Neither Washington nor Tehran!

Submitted by Matthew on 14 December, 2011 - 12:24

By Cathy Nugent

Last month the UN’s nuclear energy watchdog passed a resolution calling on Iran to come clean about whether or not it was developing nuclear weaponry. How has the left responded?

Socialist Worker's (2 December) response: “Western powers, fresh from their intervention in Libya, are keen to assert themselves elsewhere.”

Eh? Are western powers — the US, UK — really champing at the bit to go to war with Iran? Well, the same article concludes with words to the effect, “Not really”! So what is the fuss about?

Clearly the US and others are “rattling sabres” at Iran. But the resolution from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), though critical, did not even advocate further sanctions.

Nonetheless there is always an opportunity for left received wisdom. The Morning Star wanted to point out that IAEA restraint was due to the farsighted political intervention of the Chinese leaders.

“China’s ambassador to the UN has already warned director general of the IAEA Yukiya Amano not to create ‘unfounded’ evidence to justify a military attack on Iran”.

And Chinese business interests in Iran would have nothing to do with its political position?

Socialist Worker’s verdict on the IAEA report which proceeded the resolution and claimed evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb was short:

“There is little new in these allegations.”

Uncannily this echoed the reaction of Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, the Iranian envoy to the IAEA: “It is a regretful, disappointing, politically motivated resolution which has nothing in it”.

No doubt the IAEA report is at least in part the product of political pressure. But Socialist Worker’s political point scoring is characteristically evasive. Do they not believe there is any chance at all that Iran is building a nuclear bomb? (We think there is a chance.) Do they think that the idea of Iran having a nuclear bomb is not something to worry about? (We think it is worrying.)

Socialist Worker’s main business is, as ever, is to point the finger at the “enemy at home”, at the west, at the UK Tory government.

“[the IAEA claims] have been used as an excuse by the West to issue new threats and ratchet up tension.”

“... The US and Britain have imposed sanctions and broken links with financial institutions in Iran. And foreign secretary William Hague ordered Iranian diplomats out of Britain after the British embassy in Tehran was stormed last week.”

A reasonable person might point out — at least in passing — that the British diplomats in Tehran were nearly killed… not Socialist Worker.

The Morning Star goes further: “Hague, the blood on his hands not yet dry from Libya, has used the embassy episode to exploit to the full what have become ‘common sense’ perceptions of a demonic Iran that are prevalent among the British public.”

A reasonable person might wonder if the Iranian government tries to live up to its unfortunate image. No matter. Nothing much the Iranian government do matters; for both Socialist Worker and the Morning Star the only political point worth making is the anti-imperialist one.

“Once again the West wants to claim that it is intervening on the side of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’.” (Morning Star).

Well of course. But surely there is much more to say about this story than western hypocrisy? One does not have to support the threats of military intervention (most likely to come, if at all, from Israel, which incidentally both papers steer clear of mentioning) or to be blind to the probability of covert western intervention in Iran, to be very alarmed by even a half chance that the regime in Iran is building a nuclear bomb.

Socialist Worker’s focus winds up by distorting reality. They say “[western threats] allow [Ahmedinejad] to portray himself as an anti-imperialist and to crack down on internal dissent”. But the Iranian regime does not need any kind UN threats to justify any number of “crack downs” on the Iranian people! It has been brutally locking up or murdering anyone who has opposed their regime for years... whatever the political weather abroad. But the top prize for pro-Iranian propaganda disguised as anti-imperialist concern goes, once again, to Seamus Milne in the Guardian.

“Iran is of course an authoritarian state, though not as repressive as western allies such as Saudi Arabia. But it has invaded no one in 200 years.”

Well that’s all right then. Being “authoritarian” is not nice but avoids saying what Iran’s regime really is — which is, brutal, fascistic, clerical dictatorship. Not as repressive as Saudi Arabia? That’s a point I'd like to see Milne argue with the parents of the young people who “disappeared” or were raped and tortured after the 2009 protest movement. It has invaded no one in 200 years. But it has been occupying — and suppressing the people of — a large part of Kurdistan.

No socialist, ourselves included, wants to see war. But no serious socialist opposition to war would cover up for, or lie about, the regime in Tehran.


Submitted by losttango on Mon, 13/03/2017 - 12:33

I'm not altogether clear why we should be "very concerned" by the prospect of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, except insofar as we are against proliferation generally. The article takes this as a given. However, unless we share the US analysis (or to be more accurate, propaganda) that Iran is run by fanatics who will press the button as soon as look at it, an Iranian bomb would seem to present far less of a threat than the existing Pakistani or Israeli bombs. Seamus Milne seems to me to be quite correct here and his point was not to minimise the repression in Iran but to point out the double standards of the West. Iran probably would like to possess a nuclear weapon, for the same reason countries such as Israel acquired one - because it sees it as a deterrent against powerful enemies which would like to attack it. Looking at the recent history of the region, it's kind of hard to fault that logic, or not to conclude that as socialists our first concern should be to try and prevent our own bourgeoisie starting any more wars there.

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 14/03/2016 - 20:19

This debate has somewhat been overtaken by events in the four-and-a-half years since the article on which you're commenting, but I think your comment still deserves a response.

Firstly, general opposition to nuclear proliferation should indeed be enough to make us "very concerned" about the prospect of Iran, or any country that doesn't currently have one, acquiring a nuclear weapon.

From a certain point of view there is a "logic" to the Iranian ruling class's desire to acquire nuclear arms, just as there's a "logic" to Israel having them (for it too is surrounded by "powerful enemies which would like to attack it"; I'm not sure, by the way, how you arrive at the conclusion that a nuclear-armed Iran would "present far less of a threat" than other nuclear armed nations, unless you think the Iranian state is somehow "more progressive" than Israel or Pakistan). But our job is precisely to "fault" and critique ruling class "logic", including the logic of ruling classes other than "own own".

The idea that "our first concern" in any given instance should be to simply oppose the policy of our own ruling class is merely inverted nationalism. Just because our government says it'd be bad if Iran acquired nuclear weapons doesn't mean we have nothing to say beyond generic opposition to proliferation, or that we have to say, "no, it wouldn't matter", or even "well, it'd be less of a threat than Israel having them" (hey, why not? Let them have one! Bombs for all!).

We're not vulgar economic or geo-political reductionists/determinists. We acknowledge that there is sometimes more that motivates social and political actors than coldly rational calculations of pragmatic "interest". We acknowledge, in other words, the role of ideology.

The political forces currently hegemonic in the Israeli state, for example, are in my view acting well outside of the parameters of "rational" bourgeois politics, even colonial-bourgeois politics. The policies they are pursuing, it seems to me, are straightforwardly bad for the Israeli state from a rational bourgeois point-of-view. They are basing their policies on ideologically-motivated, national-chauvinist expansionism, even where that conflicts with "rational" bourgeois interests. That deserves particular analysis.

Iran, to an even greater extent in my view, is is not simply a rational bourgeois state. It may be moving more in that direction but it is still currently a clerical-fascist theocracy. The role of ideology, of "fanaticism", if you want to use that term, cannot be discounted, even if the US, for its own reasons and in its own way, has also made a superficially similar analysis (although less so recently since their entente).


Daniel Randall

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