The US disaster in Iraq has strengthened the strategic position of Iran in the Middle East. Iran, with a population of 71 million, has the second largest oil reserves in the world and huge gas reserves. Its army is 350,000-strong and its air force has 79 F14 Tomcat fighter jets.
The Iranian regime no doubt supports Shia groups in the south of Iraq to bolster its position inside its old enemy. However, as most attacks on US forces come from the Sunni insurgency in the centre of Iraq, it is rubbish for Washington to claim Iranian weapons are supplied to attack its forces. Shia Iran would never back Sunni insurgents.
As the UK Independent wryly put it: “The US stance on the military capabilities of Iraqis today is the exact opposite of its position in four years ago. Then President Bush and Tony Blair claimed that Iraqis were technically advanced enough to produce long-range missiles and to be close to producing a nuclear device. Washington is now saying that Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help.”
Bogged down in Iraq, even the dumb Bush administration knows a full scale military assault on powerful Iran is an impossibility. However claims of a ‘meddling’ Iran are a useful diversion from the US disaster in Iraq. The push for nuclear energy inside Iran is a worry for the US and its closest regional ally, Israel. It is not ruled out either state could launch an air or rocket attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, although the promised retaliation and growing anti-war mood in the West is staying their hand at the moment.
For Iranian President Ahmadinejad, strident US and Israeli verbal attacks on his government are useful to boost his internal support and divert attention from the growing social crisis in Iran. Recently massive subsidised oil consumption (it costs 35 US cents a litre for locals!) has eaten into the amount of oil available for export.
The International Herald Tribune correctly points out: “Iran will have no oil left over to export within a decade. Iranian leaders say they want to develop nuclear power to free petroleum resources for domestic use or export. The United States and other Western countries believe Iran is using the program as a front for building weapons”.
For now, the US is using economic means to weaken Iran. US citizens have been barred from dealing with Iran’s biggest bank and three other banks are expected to face the same penalties soon. The US is pressuring the EU to freeze its US$18 billion in loan guarantees to Iran. The UK Guardian reports: “Latest figures suggest the strategy is working. Exports from Germany, which with Italy is Iran’s leading European trade partner, dropped by an estimated 20% last year.
“Business dealings are going backwards, de facto,” a Berlin official said. “A lot of German companies do business with the US. We don’t have to say anything. They’ve got the message.”
The more far sighted in the ruling class have the attitude of Roger Stern of Johns Hopkins University in the US: “The mullahs are doing a good job of destroying Iran’s economy. They should be left alone to complete their work. Attacking Iran would allow the regime to escape responsibility for the economic disaster it created. Worse, an attack could unite Iran behind the clerical terror sponsors whose grasp on power may be slipping. For these reasons, the best policy towards Iran may be to do nothing at all.”
What’s missing in the mass media is any real news about the growing class struggle in Iran – a country with the most lively working class movement in the Middle East. Inflation is 15-20% and this has led to important strikes and demonstrations on a daily basis. President Ahmadinejad, so fiery against the US and Israel, is anti-worker inside Iran. The Weekend Australian pointed out: “When bus drivers organised a wildcat strike last year, the leader was arrested and his tongue was cut off.”
The SP and CWI disagree with those on the left who taken an uncritical position towards the Iranian regime. We 100% oppose the US bullying of Iran, while at the same time supporting the class struggle inside Iran to overthrow the Ahmadinejad regime. The strengthening of the trade union and student movement and the building of a socialist party in Iran are key tasks facing the working class.
By Stephen Jolly