about where that unarmed vehicle was.’” “Pompeo accuses Iran of spreading ‘blatant disinformation’ on downing of drone,” Washington Post, June 23. And the New York Times is reporting that the U.S. is planning to present evidence on the drone shoot down at a UN meeting on Monday, June 25. [back]

5. The U.S. battleship Maine blew up on February 15, 1898 in Havana harbor—when Cuba was still one of Spain’s colonies. There was never any evidence that Spanish forces were involved in this explosion, but this did not stop the pro-war forces in the U.S. ruling class from publishing front-page drawings “showing” how the Spanish forces had attached mines to the bottom of the ship. Shouting “Remember the Maine!” the U.S. government rushed into a war to snatch an empire from Spain, seizing Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. [back]

6. On August 4, 1964, the U.S. claimed—falsely and without any real evidence—that North Vietnam had launched two unprovoked attacks on the U.S. fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin. In fact, the CIA was attacking North Vietnamese coastal installations, so any confrontation that happened would have been provoked by the U.S., and the second “incident” never took place. In fact, no attack of any kind took place. Nobody in the mainstream media seriously challenged the story at the time, much less asked what a fleet of U.S. warships was doing half-way around the world. But in “response” to these invented “incidents,” the U.S. Congress passed the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” which authorized the massive deployment of U.S. troops into southern Vietnam. It was the start of extreme escalation of warfare that led to the deaths of millions of people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. [back]

7. In September 2018, Bolton threatened Iran that there would be “hell to pay” and “serious consequences” if it defies the U.S. In May 2019, Bolton announced the U.S. “is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” On June 23, 2019, in Israel, Bolton said, “Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness. No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East.” [back]

8. This is the principle of revolutionary defeatism. “Revolutionary defeatism means that, for people in an imperialist country—or in any country where the government is carrying out an unjust war, a war of domination and plunder, a reactionary war that serves only to fortify oppression, or to replace one oppressive power with another—you must put special emphasis on opposing your own government in that war, even if the enemy of your government in that war is equally reactionary. It means that you must refuse to support your government in such a war and, beyond that, you must have a basic orientation of welcoming the setbacks and defeats of your government and making use of them to build opposition to your government and its reactionary war, in accordance with and guided by the objective of making revolution right within your own country and contributing all you can to the international revolutionary struggle. But revolutionary defeatism does not mean that you should actually support the enemy of your government if that enemy and the war it is waging is equally reactionary. Obviously, this can be complicated, and in order to correctly apply this orientation it is necessary to make a concrete analysis of the concrete situation while remaining firmly grounded in basic principle." Bob Avakian, from "The New Situation and Great Challenges." [back]

9. See the clip “Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation & Crimes Against Humanity” from the film of BA’s speech WHY WE NEED AN ACTUAL REVOLUTION AND HOW WE CAN REALLY MAKE REVOLUTION. [back]

U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran include preventing equipment that would be used for rescue operations in flood disasters. Flooding in Iran this year has caused the deaths of as many as 60 people. Above: A man watches as floodwaters hit the city of Khorramabad in the western province of Lorestan, Iran, April 1, 2019. Photo: AP

Tehran, May 8, 2019: People line up in front of a currency exchange shop to buy U.S. dollars and euros. U.S. sanctions have crippled Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis. The Iranian rial, which traded at 32,000 to $1 in 2015, traded in May of this year at 153,500. Photo: AP

Clip: "Free Yourself from the GTF!"

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