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Anti-war movement debates Iran, the Middle East and U.S. wars

By John Catalinotto
Published Jul 20, 2009 9:30 PM

The conflict in Iran that opened up with the June presidential elections there has had an impact on the progressive and anti-imperialist movement worldwide, including in the United States. Misunderstanding the events has created some confusion in anti-war ranks. This is especially dangerous after Vice President Joe Biden on July 5 gave a virtual green light to an Israeli attack on Iran. The anti-war movement must stay alert to protest any move in that direction.

When very large crowds of people took to the streets in Tehran on June 15 to protest the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it appeared that this was an authentic popular movement, even if its strongest base was in the more affluent parts of the city.

Young people and women apparently were playing a large role in the protests. Some of the demands were for women’s rights and other democratic rights that were constrained by the religious political leadership of Iran’s revolution. It was easy for Western secular progressives to identify with the protests.

But some big questions remained.

If the protests were progressive, why did all the imperialist politicians in Europe and the United States and their corporate media take the sides of the opposition? This is especially strange since the key players in the opposition, the candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were themselves identified with the regime in the past. At the time, U.S. sources even charged Mousavi with responsibility for overseeing the 1983 blast in Lebanon that killed over 200 U.S. Marines, since he was Iran’s premier then.

Rafsanjani, who is one of the richest people in Iran, is associated with increased privatization of industry and banking and with opening friendlier relations with U.S. imperialism. This would necessarily include cutting back on support for the Hamas and Hezbollah liberation movements and perhaps for Syria, and increasing cooperation with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. How would privatization and cooperation with the U.S. increase democratic rights inside Iran?

A serious consideration of these questions must include an examination of U.S. imperialism’s goals regarding the entire Middle East and Central Asia. The George W. Bush administration used the 9/11 attack as a pretext to justify U.S. military aggression in the entire region—although the real goal was to conquer its world-important energy resources. A look at the news in the second week of July shows that this basic strategy remains in place.

U.S. troops still in Iraq

Some deceptive headlines gave the false impression that U.S. troops essentially withdrew from Iraq on June 30. Yet 134,000 troops remain in the country. They pulled out of 142 posts that were inside Iraqi cities, turning these posts over to Iraqi troops, but remain in 320 other posts around Iraq.

In some cases, rather than moving, the U.S. and Iraqi forces simply redefined the city boundaries, leaving the troops where they were. Such was the case with the U.S. Army’s Forward Operating Base Falcon, which used to be located inside Baghdad. Now, with a new boundary drawn, the 3,000 U.S. troops there are “outside” the city limits.

U.S. troops and higher paid mercenaries are expanding and improving their rural bases and even building new ones. Even if the Obama administration sticks to the announced timetable, at least 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq until at least the end of 2011. A war-spending bill the Democrat-controlled Congress just passed pours another $100 billion into the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. (Information from the website of Iraq expert Dahr Jamail—dahrjamailiraq.com)

Washington escalates war on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, U.S. troop levels have already grown to 57,000 and are set to rise to 68,000 during the year. According to McClatchy News Service, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said July 13 “that when he gives his assessment to the Obama administration next month of what is needed to defeat the Taliban, he won’t be deterred by administration statements that he cannot have more U.S. troops.”

Britain, too, has escalated its presence in Afghanistan, with the result that 15 British troops died in the two weeks ending July 13. The Afghan occupation is nominally under NATO command. European leaders have ignored popular anti-war sentiment to send troops to the Afghan front, basing their appeal on President Obama’s reviving U.S. popularity in Europe after Bush brought its ratings to an all-time low.

Support for the war is waning quickly as the casualties mount, in Britain as well as in the rest of Europe and Canada.

Even the New York Times has had to admit that the increased troop strength and military activity in Afghanistan, with an increase in civilian casualties, is helping recruiting by the Taliban and other resistance forces. (July 3)

Along with Afghanistan is increased U.S. intervention in Pakistan. Both drones and planes are sent to bomb and rocket alleged “insurgent” targets, while the Pentagon pushes the Pakistani regime to send its army into border areas. Both activities have increased civilian deaths and created millions of refugees inside Pakistan. They have also increased recruiting by opposition forces, some allied with the Afghan resistance.

U.S. policies in Palestine

Washington’s policy toward Palestine has been to continue support for the Israeli state, despite Israel’s refusal to even stop new settlements in the occupied West Bank and its brutal blockade of the Gaza territory. It is based on U.S. strategic interests in the region, which involve relying on the Israeli state as a weapon against any liberation movement or sovereign government in the region.

The U.S.-based media attacked the Iranian elections as fraudulent. But remember that in Palestine, Washington and Israel refused to recognize what they knew were honest elections that made Hamas the leading party in 2006. Since then the U.S.-Israeli alliance has used force and withheld aid to try to drive Hamas from office.

Washington hasn’t altered its basic policy of occupation and control since the replacement of the neo-con regime fronted by Bush. So it’s consistent with their past misdeeds that the corporate media and all imperialist politicians—at least in North America and Europe—have targeted the Iranian government over the elections and have praised the opposition demonstrations.

Whatever the motive of the protesters themselves in Tehran, the imperialists’ motive is to eliminate Iranian sovereignty and reverse the 1979 revolution.

N.E.D.-funded group calls anti-Iran protest

A group in the U.S. calling itself United 4 Iran has called for protests on July 25 targeting the Iranian government. It says this is in sympathy with the youth and women involved in opposition demonstrations there. The anti-imperialist Stop War on Iran group, in response, issued a statement exposing the connections of United 4 Iran with funding groups closely associated with U.S. foreign policy—like the National Endowment for Democracy—and argues against any support for these protests.

“U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s new public threat against Iran underlines the dangers of a new war in the Middle East and the desperate need for political clarity within the anti-war movement concerning Iran,” the SWOI statement begins.

“With his July 5 comments on ABC’s This Week, Biden opened the door to a military attack when he said that the U.S. would not stand in the way of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, calling such an attack Israel’s ‘sovereign right.’”

SWOI notes that some anti-war organizations have endorsed the United 4 Iran action, including United for Peace and Justice, and “urges them and other honest anti-war forces to reconsider their endorsement of the anti-Iran actions.”

SWOI urges everyone instead to “come out AGAINST current U.S. wars and the threats of a new war on the following week in a National Day of Coordinated Actions on Saturday, Aug. 1.” To read the full statement and/or to participate, see stopwaroniran.org.




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