4th June 2019
As US President, Donald Trump, arrives in the UK increased tension in the Middle East raises the real possibility of further conflict in the region. Jane Green for the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR) assesses the dangers.
Anti Trump protesters fill the streets of London – 4th June 2019
The visit of United States President, Donald Trump, on a state visit to the UK, coincides with the most belligerent and threatening period of US foreign policy since the war on Iraq in 2003. The focus of the Trump administration upon the Islamic Republic of Iran, clearly the new public enemy no.1 for the US, has escalated in recent weeks to the point where Iran is being accused directly of terrorist action against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
The incident, which occurred early in May, remains shrouded in mystery. However, the suspicious issue of the attacks on four Saudi tankers, at the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah, on 12th May has clearly been used to engineer an anti-Iran climate.
At the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting, convened in Saudi Arabia last weekend, King Salman used his opening address to condemn the attacks, stating,
“We emphasise that these subversive terrorist acts are aimed not only at the kingdom and the Gulf region, but also on the security of navigation and energy supplies to the world.”
The Saudis clearly blame Iran for the attacks and are attempting to unite Muslim and Arab opinion against Iran.
US national Security Adviser, John Bolton, speaking in London last week claimed that he will be able to present evidence that Iran was behind the attacks, although it was evident that producing evidence was not the main issue for Bolton, who stated,
“I don’t think anybody who is familiar with the situation in the region, whether they have examined the evidence or not, has come to any conclusion other than that these attacks were carried out by Iran or their surrogates.”
In the year since President Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal which lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear programme, pressure upon the Iranian regime has been steadily increased. Sanctions have been tightened to the point where Iran’s oil exports, its main foreign currency earner, have been reduced to zero.
In April the US designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group with Trump stating that the move “recognises the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft”.
The policies of US administrations for over 40 years, from Jimmy Carter and Reagan to Trump, have consistently focussed on how to engineer regime change in Iran. The United States remains keen to see Iran return to its role following World War Two. During that period Iran was the most reliable ally of the US in the Middle East, both in terms of supporting US strategic interests and in securing the flow of cheap oil to the US, Europe and Japan.
Opposition to the Iranian revolution was most brutally manifest in US support for the attack of Saddam Hussein upon Iran, which led to the 8-year long war with Iraq in the 1980s and hostile relations with the regime ever since. The US has supported all attempts to destabilise and overthrow the regime. George Bush famously characterised Iran as being one of the countries in his ‘axis of evil’ and threatened regime change.
Even after the JCPOA agreement reached in 2015, which supposedly lifted sanctions, the US continued to maintain paralysing banking sanctions on Iran that prevented it from trading easily with the rest of the world. Since May 2018 the sanctions regime has become untenable.
In a tweet on 18th August 2018 Trump boasted that: “The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”
The irony of this statement aside, it is clear that the actions of the US do not tend towards peace, either in the world or in the Middle East. Provocation, duplicity and lies have been the stock in trade of US foreign policy for decades and this is no less the case in the present situation.
The United States has sent some of the its most deadly weapons of war to the Persian Gulf close to Iran, including several warships, an aircraft carrier and fighter jets as well as B52 bombers. This is in addition to the deployment of the US Patriot Missile system to the region. The US Navy announced that on Sunday, 19th May the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group, in coordination with the US Marine Corps, conducted military exercises in the Arabian Sea highlighting US “lethality and agility to respond to threat”. On the same day, Donald Trump threatened to “destroy Iran forever.”
In response to the ongoing US pressure the Iranian government has stated that it will reduce its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, making clear in a statement of the National Security Council of Iran that “the Islamic Republic of Iran at the current stage is no longer committed to complying with restrictions on maintaining only a certain inventory of the enriched uranium and heavy water.”
The position of the Iranian government resulted in a rapid and negative reaction from the European Union, and many European politicians expressed concern about the decision of the Iranian government.
There is little doubt that the increase in sanctions has exacerbated the profound economic and social crisis inside Iran, as the regime continues to suppress waves of protest against its political and economic policies, as well as its widespread human rights abuses. The theocratic dictatorship in Iran is only interested in protecting its own position, whatever the cost to the Iranian people.
The United States is clearly seeking to use this situation to its advantage, in order to force regime change upon Iran, in a shape that will be consistent with maintaining US interests and hegemony in the Middle East. The stepping up of both rhetoric and action by the United States could, at any point, provide the spark which sees the Middle East go up in flames.
With both Israel and Saudi Arabia, the heavily armed allies of the United States in the Middle East, increasingly strident in their denunciation of the Iranian regime, the prospect of conflict is further intensified.
The visit of President Trump to the UK must be accompanied by a clear anti-war message. The people of Iran have suffered at the hands of the theocracy for over forty years. It is their right to shape a democratic future in their own interests, not those of the existing dictatorship or any external power. For that they need peace and continued international solidarity from labour, trade union and peace groups across the world. They do not need to be staring down the barrel of a US gun.