Revolution #179, October 11, 2009
The U.S.–Iran Nuclear Confrontation: Hype, Spin, Lies—and Real Necessities
On Friday, September 25, President Barack Obama and the leaders of France and Britain interrupted the G-20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh with a “dramatic revelation” to the world: Iran was building a new, secret underground plant to process nuclear fuel. In fact, there was no revelation—four days earlier Iran, for its own reasons, had disclosed the plant’s existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nonetheless, Obama, French President Sarkozy and Britain’s Prime Minister Brown claimed it was yet another example of Iran lying about and covering up the true nature and scope of its nuclear program.
Obama called Iran’s actions “inconsistent with a peaceful program,” that “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime,” and claimed Iran was “breaking rules that all nations must follow.” Obama put Iran “on notice” to “come clean” and submit to U.S. demands. Otherwise, he warned, Iran was continuing “down a path that is going to lead to confrontation.” No option—in other words, a military attack—he repeated, was off the table. (New York Times, September 26, 2009)
These provocative charges were “propelling the confrontation with Tehran to a new and volatile pitch,” the New York Times (September 26, 2009) commented. All this comes in the wake of Obama’s announcement on September 17 to redirect the U.S. “missile defense architecture” (U.S. missiles) towards Iran—a move that was mainly covered in the U.S. media from the angle of U.S.-Russia relations, but one that was an aggressive threat to Iran.
As we go to press, there are new “revelations” from the U.S. media that Iran has “the knowledge” to make nuclear weapons. These “revelations” should not be taken at face value either.
Neither new “revelations” nor opposition to nuclear weapons or proliferation explains why Obama propelled the U.S. confrontation with Iran “to a new and volatile pitch.” Obama’s charges against Iran are full of holes, and the U.S. remains determined to keep its own massive nuclear arsenal and has no qualms about helping spread nuclear weapons when it suits its interests.
What’s “propelling” the conflict between the U.S. and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program is a broader clash between these two outmoded and reactionary social systems, each driven by its own set of deep necessities—with the U.S. representing the far more aggressive and dangerous side of the equation.
Warnings about Iran—Brought to You by the Liars Who Invaded Iraq
No sooner did these charges leave Obama’s lips than the media began running with and amplifying them—whipping up an atmosphere of crisis and danger, stoking speculation about—and demands for—aggressive action, even war.
The day after Obama’s press conference, the Wall Street Journal ran a special two-full-page report, “The Iran Attack Plan,” weighing U.S. and Israeli military options (September 26-27, 2009). In the space of a few days, the Washington Post printed four different editorial page pieces supporting military action against Iran. (See Glenn Greenwald, September 29, 2009, Salon.com). Fox News went wild and after several days of its “coverage” conducted a poll asking viewers whether they thought Obama was responding forcefully and effectively enough to Iran’s actions. Only one percent said yes. Few if any mainstream commentators demanded conclusive evidence proving U.S. charges.
What should people make of all these charges and threats?
As Lenin said, “People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.” (V.I. Lenin, “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” in Marx, Engels, Marxism, Peking, Foreign Language Press, p. 73, emphasis in original)
So first, remember who’s making the charges and their long history of creating pretexts to both maneuver against—and attack—those who challenged their world domination.
To take a most glaring, recent example... This is the same system, the same ruling class, the same institutions, the same imperialist media, and many of the same people that concocted the deluge of lies and fabrications used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Think back to the atmosphere leading up to that March 2003 invasion. Top U.S. officials from the president on down were making dramatic claims that Iraq had a massive stockpile of WMD—weapons of mass destruction. Their charges were very specific—complete with charts and photos—that Iraq had tons of this, and tons of that, weapons labs here and mobile missile launchers there. Bush and company claimed that Iraq was lying to the world, cheating on weapons inspections and breaking its agreements with the UN.
The media ran with this storyline—treating it as well-established truth that no sane person could question. They built on the lies to have “discussions” of what the U.S. should do about the “danger” posed by Saddam Hussein—Sanctions? Invade? Bomb? This full-court press by the machinery of state and media proceeded with barely a critical word—even as experts like former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter publicly stated Iraq had been disarmed, even as UN inspectors—on the ground in Iraq—did not discover any WMD.
What did the U.S. find after invading Iraq and combing it for WMD? Nothing. Nada. Not one single U.S. claim about WMD turned out to be true.
Iran isn’t Iraq, and the situation today isn’t the same as before the Iraq war. But there’s already plenty of evidence that the U.S. rulers are hyping, spinning and lying, and why no one should take anything they say on faith.
For starters, the timing of Obama’s September 25 announcement was driven by U.S. strategy against Iran—not the discovery of new information. It turns out the U.S. knew about the facility long before the September 25 announcement. In July, Obama reportedly ordered his staff to prepare a detailed brief on the site, which could be “deployed” in the event Iran refused to negotiate, if the information leaked, or if Iran revealed it. The exact timing was aimed at maximizing the U.S. leverage in confronting Iran and pushing other countries to support the U.S. position. “Everyone’s been asking, ‘Where’s our leverage?’” one administration official said. “Well, now we just got that leverage.” (New York Times, September 26, 2009)
Obama didn’t provide any proof for his charge that Iran’s new enrichment facility is “inconsistent with a peaceful program”—i.e., that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In fact, his claim contradicts U.S. intelligence agency findings that Iran halted its weapons program in 2003, an assessment reaffirmed last month. (Newsweek, September 16, 2009). (And there’s no dispute—Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons.)
Obama claimed Iran was “breaking rules that all nations must follow”—violating its agreements with the IAEA—by not disclosing this site. In reality, Iran may well have fulfilled its obligations with its September 21 disclosure.
And there is much more evidence, concerning these and a number of other related questions, that show a pattern of U.S. lies and distortions concerning Iran’s nuclear history, program and ambitions. (See, for instance, Scott Ritter, “Keeping Iran Honest,” Guardian, September 25, 2009; Gareth Porter, “New Doubt Cast on US Claim Qom Plant is Illicit,” Antiwar.com, October 2, 2009; and Glenn Greenwald, “How similar are the cases against Iran and Iraq?” Salon.com, September 30, 2009)
The point isn’t that people should take the Islamic Republic’s claims about its nuclear program on faith (i.e., that it’s simply pursuing its legal right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—NPT—to enrich uranium for nuclear power and there’s no military component). Nor would it be good for the people of the Middle East and world if the IRI did obtain nuclear weapons.
The point is that the U.S. rulers—whether Obama or Bush—have a track record of bending, twisting and trampling on the truth, and whipping up fear and hatred, in pursuit of imperialist objectives. Again, people should think critically when such revelations and threats are made and fear whipped up.
Who is the World’s Biggest Nuclear Danger and Proliferator?
The U.S. is the only country to ever use nuclear weapons (twice) and it still maintains one of the world’s two largest and most lethal nuclear arsenals (along with Russia)—an estimated 9,960 warheads, some 5,735 of which are operational and 3,696 of which are strategic (long range). (These are weapons of mass destruction, thousands of warheads which could still wreak unimaginable destruction over the planet.)
And the U.S. is continuing to upgrade and modernize its nukes. Democracy Now! (September 25, 2009) reports that the Obama administration is “going ahead with a Bush administration program increasing nuclear weapons production... The administration is proposing to build new plutonium pits at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico and expand enriched uranium processing at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.” (And one heard no calls in the media for international inspection of these facilities!)
And with regard to the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries—the U.S. has helped facilitate or looked the other way while allies like Israel, Pakistan, and India built nuclear weapons.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal—an estimated 150 to 250 nuclear warheads—is treated as untouchable, even though Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran (and other countries). There are no calls by any U.S. establishment political figures—Democrat or Republican—for Israel to sign the NPT or submit to international inspections. Instead, the U.S. condemned a recent UN resolution calling for Israel to join the NPT, and Obama also recently “reaffirmed” a secret agreement not to reveal the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal or pressure Israel to sign the NPT. (Washington Times, October 2, 2009; Reuters, September 18, 2009; Antiwar.com, October 2, September 18, 2009)
The Real Dynamics of the U.S. Clash with Iran
Why are the U.S. and other powers so adamantly opposed to Iran having a nuclear program—even being able to enrich uranium for nuclear power?
The problem is not that Iran’s Islamic Republic is a repressive, backward-looking theocracy. The U.S. supports a backward-looking theocracy in Saudi Arabia, right across the Persian Gulf, and the U.S. helped put Shi’a religious forces in power in Iraq who strengthened the grip of suffocating—and for women deadly—religious strictures. (Think about it, Obama did not interrupt the G-20 Summit to tell the world press that he’s discovered new evidence about the oppression of Iranian women or the rape and torture of Iranian prisoners.)
Iran’s Islamic Republic (IRI) poses a major obstacle to U.S. objectives and dominance in the strategically key Middle East-Central Asian region. Control of this region—a military-strategic crossroads and “pivot” between Asia, Europe and Africa, with 80 percent of the world’s energy reserves—is considered vital to continued U.S. global supremacy, and crucial to the very functioning of U.S. capitalism-imperialism.
Iran is a large, strategically located country with the world’s third largest oil and second largest natural gas reserves. In 1979, Islamic theocrats took power and formed the IRI. The IRI has been a relatively coherent state, an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy and pole of opposition in conflict with the direction the U.S. wants to take the region. The IRI has helped strengthen Islamic fundamentalism—which has become a big problem for the U.S. And Iran’s agenda in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere conflicts with U.S. and Israeli plans.
The IRI controls Iran’s vast energy resources at a time when control of energy has assumed heightened importance in terms of both global capital accumulation and in the contention between different blocs of capitalist countries. As the U.S.’s position of dominance in the Middle East is challenged, other powers like Russia, China, and the European Union see openings to advance their own interests in the region.
The Islamic Republic is driven by its own set of necessities and ambitions. Its legitimacy, coherence and regional standing have also been based in significant part on both its real clash with the U.S. and by its “anti-imperialist” posturing. (Though readers should be clear: Iran remains in the grip of the world imperialist system—and the IRI’s program does not represent a rupture from but the striving to strengthen its position within that network of world imperialist relations.) Its nuclear program has taken shape in this context, as an indicator of national strength and possibly greater military power.
The IRI is pursuing its ambitions at a time of shifts and changes in the world economy and global politics, building ties with newly assertive powers like Russia and China. This has given Iran more maneuvering room and contributed to the potential emergence of a rival constellation of forces that could stand up to U.S. global dominance.
This is why the U.S. has been so hostile toward the IRI and why overall U.S. strategy has been aimed at eventually overthrowing, replacing, or forcing the restructuring or reorientation of the Islamic regime. (For a detailed discussion, see “An Assessment of the Momentum Towards War Between the United States and Iran,” posted at revcom.us.)
The nuclear issue must be understood against this backdrop. If the IRI were able to master nuclear technology and develop the capacity to make a nuclear weapon (even if it didn’t immediately do so), it would exacerbate all these problems for the U.S. and potentially give the IRI more regional clout and maneuvering room. It would change the military-political equation in the region and undercut U.S.-Israeli military dominance.
It could also threaten the stability of America’s regional gendarme—Israel (and other U.S. allies). Israel’s existence is predicated on military superiority over all other countries in the region—most of which Israel remains in sharp conflict with, and high levels of emigration (mainly from Europe, Russia, and the U.S.) which demands military “security” as well as a Western-imperialist lifestyle for most.
So the imperialists consider even Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power and mastery of nuclear technology (legal under the NPT) intolerable and unacceptable, and they’ve mounted a multi-faceted campaign which has included leaks, propaganda, sanctions, military threats, diplomatic isolation, and covert operations to force Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program and to weaken the IRI overall.
The Current Situation and Bringing Forward Another Way
Iran is now highly polarized and the IRI is under great stress—from both the millions of Iranians who hate the regime as well as divisions among Iran’s rulers. Mounting international pressure on the regime is also part of the picture contributing to destabilizing (and the potential unraveling) of the theocratic regime. These pronouncements by Obama, et al., not only reflect but increase this external pressure on Iran and the maneuverings of U.S. imperialism in particular to gain advantage in this situation and pursue their own hegemonic designs. All this may result in pushing the rulers of the IRI to move forward with their nuclear program.
Neither side of the tense and dangerous confrontation between U.S. imperialism and the Islamic Republic of Iran represents anything positive for the world’s people. With the stakes very high and the potential for war real, what cries out is the need to bring forward an entirely different path that does represent humanity’s interests— a world without the towering crimes and injustices perpetrated by global imperialism, a world without oppressive religious obscurantism of any kind.
The potential for another, liberating path opposing both outmoded imperialism and outmoded Islamic fundamentalism can be glimpsed in the Iranian people’s courageous uprising of recent months. That just and righteous struggle must be supported, especially the efforts of those striving for a real revolution. And in the U.S. we have a special and urgent responsibility—beginning with opposing aggression by the U.S. and its allies in any form—whether sanctions, threats, or military attacks. But our responsibility doesn’t end there—we must also work to bring forward a real revolutionary alternative right here in the belly of the imperial beast that ends the scourge of imperialism and accelerates liberation struggles planet-wide.
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