US Vice-President Dick Cheney is reported to have thought up a clever scheme to launch an attack on Iran. In this plan, Israel will bomb an Iranian nuclear installation, Iran will respond by launching missiles at Israel, and this will serve as the pretext for an American attack.
We don’t know whether there is any substance to such rumours. On one level, military action against Iran sounds implausible: could anyone really be that crazy? The commissars of US imperialism are aggressive, for sure, but they operate within a partially rational framework of “national” i.e. US ruling-class
interests. Why would they want to bring down the roof on their heads, particularly after the disaster of Iraq?
On the other hand, similar considerations weighed against an invasion of Iraq in early 2003 — but the presence of George W Bush in the White House, the 9/11 attacks and the easy collapse of the Taliban regime after a couple of weeks’ bombing in 2002 had strengthened the hand of the neo-con ideologues to the point where they were able to hegemonise the ruling factions. George Bush is still in office, but only for another year. The Republican Party may well lose the next presidential election, which will mean the (in some cases demagogically antiwar)
Democrats controlling the presidency, the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time since 1994. Some neo-cons are whispering of the need for action “before it is too late”. Even if they do not persuade the administration to stage a ground invasion of a country four times the size of Iraq, with three times the population, they may be able to get some form of military action, perhaps similar to the bombing campaigns against Serbia (1999) and Afghanistan.
Even limited action against could quickly escalate into a large-scale, bloody war. As Israeli leftist Uri Avnery puts it:
Even “smart” bombs kill people. The Iranians’ first reaction to an American attack would be to close the Straits of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf. That would choke off a large part of the world’ s oil supply and cause an unprecedented world-wide economic crisis. To open the straits (if this is at all possible), the US army would have to capture and hold large areas of Iranian territory. The short and easy war would turn into a long and hard war. There can be little doubt that if attacked, Iran will respond as it has promised: by bombarding Israel with the rockets it is preparing for this precise purpose. That will not endanger Israel’s existence, but it will not be pleasant either...I am ready to predict with confidence: whoever pushes for war against Iran will come to regret it. Some adventures are easy to get into but hard to get out of.
The last one to find this out was Saddam Hussein. He thought that it would be a cakewalk — after all, Khomeini had killed off most of the officers, and especially the pilots, of the Shah’ s military. He believed that one quick Iraqi blow would be enough to bring about the collapse of Iran. He had eight long years of war to regret it.
Preparing the labour movement and activists to resist war on Iran is thus a matter of urgency. A major roadblock here is the politics which informs the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition dominated by the SWP and its erstwhile
comrades in Respect. Insteading of opposing US imperialism in the name of solidarity with workers, women, students and other democratic movements in Iran, they make pro-Islamic Republic propaganda, desperately looking for ways to excuse repression by the Ahmedinejad regime. At the recent Stop the War conference, they denounced their political critics from Iranian exile socialist groups in the most virulent terms.
The SWP’ s effectively pro-Islamic Republic stance not only betrays Iran’ s left opposition, but means support for a state with active regional imperialist ambitions of its own. No effective movement against war on Iran can be built on this basis. No to war, no to the Islamic Republic!