Put It To The People in a General Election

23rd March 2019

Stop Brexit

Putting It To The People? A General Election would!

It may be a stretch to suggest that the UK is ungovernable at the moment but there can be little argument that it is ungoverned.  What passes for government at the moment, under the notional leadership of Theresa May, is little more than a loose coalition of warring factions unable to come up with any agreement on the way forward for Brexit.  This has effectively immobilised any meaningful discussion around major issues which continue to be the day to day concerns of the people of the UK; peace, health, homes and jobs.

This travesty is exacerbated by the fact that the Tories are only able to notionally govern as they are propped up by the votes of the unrepresentative gangsters from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).  The DUP pose as defenders of Northern Irish integrity but in reality continue to pursue their sectional and sectarian interests, in defending the rights and privileges of one section of the community in the annexed statelet.

The DUP plea for Northern Ireland to be treated the same as the rest of the UK in the withdrawal process contradicts their stand on social issues such as gay rights and abortion, where they are happy for the position in Northern Ireland to remain driven by their bigoted agenda.

The DUP position is reinforced by their ideological bedfellows in the European Reform Group (ERG), who are equally reactionary in their social policy and equally committed to steering the UK towards a no-deal Brexit.

The pressure to avoid no-deal continues to be the default position in Parliament, the media generally and, insofar as it is possible to gauge, with large sections of the population.  The Put It To The People campaign will no doubt point to the demonstration in London this weekend, in favour of a second referendum, and the four million signatures to the petition calling for the same as evidence of this.   A far as the evidence is presented, this would not appear to be an unreasonable position.

The anti no-deal tendency however is little more than a cover for the long running covert campaign to remain in the European Union.  If no-deal is off the table then the UK must leave with a deal.  The deal presented by the Prime Minister has been rejected twice by the House of Commons.  She may not test it a third time.  The deal proposed by the Labour Party has also suffered defeat in the House of Commons.  Remainers argue that if no-one can agree a deal, the only options are to remain, or go to a so-called People’s Vote.

The Labour Party position, to have a UK wide customs union, close alignment with the single market and co-operation on workers’ rights, environmental and security issues, is one around which the EU would be prepared to negotiate.  Its chances in the House of Commons however have been sabotaged by those in the Labour Party committed to remain in the EU at all costs, in spite of having been elected on a manifesto which promised to deliver Brexit.

The departure into political exile of Chukka Umunna and the so called Independent Group (IG) has simply reduced Labour’s voting power in the Commons.  More sinister is the formation of the Future Britain Group, spearheaded by Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.  When the IG made their move on the 18th February Tom Watson lamented their departure, suggesting that a front bench reshuffle would be in order to accommodate different views within Labour.

Watson was less keen to publicise that on the very day of the IG departure (18th February) the website domain name futurebritaingroup.co.uk was registered.  Less than three weeks later, on 9th March, Watson announced the formation of the Future Britain Group, an open faction within the Labour Party.  All coincidence?  Perhaps…..

It is not surprising that Watson will be addressing the Put It To The People march in London this weekend.  The remain faction in Labour is alive and kicking.  Their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn at all costs continues to be their modus operandi.  In that respect they are effectively working hand in glove with the DUP and the ERG on an ‘anything or anyone but Corbyn’ agenda.

Where the voting will go and how factions will align and divide in the House of Commons next week is anyone’s guess but no-deal is looking like a distinctly possible outcome.  If that is the case then it must be followed by a real People’s Vote, in the form of a General Election, a chance to put the Labour programme in its entirety in front of the British people.

Now that would be worth marching for.

Is the Iranian regime anti-imperialist?

8th March 2019

The occasion of the 40th anniversary of the revolution in Iran has resulted in a plethora of articles analysing the origins of the revolution and its development.  Jamshid Ahmadi assesses the reality.

iran demo Protests against the regime and Western intervention, a daily feature of life in Iran

The mantra that my enemy’s enemy is my friend can have some mileage and as a starting point in assessing our attitude towards any given regime may not be bad place to begin.  However, it is a dangerous principle to apply too rigidly because, in many circumstances, the complexities beneath the surface require a more nuanced response.  Very little in international politics is strictly black and white.

This is particularly the case when considering the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the attitude that the Left should adopt towards the regime.

There can be no doubt that the basis of the 1979 revolution was a progressive one, in spite of the widespread portrayal in the Western media of despots deposing the Western friendly regime of the Shah.

The Shah’s power base was the British and United States oil corporations who had installed him in power in 1953, in an MI6 and CIA backed coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh.  The administration under Mossadegh had initiated a process of nationalising the oil industry and had kicked out British contractors.  The plan was to take back Iranian oil assets for the benefit of the Iranian people, rather than the Anglo-Iranian Oil Corporation who had controlled Iran’s natural assets for most of the twentieth century.

Not surprisingly, the leeching away of Iran’s natural resources to line the pockets of Western millionaires proved to be an unpopular approach with broad sections of the Iranian people.  While the Shah was able to create a relatively prosperous middle class, on the back of oil and gas revenues, the lot of Iranian workers was one of low pay, uncertain employment and widespread poverty.

SAVAK, the Shah’s infamous secret police, were used by the regime to keep the population in line and to quash any sign of protest or unrest.  Nevertheless, protests began at least two years before the revolution in February 1979, with workers defying the authorities and taking to the streets.  Their demands focussed upon an end to the repressive regime of the Shah and calls for a system based upon democracy and social justice.

That the demands of the working class and the Left also chimed with those of the clergy ensured that the base of the national democratic revolution, which saw the overthrow of the Shah, was a broad and popular one.

The overthrow of a staunch ally inevitably meant that the Western powers characterised the revolution as hostile to their interests.  The holding of 52 US hostages in the former US Embassy in Tehran, from November 1979 until January 1981, only exacerbated the image of the revolution that the West sought to portray.

The position was further complicated by the Western inspired attack upon Iran by Iraq, in September 1980, which initiated a conflict that was to last eight years and cost over 1 million lives.  The war also became a key source of income for the West’s military industrial complex.  At one stage the UK government were training Iraqi pilots while selling anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran.

Internally however the war was the means by which the clergy consolidated its power inside Iran.  Calls to unite the nation against the Iraqi invader went hand in hand with attacks upon the Left, which resulted in imprisonment, torture and exile for many.  While the Left was far from supine in the face of this onslaught it was not united.  Calls for a people’s front, against the subverting of the aims of the revolution by the clergy, did not result in the required unification of Left forces.  Within three years the clergy had managed to secure complete control of the entire state apparatus.

While the initial demands of the national democratic revolution in 1979, for peace, social justice and democracy were undoubtedly anti-imperialist in character there is nothing to commend the subsequent theocratic takeover of all levers of power by the reactionary clergy.

The record of the regime on human rights, social justice and equality is nothing short of appalling and has been rightly condemned by solidarity organisations around the world.  The unjust imprisonment, torture and execution of trade union activists, women and the political opposition continues unabated.  The basic freedoms of expression and assembly are denied to those critical of the regime.

In economic terms the oil and gas wealth of the nation now lines the pockets of the corrupt clergy and their allies, rather than the Western corporations.  The outcome for the ordinary people of Iran is little different to the days of the Shah, with unemployment, unpaid wages and poverty prevalent.

The Iranian regime has been inflicting abuses upon its citizens for nearly forty years, so why do some on the Left still see the regime in Iran as an ally in the wider anti-imperialist struggle?

While brute force has been the stock in trade of the theocratic dictatorship of the Islamic Republic the regime in Iran has not survived for 40 years without employing a certain amount of guile.

The international balance of forces has shifted over that time, with the defeat of the Soviet Union, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the intensification of the oppression of the people of Palestine by the state of Israel, being key features of the current period.

The Iranian regime has positioned itself in direct opposition to US allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia; supported Syrian President Bashir al Assad against external Western intervention; and supported Houthi rebels in Yemen, resisting the onslaught of the Western armed Saudi coalition.

Recent talks in Moscow, with leaders from Russia and Turkey, to seek a resolution to the civil war in Syria are designed to reinforce Iran’s anti-Western appeal.  Trade deals with China, North Korea and Venezuela also help reinforce Iran’s position as part of an anti-Western camp.

However, while chanting anti-Western slogans, the Islamic Republic remains desperate to attract Western investment to prop up its ailing economy.  Technological development is required if the economy in Iran is to progress and reliance on oil sales is vital to the economic survival of the regime.

For the Iranian regime the nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the US, EU and China, was an opportunity to open up the economy for exploitation through the lifting of sanctions.  The reneging on that deal by the Trump administration in the US has plunged the Iranian economy into a tailspin.

The international alliances forged by the Iranian regime are not out of a sense of anti-imperialist solidarity but the need to shore up the theocracy at any cost.  Like the last days of the Shah, the Islamic clergy are increasingly blind to the reality of protests around them.  Across eighty cities there were protests and demonstrations, on a massive scale in January 2018 and action has continued in a wide range of workplaces and cities since then.

The task for the Left in the West is not to find justifications for supporting the Iranian regime as some kind of anti-imperialist bastion.  On the contrary, as in the time of the Shah, it is the Iranian people feeling the brunt of the repressive policies of the regime who need international support and solidarity.  The demands of protesters over the past year have become increasingly political in character, demanding an end to the widespread corruption practiced by the regime and seeking a democratic way forward for Iran.

As the situation inside the country becomes more volatile there can be no doubt that the West will seek to impose a solution.  It is not beyond the bounds of the West to go the route explored in Syria and look to create a Free Iranian Army as a conduit for cash and weapons.

This would spell disaster for the Iranian people.  Having been thwarted in their national democratic desires once already the Left should not be complicit in the Iranian people being thwarted again.  The future and fate of Iran should be in the hands of its people, without Western political or military interference.

The support of the Left should be firmly on the side of the demands of the people of Iran for peace, social justice and democracy and firmly against the theocratic dictatorship, which for forty years has denied this to them.  Is Iran anti-imperialist?  If that is the right question the answer must be, not yet and it never will be under the current regime or with continued Western interference and intervention.  However, with the support of the Left, the Iranian people may be able to pick up where they left off in 1979 and truly follow through to deliver a real revolution for Iran.

Jamshid Ahmadi is assistant general secretary of Codir, the Committee for Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights. For more information on Codir please visit: www.codir.net

This article first appeared in the Morning Star (5th March 2019)

 

 

 

 

 

No More, Mr. Nice Guy?

3rd March 2019

Tom WatsonTom Watson – really as good as he seems?

Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.  There’s a nice guy.  Loves music, goes to Glastonbury.  Realised that he ought to lose weight to address health issues and has done so.  Slimmer, fitter and infinitely plausible sounding.  Just the kind of guy to take the antisemitism row in the Labour Party to the next level.  Who would believe that Tom Watson would be anything other than reasonable?

Tom Watson knows this.  Those stirring up the antisemitism row in the Labour Party know this.  The Mossad agents who, if they are not directing all of this will be wishing they were, know this too.

As Deputy Leader of the Labour Party you would think it would be Tom Watson’s job to know the rules of that party.  There is every chance that he does.  So he will know that there is a clearly stated policy position; clear recommendations from an internal report by Shami Chakrabarti; and clear procedures for dealing with accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.

None of these processes include bypassing democratically agreed structures and taking any complaints you have directly to the Deputy Leader.  Yet this is what Tom Watson is proposing. In spite of any complaints or accusations having to go through an agreed procedure with General Secretary, Jennie Formby, Watson is proposing to tear up the rule book and suggest that complaints come to him.

Quite how Watson is proposing to deal with such complaints is unclear.  There is nothing in the Labour Party rule book to give the Deputy Leader the power of judge and jury when it comes to matters of internal party discipline.  In fact, should Watson read the rule book, he will find that there is no role at all.  Of course, Watson knows this.

So why the grand gesture?  Watson, and those perpetrating the antisemitism row, are waking up to the fact that Labour Party members on the ground know this is a sham, that antisemitism is neither institutional nor endemic within the Labour Party.  The widely reported comments of Chris Williamson MP, at a meeting in Sheffield last week, that Labour has been too apologetic about antisemitism and has been demonised by the media over the issue, hit the mark with many local activists.

Watson could not allow this to pass by without a response that would grab the media headlines.  His suggestion that complaints should go through him was designed to do just that.  With its usual lack of rigour, the BBC spent no time analysing the practicality or legitimacy of Watson’s suggestion but simply ran with it as part of its long running anti-Corbyn agenda.

This weekend The Observer joined the fray with a front page lead article claiming Labour faces new row over efforts to curb antisemitism (The Observer 3rd March 2019), its thinnest piece of journalism in a long time, based on internal emails over a year old, discussing how best to handle procedures internally within the Labour Party.

Internal investigations by the Labour Party and the cross-party Commons Home Affairs Committee have exonerated Labour of the “institutional racism” which its detractors claim.  The reality is that for many in the political establishment and media, the prospect of a Labour government which may question, and even criticise, the actions of the Israeli government in Palestine is too much to contemplate.

Many Israelis criticise the actions of their own government.  Many Jews not living in Israel, including Jewish Voice for Labour, are critical of the actions of the Israeli government.  These criticisms are no more tropes for antisemitism than criticism of Donald Trump makes us racially anti-American.  The Israeli government, its flaunting of international law, its illegal policy of occupying Palestine and its random killing of Palestinian demonstrators, are all legitimate areas for debate and criticism.

The antisemitism row within the Labour Party is expressly designed to suppress debate on these issues; conflate legitimate criticism of the Israeli government with racism; and undermine the credibility of the Labour Party in general and its leader in particular.  It is an organised, systemic campaign of vilification, with the clear objective of destabilising the Labour Party and undermining its chances of forming a government.

Tom Watson received nearly £65,000 between December 2015 and June 2018 from pro-Israeli government lobbyists.  At a critical point in the political life of the UK and with the prospect of Labour winning a general election a real possibility, is he really the man to be second in command?  Mossad may think so but should we?

Political oblivion beckons for closet Tories

23rd February 2019

TIG

So called Independent Group smile in the face of political oblivion

Labour splitters finally took the plunge this week with the insignificant seven firstly making their move, to set up the so called Independent Group, closely followed by Labour Friends of Israel Chair, Joan Ryan, and three austerity supporting Tories, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen.

Quick to spot an opportunity to hang onto some headline grabbing political coat tails Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, has offered a non aggression pact with any Independent Group MPs who trigger by-elections in their constituencies, by not standing candidates against them.

The flaw in Cable’s plan is all too obvious.  These worthy democrats, advocates of a second vote on the EU referendum, elected on the Labour manifesto of 2017, which clearly stated Labour would seek the best Brexit deal for the UK, are reluctant to stand down and test their views with their own constituents.  The same is true of the Tory troika.

Justification for this was put by Enfield North MP, Joan Ryan, interviewed on Radio 4 this week.  When asked why she would not be standing down to put her position to voters in a by-election she was quite clear as to her reasons.  Slightly paraphrasing, she essentially said that she had made it clear to voters in 2017 that Jeremy Corbyn had no chance of becoming Prime Minister, so they could still vote for her, safe in the knowledge that Corbyn would not end up in Downing St as a result.

Quite what mandate Ryan believes that position gives her is open to question.  The assumption that voters put their cross against her name on that basis, rather than voting for the Labour candidate because Corbyn offered a genuine alternative, is probably delusional.  In any event, it does not suggest that any great efforts will be made to woo Ryan back into the Labour ranks.  She is clearly better left heading towards political oblivion with her cohorts.

The hypocrisy of the Independent Group having shown itself in its first days, there is little that is likely to commend them to an electorate desperate for a resolution to the Brexit issue, an end to austerity and a programme which offers a vision to rebuild the UK economy by investing in people and the regeneration of public sector services.

As the Tory party continues to fracture over the Brexit issue it remains Labour that has the only clear position that can lead the UK to a resolution of the crisis.  Jeremy Corbyn, in his letter to Theresa May, on 6th February clearly articulates what is needed.  A UK wide Customs Union, close alignment with the Single Market, agreement on workers rights, environmental and security issues.

This is a position many EU leaders have said they could do business with.  It is a position which could command the support of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons.  It is a position which exposes the hypocrisy of both the hard right Tory European Reform Group and the closet Tory, Independent Group.

It is a position which it should be easy for Labour MPs to articulate and hold the government to account for failing to deliver.

Three Cabinet Ministers, led by Amber Rudd, are calling upon Theresa May to rule out a no deal Brexit, in line with Labour’s position, and are preparing to vote for an amendment in the House of Commons to this effect.  What little support May thought she could hang onto is clearly dwindling.  The Tories are limbering up for a leadership challenge in the summer and are beginning to jostle for position.

At a time when a united opposition is the real necessary ingredient to continue the push for a general election, the Labour right wing create a diversion by putting their own personal position and egos before the needs of the people.  The Independent Group is a sham.  Once its members are put to a vote of the people, it will quickly be exposed as one.  The sooner we can get to that point and have a Labour government with a radical programme of reform elected, the better.

Mexican Wall Stand-Off

17th February 2019

Trump WallTrump and cohorts examine a wall ‘prototype’

United States president, Donald Trump, has declared a “national emergency” on the country’s southern border with Mexico, in an attempt to secure the funds to build the controversial wall between the two countries.  Trump’s announcement was linked with his willingness to sign a bill to avoid another government shutdown, the last of which lasted for 35 days over the Xmas and New Year period, and affected 800,000 public sector employees.

Many of the federal workers, who were locked out or forced to work without pay for five weeks, still have not been paid, are struggling with rent and mortgage arrears and many are threatened by property repossession, such are Trump’s ‘man of the people’ credentials.

The bill, which released federal funds and avoided another government shutdown, sanctioned the release of $333 billion of which only $1.3 billion was designated for “border security”, Trump’s euphemism for the wall, which is well short of the estimated $5 billion + required to build a structure along the 2000 mile border with Mexico.

Opponents have already questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s declaration under the National Emergencies Act, which was designed to allocate funds to major natural disasters or catastrophic events.

Senator Bernie Sanders has made his opposition plain, stating,

“It is clear to me that there is not a ‘national emergency’ with regard to the southern border.  What President Trump is doing is unlawful and must be opposed vigorously in the courts and legislatively.”

Sanders is one of the promoters of two bills in Congress aimed at preventing the president from diverting military construction and disaster relief funds into the building of the wall.  House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi has been clear that,

“This is not a national emergency and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”  Adding that, “Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and…naked contempt for the rule of law.”

Attorney Generals from states across the US are preparing legal challenges if Trump looks to divert federal funds for the border wall project.

While the national emergency is widely seen by Democrats as a money grab by the President, the Communist Party of the USA has seen even more sinister intent behind the move.  In the People’s World (15/2/19) paper of the CPUSA, it was suggested that for most Republicans building the wall was not the main issue,

“What they really want is to keep the issue alive to stir up racism and fear among white voters. Their hope is that white voters in general, like much of the Trump base, will see immigrants and people of color as the enemy. That fear plus fear of socialism and communism and the fear that Democrats are the party of all those “invaders” and “socialists” seems to be the way they want to go for the 2020 Trump re-election campaign. And even if Trump is impeached the strategy will work, they hope, for the rest of the Republican Party. The phony “national emergency” helps lay the groundwork for this racist strategy while, at the same time, testing just how far the president can go in overthrowing constitutional norms.”

Pro-Latino groups in the US have certainly expressed concern that, whether or not the wall gets built, Trump is drumming up a racist agenda with more money for beds in detention centres and a massive increase in agents to run down undocumented migrants.  The scapegoating of the Latino community as criminals certainly appears to be a key focus of the funding package and one which representatives of the Latino communities in the US intend to vigorously oppose.

Trump himself has been his usual blasé self, announcing in a press conference,

“We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we’ll get another bad ruling and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court.”

Clearly Trump is relying upon the conservative Supreme Court to go his way but, even without this outcome, the legal wrangling will no doubt fuel his re-election campaign as 2020 approaches.  Without a single brick being laid in the building of a wall Trump’s racist agenda will set the tone for the next battle for the White House.  The Democrats will need a determined and pro-people based campaign to make sure the Trump bandwagon does not gather momentum.

 

Corbyn clears the way

9th February 2019                                                    

Corbyn letter                Corbyn outlines the way forward for Theresa May

The dead end option of a second Brexit referendum, beloved of the right wing in the Labour Party determined to oppose Jeremy Corbyn at all costs, slipped further from view this week.  The ostensibly unlikely cause of this retreat was correspondence from Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, setting out the basis for a Brexit which would avoid the dreaded No Deal option.

Corbyn, reflecting Labour Conference policy, has been consistent in his position in advocating a UK wide Customs Union with the EU, taking out the backstop argument at a stroke, and close alignment with the Single Market, “underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, with clear arrangements for dispute resolution.”

Corbyn goes on to outline the need for dynamic alignment with rights and protections for UK workers; commitments to engagement in EU agencies relating to the environment, education and industrial regulation; and agreements on the detail of future security arrangements.

In spite of the insistence of the BBC and other sections of the media that Labour has no policy on Brexit, it is clear from Corbyn’s letter that Labour clearly has and, if in government, would be prepared to implement it.

The waters are muddied not just by the media however but by the right wing in both the Labour and Tory parties.   The European Reform Group (ERG) of Jacob Rees-Mogg et al, would happily leave the EU without a deal and go straight to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.  At this stage in the negotiations, with Parliament set against a No Deal option and business unprepared for anything more than a transition period, the ERG position is more out of touch than ever.

The ERG, in cahoots with the DUP, do command enough votes to torpedo any deal May puts to Parliament, unless she can win Labour support.  Corbyn’s programme offers that opportunity but May fears that the right wing in her party will split and the Tories fall apart.  The ERG so far have supported May in crucial votes, if only to keep a General Election at bay.

Labour progress is hampered by the antics of the so called People’s Vote group of MPs around Chuka Umunna, who insist that a second referendum is the only way forward.  The People’s Vote is essentially a Remain front organisation, convinced that a further vote would change the result of the 2016 referendum.  This is a huge gamble but the MPs associated with this group are equally concerned to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership, taking to social and any other form of media, as often as they can to do so.

The People’s Vote response to Corbyn’s letter has been described as apoplectic, a sign that they are being outmanoeuvred.  Other EU leaders have welcomed the approach outlined by Corbyn as a way forward.  There are rumours that a breakaway party of right wing Labour MPs could be formed as early as next week, a reflection of the tactics adopted by the Social Democrats (SDP) splitting from Labour in the 1980’s.

Any so called ‘centre’ party is likely to suffer the same political ignominy as the SDP but could still do untold political harm in the short term.  Ironically, although they may never admit it publicly, the Labour splitters share the same aim as the Tory ERG; keep Corbyn out of 10, Downing St.

Whether the backstabbers in Labour make their move, or dither hopelessly as the ERG did in its failed coup against Theresa May, remains to be seen.  What is clear however is that the only way out of the present impasse is not being offered by the right wing of Labour, or the right wing of the Tories.  It is not being offered by the Government.  The only credible way forward, currently on offer, is coming from the Leader of the Opposition.

White House hawks have no answers

2nd February 2019

PompeoBolton

White House hawks – Mike Pompeo and John Bolton

With US intervention back on the international agenda in Venezuela, White House hawks, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton, have not taken their eye off US long term ambitions in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, managed to squeeze in a tour which took in eight Middle East countries in the space of a week last month, summing up his mission in a speech in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as

“The need to counter the greatest threat of all in the Middle East, the Iranian regime and its campaigns of terrorism and destruction.”

Pompeo’s aim has been to build a coalition of the willing in the Middle East with the ostensible aim of rolling back Iranian influence in the region, for which can be read, asserting US dominance wherever possible.

While the United States has clear allegiances with both Saudi Arabia and Israel in the region its influence elsewhere has been diminished due to its history of military and economic intervention.    The Iranian regime is an easy target because of its history of opposition to the United States, its support amongst the Shia Muslims in the region, in opposition to Sunni led Saudi Arabia, and its adventurous foreign policy which the US can characterise as a threat.

Pompeo’s message appears to have been well received among Sunni Arab leaders, with Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, saying in a news conference with Pompeo in Amman,

“We all have problems with Iran’s expansionist policies in the region.  All Arab countries, and I think the United States too, would want healthy relations based on the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the other, and respecting the sovereignty of other countries.”

In Cairo, Pompeo said that Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan had been “instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions,” adding that Bahrain was working to combat Iran’s “illicit maritime activities” in the region.

Quite how close this is to a unified Arab coalition against Iran, the long term goal of the US, is hard to gauge and Pompeo may have been offered warm words in friendly capitals just to make sure military and economic aid keeps flowing.

The Pentagon are certainly concerned that US leverage may be on the wane, due to the recent announcement that troops will be pulled out of Syria, and concern has been expressed that the hawkish position taken by John Bolton could precipitate a conflict when US influence is at a low ebb.

Bolton directed the National Security Council to ask the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. Since Bolton took on his role in April, he has intensified the administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran, being instrumental in persuading President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal last year.

The twin offensive was continued when Pompeo was interviewed via video link to delegates to the World Economic Forum in Davos recently, where he stated,

“…the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran is very real. You mentioned Yemen. You mentioned Syria. I think you talked about the challenges of Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon. It’s still the case that Iran is striving to reduce Iraqi freedom, sovereignty, and independence. Those are places where Iran is truly the malign actor, and it’s why we’re so happy that the coalition that we’ve built out…. is so central to creating the stability that the people of the Middle East so richly deserve.”

The recent intervention by the United States in Venezuela has seen both Pompeo and Bolton leading the charge in the misinformation campaign against the legitimate government of Nicolás Maduro and flying the flag for greater US interference in the affairs of Venezuela.

The government of Iran by no means enjoys the popular support that the Maduro government does but the future of Iran should be in the hands of its people.  The human rights record of the Iranian regime and its suppression of political and trade union rights has been widely condemned.  That does not mean that the answer to the situation in Iran lies with the hawks in the White House, far from it, and the Iranian people continue to deserve our support in their struggle for peace, human rights and democracy.