The legacy of 1979: U.S. War Threat Against Iran Remains

The continued threat of a shooting war is the main issue, but there are some others to be noted. The internal situation in Iraq and Iran remains unclear, the U.S. presence, threats of war and acts of war undermines the struggle for democracy and an end to corruption.

The decision by Trump not to bomb Iran in retaliation for its missile strikes against U.S. military bases in Iraq (themselves retaliation for the assignation of Suleimani), has eased fears that the U.S. would launch another war in the Mideast.

However, the threat of a shooting war against Iran remains. The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions against Iran ever since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah and his extremely repressive government that was installed by the CIA in a coup in 1953.

What Washington under both Democrats and Republicans have never forgiven, is that the 1978-1979 massive months-long general strike, demonstrations and insurrection that overthrew not only the Shah but also the massive U.S. presence that dominated the country, including U.S. military bases that, together with the garrison state of Israel, were part of the American threat against the peoples of the region.

The economic sanctions the U.S. has imposed for 40 years are acts of war. The U.S. empire rests not only on its military power including its approximately 800 bases around the world. It also rests on the economic power of Washington over the world’s financial system, epitomized by the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. This has enabled the U.S. not only to wage economic war against Iran directly, but also to force other countries and their banks and businesses to join its sanctions against Iran, or suffer the threat that they themselves will become targets.

The 2015 nuclear deal was between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China – plus Germany and the European Union. Under this agreement, some, but not all, sanctions against Iran were lifted. In return Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear weapons program.

When Trump pulled out of that agreement, he re-instituted those sanctions and intensified them to the point where Iran’s oil production has been severely curtailed. Oil exportation was Iran’s major source of income, and the result has been great hardship on the Iranian people.

Trump hopes that this will cause enough misery that the Iranian regime will capitulate, and a new U.S. protectorate be installed. This will not happen.

To understand why, it is necessary to review some history. While the 1979 revolution 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 toward socialism.

For reasons I won’t go into here, the clergy, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was 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, that is independence from U.S. imperialism.

That the Iranian masses will not accept U.S. domination has been demonstrated in many ways in the past 40 years. One was the resistance to the U.S.-orchestrated invasion of Iran by Iraq under Saddam Hussein (Washington changes who it says are the “good guys” whenever it is in its interests to do so). The resulting war, that lasted for most of the 1980s, inflicted great harm on Iran, with perhaps as many as a 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.

We have just seen the huge anti-American demonstrations against the U.S. assassination of Major General Qassim Suleimani all across Iran, by all sectors, including both supporters of the regime and its opponents.

Under the strangulation of the U.S.-imposed sanctions, it is possible that Iran will carry out further attacks against U.S. forces in the region, probably at first by Iran-backed large militias in Iraq, Lebanon and other countries. This could lead to Trump attacking Iran directly, initiating a war throughout the Middle East.

It is against this danger that we must demand that the U.S. get out of the region entirely, stop threatening Iran with new armed forces being sent there, and end its sanctions.

The U.S. tensions with Iran and North Korea over nuclear weapons could be easily solved. (I’m leaving aside that the greatest nuclear threat to the world is the U.S., as well as the U.S. backing of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.)

As far as North Korea is concerned, the U.S. 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 weapons in 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 U.S. could end its virtual 40-year state of war with Iran, establish peaceful relations, and end the sanctions. It could end its support of Israel’s nuclear threat.

There is not one single politician in either the Democratic or Republican parties that even hints of going in this direction.

While 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, none of them call for the lifting of Washington’s inhumane sanctions, or of even ameliorating them. That includes the “progressives” Sanders and Warren.

While the continued threat of a shooting war is the main issue, there are some other things to be noted.

The Iranian retaliatory missile strike demonstrated the accuracy and capability Iran’s missiles have. They can reach U.S. bases throughout the region. A U.S. bombing campaign would be answered, which may give cooler heads than the president’s cause to avoid an all-out war.

Trump initially said that the assassination was a preventative action to forestall attacks on U.S. military bases and embassies led by Suleimani. When the White House could give no evidence of that, he and his spokespeople mumbled and fumbled. Then it was disclosed that on the same day another assassination attempt (which was unsuccessful) to kill an Iranian military official in Yemen, who could hardly have been targeted because he was planning attack U.S. bases and embassies, because there are none in Yemen.

A more plausible explanation has emerged. Some weeks before the assassination of Suleimani, the New York Times reported that the leadership in Saudi Arabia had begun to seek out back channel contacts with Iran, in an attempt to contain the tensions between the two countries.

There are credible reports that Suleimani, 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.

The assassination and the attempted one in Yemen was motivated to disrupt that diplomatic development, because the U.S. was opposed to it and wants to ratchet up hostilities between the two countries, according to this hypothesis.

The domestic situation in Iraq and Iran has also been featured in this development.

In the period before the assassination there were massive 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 down the demonstrations, the assassination of Suleimani galvanized the anti-American response that united both regime supporters with its opponents.

Then came the news that a Ukrainian aircraft crashed soon after takeoff from Tehran. The regime initially claimed that mechanical failure was at fault, a lie. But evidence that the plane was shot down, including from Ukrainian officials, forced the regime to admit after three days, that the plane was shot down by Iranian forces in error. This re-ignited fury against the regime for lying and new demonstrations erupted, including charges that the regime was so corrupt it could let such an error happen.

There are reports that these largely student demonstrations condemned the regime’s oppression an autocracy, but at the same time they opposed the U.S. presence in the region.

Some in the media have said that these demonstrations against the regime expressed pro-U.S. sentiment. While there may be some Iranians who want the Americans back, the huge demonstrations condemning the U.S. assassination of Suleimani give the lie to this hope.

Suleimani was a national hero in Iran. He was not viewed as part of the corruption that has characterized the regime. He and his family lived modestly. He was venerated in Iran for what he helped lead in Iraq in the struggle against ISIS. ISIS targeted Shia Iran and Shias generally, including in Shia-majority Iraq, as its main enemy.

Trump claimed that Iraqis were “dancing in the streets” to cheer on 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 Suleimani. The Iraqi militias which initially opposed the U.S. occupation begun in 2003, including those supported by Iran, are Iraqi, and they grew in the fight against ISIS. They have their own reasons to oppose U.S. troops in Iraq.

There also were demonstrations against the weak and corrupt Iraqi government prior to the assassination, which were met with severe repression by government forces. These demonstrators were largely Shias, repressed by the Shia-led government.

The Iraqi demonstrators did oppose Iranian influence on the corrupt government, but that didn’t mean they wanted a new U.S. occupation, when the one they lived through destroyed their country.

While the internal situation in Iraq and Iran remains unclear, the U.S. presence, threats of war and acts of war undermines the struggle for democracy and an end to corruption.

That is another reason to demand that the U.S. get out! End the sanctions!

Barry Sheppard