Saudi Arabia, Israel Resort to Terrorism to Derail Iran Nuclear Talks

Muhammad Sahimi

Ever since Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s President on 14 June 2013 and promised that he will lead a government of “hope and prudence,” the United States’ most important allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia and Israel – and their lobbies here have been doing their best to prevent any agreement between Iran and the Obama administration regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Israel and its lobby in the United States have succeeded in persuading Washington to impose the most crippling economic sanctions on Iran, disrupting and threatening the lives of tens of millions of ordinary Iranians. But that has not been enough for Israel. It wants Iran to surrender its national sovereignty and its rights under Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that gives Iran the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Thus, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been on an increasingly desperate diplomatic offensive to “prove” that Iran is not sincere in its effort to reach a nuclear agreement. After cynically calling the efforts by Iran’s new administration “a charm offensive;” referring to President Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing;” mentioning Iran 70 times and Rouhani – not Mr. Rouhani or President Rouhani – 25 times in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting (while barely mentioning Israel’s war on the Palestinians); foolishly becoming an advocate of “democracy” for the Iranian people by declaring that if the Iranian youth were free,they would wear jeans and listen to Western music – which created a huge backlash by the Iranians (see here, here, and here), telling Netanyahu to first address democracy for the Palestinian people – and repeating his absurd claim that “Iran is preparing for another Holocaust,” Netanyahu threatened once again that if forced to,Israel will attack Iran alone.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also let the world know that it is angry at the Obama administration for not attacking Syria, for imposing military sanctions on the military junta in Egypt even though they are insignificant, and for trying to reach a diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Never mind that Secretary of State John Kerry just said the other day that “Egyptians are following the right path.” This is a path that was paved by the junta overthrowing Egypt’s democratically-elected government and President Mohamed Morsi. Never mind that President Obama changed his mind about attacking Syria after the huge worldwide backlash against his threats of military attacks.

The opposition to U.S.-Iran rapprochement by Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the support of the former for the most extreme forces in Syria that have committed countless number of atrocities, have brought to the fore the real axis of evil consisting of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the War Party in the United States, as opposed to George W. Bush’s bogus “axis of evil.” The same Saudi Arabia that has always supposedly been the grand marshal of defending the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, has now made an “unholy alliance” with Israel, ignoring the fact that much of Israel’s saber rattling over Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapon program is for distracting attention from the fact that it continues to devour the Palestinians’ lands, water, and other natural resources, and has made practically impossible the two-state solution for the problem.

The second round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – began on Thursday November 7 in Geneva, and the initial reports have indicated that progress has been made. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has even declared that the main framework for a long-term agreement may be reached during the two days of negotiations between the two parties. That is not the news that Israel and Saudi Arabia want to hear.

Thus, in addition to pressuring the Obama administration through their lobbies in Washington, another way of derailing the negotiations and killing any potential agreement between Iran and the U.S. that the unholy alliance has put in place is provoking Iran’s hardliners that are deeply suspicious of the West and oppose any rapprochement with the U.S. The hardliners have made their opposition clear, with the latest manifestation of which being the demonstrations that they staged in front of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on Monday on the 34th anniversary of the hostage crisis. And the best way to provoke Iranian hardliners is by terrorist attacks inside Iran, although such attacks are nothing new.

The United States and its allies have been trying for decades to destabilize Iran by supporting small groups among Iran’s ethnic minorities that have secessionist tendencies and have been carrying out terrorist attacks inside Iran. These groupsinclude Jundallah, a Sunni extremist group that operated from Pakistan and for years carried out many terrorist attacks in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province on the border with Pakistan. Another group is the Kurdish Party of Free Life of Kurdistan,known as PJAK, the Iranian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party – usually referred to as PKK – in Turkey that has been listed as a terrorist group by both the European Union and the US PJAK is a secular group. A third group consists of Iranian Arabs in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in southwest Iran, which is widely believed to besupported by Britain.

As the author described in detail in October 2009, Jundallah was supported for years by the United StatesSaudi Arabia, and Israel. Then, in December 2009 Selig Harrisonof Center for International Policy reported in the New York Times that the George W. Bush administration provided support to Jundallah through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate – the infamous ISI – and to PJAK through CIA and Israel’s Mossad, which has had long-term relations with the Kurds in both Iraq and Iran. Documents released by WikiLeaks in November 2010 indicated that Israel has tried to use Kurdish dissidents against Iran. Then, in an important article in January 2012 Mark Perry described how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.

In February 2010, Iran arrested Jundallah’s leader Abdolmalek Riggi, and executed him in June 2010. A month earlier, Iran had executed his brother, Abdolhamid Rigggi. The two executions were severe blow to Jundallah. Then, another Riggi, Abdolrauf Riggi, took over the leadership of Jundallah, but he was arrested by Pakistan in December 2010. Execution of the Riggis, the arrest of the third one, and lack of popular support due to ruthless tactics, such as beheading of Iran’s border guards, and revelations about foreign support for the group, eventually led to the demise of Jundallah. But, while the Iranian branch of the group formally disappeared (its Pakistani branch still operates within Pakistan, attacking Shiites), its offshoots have emerged and are just as brutal and deadly, and supported by the same foreign powers. This became abundantly clear in the latest terrorist attacks on Iran.

The latest terrorist attacks on Iran occurred on October 25, perfectly timed in advance of the Geneva negotiations. The Sunni terrorist group, Jaish al-adl (army of justice),attacked Iran from Pakistan, killing 14 Iranian border guards (12 of whom were conscripts), wounding six, and taking three guards as hostage. Jaish al-adl is a Salafi group, of the same type as those fighting in Syria against Syrian government and supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In an apparent retaliation, Iran executed 16 prisoners, although the Iranian government claimed that the sixteen, at least half of whom were members of the terrorist groups, had already received death sentences, but their sentences had not been carried out under a deal whereby in return for not executing them, their groups will not carry out any terrorist operations. Jaish al-adl has carried out many attacks in Iran; see herehere, and here. The statement that the group issued after its most recent attack has striking similarities with those of extremist Sunni group in Syria. In fact, in its statement Jaish al-adl declared that the attacks were in retaliation for alleged Iranian “massacre” in Syria and the “cruel treatment” of Sunnis in Iran. In addition, its flag and its style of attacks are very similar to those of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that is deeply involved in fighting in Syria. Similar to all other Sunni extremist groups, Jaish al-adl uses children in its operations, and carries out suicide bombing. Interestingly, no Western nation, including the United States, condemned the terrorist attacks. On November 7 the public prosecutor in city of Zabol in Sistan was assassinated, and for which Jaish al-adl took responsibility.

Jaish al-adl is led by Abdolrahim Mollazadeh, although he uses the pseudonym Salaheddin Faroughi. He was a prominent member of Jundallah. His brother, Abdolmalek Mollazadeh, was executed in January 2012 by the Iranian government, after he was arrested and charged with the assassination of a local Sunni leader, Molavi Mostafa Jangizehi, who had worked with the government and its paramilitary group, the Basij. After 12 other people were arrested in April 2012 in connection with the assassination, Mollazadeh fled Iran and moved to Pakistan, where he set up Jaish al-adl. Jaish al adl’s spokesman is Mohsen Mohammadi. Its first terrorist operation occurred in August 2012.

Jaish al-adl operates in a far more sophisticated manner than did Jundallah. It has aFacebook page (although it was recently blocked), and issues its statements not just in Farsi, but also in Arabic, English and other languages, in an apparent effort to put itself within the global movement of the Sunni groups. It has three military branches, named after three of its prominent “martyrs,” including Abdolmalek Mollazadeh. Based on its various statements since its first operation in 2012 and what has been reported in the Iranian press, it is estimated that Jaish al-adl has killed at least between 100-150 military personnel and policemen in Sistan and Baluchestan.

There is another Sunni terrorist group in Iran in the same province of Sistan and Baluchestan, called Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI). It too has carried out many terrorist attacks in Iran; see here and here, for example. HAI also works with a Sunni extremist group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which currently operates under a new name,Ahlesunnat wal Jamaat, an anti-Shiite group that has been waging a low-intensity war in Pakistan for decades, and has murdered thousands of Shiites.

Both Jaish al-adl and HAI are offshoots of Jundallah. Although its current leader isAbu Yasir Muskootani, HAI still considers Abdolmalek Riggi as its “Amir” (religious/political leader). As mentioned earlier, Mollazadeh was a prominent member of Jundallah. HAI has declared that its aim is to “liberate” Iran and set up a government run based on the Sharia. Its emblem has striking similarities with that of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Since August, PJAK has been attacking Iran’s military, hence ending the unofficial ceasefire that it had with Iran for some time. After executing the sixteen prisoners in connection with Jaish al-adl attacks, Iran also executed two people that it had accused of membership in PJAK. The two had denied the allegation, although there is evidence that at least one of the two had received military training by PJAK. Both PJAK and Iran’s military accuse the other side of breaking the ceasefire. PJAK’s leader, Abdolrahman Haji-Ahmadi has taken the same position as Netanyahu’s,warning the West that it should not be “fooled” by Rouhani.

In supporting such terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia and Israel pursue different, but complementary goals. Saudi Arabia’s goal, first and foremost, is bringing the Shiite-Sunni sectarian war that it has been supporting in Syria to Iran, hence hitting it back for its support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime that Saudi Arabia’s-supported terrorist forces have not only not been able to topple, but are actually losing the war to. One goal of Israel is having allies that are willing to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities, and assassinating its nuclear scientists.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia seek to destabilize Iran and its government, keeping it tied up with internal problems. And, both hope that the terrorist attacks will provoke the hardliners in Tehran to react strongly, retaliate militarily and, hence, not only give an excuse to the two countries and the United States to attack Iran, but also block any diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Thus, both President Rouhani and Obama must control their hardliners, and give diplomacy a chance.


Kerry’s Middle East Tour Prepares Endless War for Afghanistan, Syria

Alex Lantier

US Secretary of State John Kerry left Kabul for Paris yesterday, after a Middle Eastern tour to Jordan and Afghanistan to plan broader wars across the region. In Paris today, he is expected to discuss arming opposition forces fighting Washington’s proxy war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with French officials.

During his unannounced two-day visit in Kabul, Kerry held a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai, the leader of the American puppet regime in Afghanistan. He announced that US forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond the Obama administration’s 2014 withdrawal deadline.

Kerry and Karzai both called upon the Taliban to open an office in Doha, the capital of the US-allied Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, from which location they could negotiate with Karzai. To encourage the Taliban to accept the offer, Kerry stressed that the Taliban should not count on a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Currently there are some 100,000 occupation troops in the country, including 66,000 US forces. American officials have reportedly discussed a lasting presence of roughly 12,000 US and European troops in Afghanistan.

Kerry also offered to hand over formal control of Bagram prison to the Karzai regime. This was apparently designed to allow Karzai to posture cynically before the Afghan people, claiming he is restoring Afghan sovereignty over the country. The US-controlled prison, notorious for the killings and torture of Afghan resistance fighters imprisoned there, has become a hated symbol of the NATO occupation.

This action was apparently aimed at smoothing US relations with Karzai, strained after the latter criticized Washington for “colluding” with the Taliban.

The handover of Bagram has nothing to do with ending US rule in Afghanistan, however. Karzai made clear that Washington would continue to effectively control detainees at the prison, promising that an Afghan review board would consider intelligence provided by US authorities before deciding to release prisoners. Afghan officials also reportedly gave “private assurances” that no “enduring security threats” would be released from Bagram.

By threatening to continue the bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, Kerry is pushing the Taliban leadership to negotiate a political settlement with Karzai that would include a lasting US protectorate in Afghanistan. Washington’s control would rest upon US air superiority and a permanent occupation force stationed in the country. It would be based on collaboration between Washington, the warlords backing Karzai and the Islamic fundamentalist leadership of the Taliban to suppress resistance to foreign occupation by the Afghan people.

The American ruling class sees Afghanistan as a launching pad for US operations in Central Asia, such as the hundreds of drone strikes Washington has launched in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The New York Times commented, “The Obama administration has made a priority of reaching an agreement on an American military presence here after 2014 that will allow the United States to keep tabs on Iran and Pakistan.”

Significantly, Kerry had hoped to visit Pakistan during his tour, but decided against it. There is deep anger in that country over US drone strikes and the collaboration of the Pakistani army and intelligence with Washington. (See also: “UN says US drone war in Pakistan violates international law”)

Instead, Kerry reportedly met privately with Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Sunday, before traveling to Afghanistan.

Washington’s neo-colonial war in Afghanistan—like its proxy war in Syria, Iran’s main Arab ally—aims at establishing US imperialist hegemony over the Middle East and Central Asia. This involves not only controlling and manipulating the conflicts in Pakistan and broadly across Asia unleashed by the Afghan war, but also organizing regime change in Iran, an oil-rich state that Washington sees as the main obstacle to its interests in the Middle East.

Kerry’s visits both to Amman and to Kabul were clearly bound up with Washington’s war drive against Iran and its regional allies. As the Secretary of State left Jordan for Afghanistan, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the US is working in Jordan with Britain and France to train Syrian opposition fighters. These fighters then cross the border into southern Syria to carry out attacks.

The AP wrote that these forces were “secular” forces, apparently in an attempt to distinguish them from Al Qaeda-linked forces that provide the bulk of the Syrian opposition’s fighting forces. The wire service’s description of these forces made clear, however, that they are largely army deserters recruited on a religious or tribal basis.

It wrote, “The training has been conducted for several months now in an unspecified location, concentrating largely on Sunnis and tribal Bedouins who formerly served as members of the Syrian army, officials told the Associated Press. The forces aren’t members of the leading rebel group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which Washington and others fear may be increasingly coming under the saw of extremist militia groups, including some linked to Al Qaeda.”

The AP report came a day after the New York Times published an extensive report detailing how Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia helped finance and arm the Syrian opposition for over a year. This took place under CIA supervision and after General David Petraeus, the CIA director until last November, “prodded various countries” to arm the Syrian opposition. The White House was regularly briefed on these arms shipments. (See also: “The CIA war against Syria”)

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed that the US “has provided some logistical nonlethal support that has also come in handy for the Syrian rebels.”

With Kerry now headed to Paris to discuss stepping up the war in Syria, the Arab League also joined in the campaign against Assad yesterday, formally seating Syrian opposition officials as Syria’s representatives to the Arab League.

Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani officially welcomed Moaz al-Khatib, the former imam of Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque who recently stepped down as the Syrian opposition’s official leader, to represent Syria. Al-Khatib was replaced by Ghassan Hitto, a US-based information technology executive. This move apparently aimed to present the opposition as less Islamist and reliant on Al Qaeda-linked forces from Libya, Iraq and Chechnya.

Al-Khatib’s speech at the Arab League made no secret of the Syrian opposition’s continuing ties to far-right Islamist elements. Denouncing Assad and supporting Hitto, he defended the presence of foreign jihadist fighters among the anti-Assad militias—though he awkwardly tried to downplay this by suggesting that if Islamist fighters’ families needed them at home, they should return to their families.

Iranian People Support Their Government’s Nuclear Program

Quoted from Gallup:

A majority of Iranians (56%) say sanctions the United Nations, the U.S., and Western Europe imposed have hurt Iranians’ livelihoods a great deal, and an additional 29% say sanctions have hurt somewhat, according to a Gallup survey conducted in Iran in December 2012. Separately, 48% say sanctions have affected their own personal livelihoods a great deal and another 35% say somewhat.


Over the years, international sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran’s economy and people. Since the U.S. first acted to freeze Iranian assets in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter, then again under President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the U.S. has been leading efforts to use military and economic sanctions in an attempt to influence the country’s policies.

For the past decade, the U.S., U.N., and other nations have used sanctions to target Iran’s nuclear capabilities program. The U.N. specifically has since 2006 worked to isolate Iran from crucial gas and oil markets worldwide. Last year, the European Union adopted an oil embargo against Iran, which is costing the country $4 to $8 billion per month. Consequently, 2012 was a disastrous economic year for Tehran: Oil and gas exports provide roughly 50% of Iran’s government revenue, but by October of last year, the country’s oil exports had dropped by more than 40%. During the first week of that same month, the country saw its currency devalue by 40% from the previous week’s value.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a new round of sanctions that aim to further isolate Iran from the global economy by targeting its energy and media sectors. The Obama administration has imposed the toughest sanctions Iran has ever faced. For an oil-producing country that strategically sits between East and West, the sanctions will no doubt limit Iran’s role in the global economy.

Iranians’ Wellbeing Low Amid Sanctions

The effect of sanctions on Iran appears to go beyond macroeconomic factors: Iranians’ wellbeing is low. Thirty-one percent of Iranians rated their lives poorly enough to be considered “suffering” in 2012 — one of the highest rates in the greater Middle East North Africa region. In fact, countries with comparable suffering rates either are at war such as Afghanistan or are experiencing a period of severe instability such as Egypt and Tunisia.


Gallup classifies respondents as “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering” according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from zero to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale.

Iran is also on par with far less developed countries such as Niger, Haiti, and Afghanistan on Gallup’s Payroll to Population measure of employment. In addition, Iranians’ views on various other economic issues worsened in 2012. By December of 2012, 74% of Iranians described “now” as a “bad time” to find a job, which is up from 66% in January of that same year.

Despite Effects of Sanctions, Many Iranians Support Nuclear Program

The majority of Iranians are so far seemingly willing to pay the high price of sanctions. Sixty-three percent say that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program, even given the scale of sanctions imposed on their country because of it. In December, one in two Iranians supported their country developing its own nuclear power capabilities for nonmilitary uses.


Iranians Hold U.S. Most Responsible for Sanctions

Iranians are most likely to hold the U.S. (47%) responsible for the sanctions against Iran. One in 10 Iranians says their own government is most to blame for sanctions.



Iranians report feeling the effect of sanctions, but still support their country’s efforts to increase its nuclear capabilities. This may indicate that sanctions alone are not having the intended effect of persuading Iranian residents and country leaders to change their stance on the level of international oversight of their nuclear program. Iran, as one of the most populous nations in a region undergoing monumental shifts, will remain a key country in the balance of power for the Middle East. Thus, the United States’, Russia’s, and Europe’s relationship with the Iranian people remains a matter of strategic interest. The effect of sanctions on Iranians’ livelihoods and the blame they place on the U.S. will continue to be a major challenge for the U.S. in Iran and in neighboring countries such as Iraq. Recent reports that Tehran and Washington might enter into direct talks were short-lived when Iran’s supreme leader made a statement strongly rejecting them. With Iran preparing for elections later this year, a turning point is needed to get leaders on both sides out of the current stalemate on the country’s nuclear program.

French Spy Novelist Reaffirms that Qaddafi Was Lockerbie “Fall Guy”

Moammar Gadhafi

Max Rivlin-Nadler

Buried deep within a fascinating New York Times Magazine profile of the French spy novelist Girard De Villiers comes the fascinating tidbit that many at the CIA think Iran – and not Muammar Qaddafi, as the official story goes – was behind the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people.

I asked de Villiers about his next novel, and his eyes lighted up. “It goes back to an old story,” he said. “Lockerbie.” The book is based on the premise that it was Iran – not Libya – that carried out the notorious 1988 airliner bombing. The Iranians went to great lengths to persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack, which was carried out in revenge for the downing of an Iranian passenger plane by American missiles six months earlier, de Villiers said. This has long been an unverified conspiracy theory, but when I returned to the United States, I learned that de Villiers was onto something. I spoke to a former C.I.A. operative who told me that “the best intelligence” on the Lockerbie bombing points to an Iranian role. It is a subject of intense controversy at the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he said, in part because the evidence against Iran is classified and cannot be used in court, but many at the agency believe Iran directed the bombing.

Also see:
800 Page Lockerbie Report Exonerates Libya
Lockerbie Case Closed: Abdel Baset al-Megrahi Innocent

U.S. Ramps Up Killer Sanctions Against Iran

Imperialist Diktat Means Hunger, Disease

Spartacist League

With a stroke of a pen, on January 2 Barack Obama consigned millions of Iranians to further devastation by strengthening economic sanctions as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The fourth time that Obama has ramped up sanctions since 2010, this current round was coordinated with similar measures adopted by the European Union (EU) two weeks before.

In the name of stopping the Islamic regime’s purported drive to develop nuclear weapons, U.S. imperialism and its allies have unleashed their own weapon of mass destruction by strangling the Iranian economy, in particular through blocking the oil exports that are its lifeblood. Already in 2010, sanctions were crippling Iranian industry by depriving it of replacement parts. As oil revenues dried up, Tehran cut crucial subsidies for food, gasoline and other necessities. With hundreds of thousands thrown onto the streets as factories close their doors, food prices have skyrocketed and life-saving medicine has become increasingly scarce.

Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, which Tehran has always insisted is not aimed at producing weapons, is just the most recent pretext for the crippling sanctions that have been imposed on the country by both Democratic and Republican administrations. The first sanctions were issued by President Jimmy Carter as payback for the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979 by forces loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini, whose reactionary “Islamic revolution” had ousted the brutal and despised Shah Pahlavi. In 1995, the Clinton administration issued an executive order barring American companies from investing in Iranian oil and gas and from trading with Iran, followed a year later by a law imposing penalties on foreign firms with substantial investments in that sector. In 2006, the UN adopted sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear development program, with further measures levied over the next few years.

The Obama administration has qualitatively tightened the economic vise on the Iranian population, including by barring companies that trade with Iran from access to the U.S. financial system. In January 2012, the White House slapped sanctions on Iran’s central bank, the country’s main clearinghouse for oil exports. In June, Washington banned the world’s banks from completing oil transactions with Iran. The EU followed suit the next month by banning the import of Iranian oil, going on to prohibit transactions with the country’s banks and declaring an embargo of its natural gas. The latest sanctions point toward a complete trade embargo, closing a loophole that enabled Tehran to barter oil and gas for precious metals. They also bar trade with Iran’s energy, port, shipping and shipbuilding sectors and include penalties for supplying Iran with graphite, aluminum and steel.

Amid the growing threat of mass hunger and untreated disease, Washington spokesmen crow about the “success” of sanctions in weakening the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This course is integral to U.S. imperialist strategy under Obama’s watch. As it begins to shift most of its armed forces to the Asia Pacific—a particular threat to the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state—the White House is steering away from outright military occupations and concentrating instead on more “cost effective” war measures, from attacks by drones and special ops forces to increased use of economic sanctions. John Brennan, Obama’s nominee for CIA chief, is a major architect of the drone program that has wreaked terror on the populations of Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Chuck Hagel, slated to take over the Defense Department, is a champion of sanctions, although he prefers the fig leaf of a United Nations mandate.

Thus, the U.S. imperialists currently deploy sanctions, cyber-warfare attacks on Iran’s nuclear industry, etc., instead of outright military engagement, similarly figuring that they will help topple Syria’s bonapartist Assad regime, an Iranian ally, by enforcing sanctions and aiding the reactionary opposition forces. But make no mistake: Behind sanctions stands the threat of war, which Obama reaffirmed last year when he declared that for Iran “all options are on the table.” A NATO anti-missile radar system and U.S. Patriot missiles have been installed in neighboring Turkey, while Washington has strengthened its military alliance with several Persian Gulf states that are bitterly hostile toward Shi’ite Iran. And, as it has for years, Iran faces the threat of attack from Zionist Israel—the only nuclear power in the Near East.

Whether or not Iran is moving toward developing nuclear weapons, the fact is that in today’s world, possession of nukes is crucial to deterring military attack and resisting imperialist diktat. It is not lost on Tehran that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and last year’s NATO bombing of Libya were made all the easier because Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi’s governments lacked such weapons. As Bill Keller notes in the New York Times Book Review (13 January):

“The fact that we invaded Afghanistan while paying court to terrorist-breeding (but nuclear) Pakistan taught Iran that weapons of mass destruction command deference. Then, in the Bush axis-of-evil years, our hard-liners convinced their hard-liners that nothing short of regime change would satisfy Washington…. It would be astounding if Iran didn’t at least contemplate acquiring the bomb.”

Yet even the possession of nukes is no guarantee of security from attack by U.S. imperialism, with its massive nuclear arsenal and overwhelming military power.

It is the duty of the U.S. proletariat to oppose sanctions and all other means by which “its own” ruling class seeks to impose its diktat around the world. This includes standing for the defense of Iran against any military attack by the U.S. or its ally Israel. As Marxists, our defense of Iran in the military sense does not imply the least political support to the bourgeois Islamic regime, which enforces the fierce oppression of women, gays and national minorities and brutally represses labor struggle. But what must be understood is that it is U.S. imperialism that is the greatest danger to the working people and downtrodden of the planet, as it has demonstrated repeatedly: e.g., the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and its later counterrevolutionary wars in Korea and Vietnam. Nothing short of the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system through workers revolution will rid the world of this menace and open the road to a socialist future.

Murder by Sanctions

The cruel effectiveness of the sanctions is based on the domination of world banking, industry and trade by the handful of advanced capitalist countries that constitute the imperialist powers, chiefly the U.S., which acts through its own banks and through its leading role in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. That domination is enforced through sheer military might, of which the U.S. has had the overwhelming preponderance ever since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92.

UN sanctions against Hussein’s Iraq led to the deaths of some 1.5 million people while hollowing out the country in the lead-up to the imperialist war and occupation. Most of the sanctions’ toll was taken on children and the elderly, the most vulnerable to malnourishment and lack of medicine. Speaking of the mass murder by sanctions, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright infamously declared that this “is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” This cold-blooded calculation was echoed by California Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman in 2010 concerning sanctions against Iran. Dispensing with diplomatic artifice, Sherman offered that “critics also argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

While Iran is more populous and powerful than was Iraq and has not experienced the same degree of mortality, it is still a dependent country, with a population that is increasingly suffering under the weight of sanctions. Last year, oil production in Iraq surpassed that in Iran, which had been the world’s third-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia. The choking off of Iran’s oil exports has spelled catastrophe for a country that normally imports much of its food, machinery and refined oil products. Between late September and early October last year, the value of Iran’s currency, the rial, plummeted some 40 percent as inflation spiraled. According to one analysis of Iran’s black-market currency exchanges, prices were doubling every 40 days.

The most dramatic impact of the sanctions has been on drugs and medical supplies. Western governments point to waivers in the sanctions that supposedly allow the import of essential medicines. Belying this “humanitarian” claim is the fact that there is no banking channel by which payments can be transmitted to pharmaceutical suppliers abroad. Iranian drug manufacturers, who are dependent on imports for more than half of their raw materials, have to pay with a greatly depreciated currency, when they can pay at all. Meanwhile, hospital equipment is breaking down due to lack of spare parts. The Washington Post (4 September 2012) wrote that the effect of sanctions “is being felt by cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients, none of whom can afford interruptions or delays in medical supplies.”

Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan report in the London Guardian (13 January) that “85,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed each year, requiring chemotherapy and radiotherapy which are now scarce.” While more than 8,000 hemophiliacs are finding it harder to get blood clotting agents, some 23,000 Iranians with HIV/AIDS have had their access to vital drugs severely restricted. With outside supplies blocked, the drug market is being swamped with smuggled products of dubious value, much of which arrives on donkeys from Turkey. In the words of the head of the Iranian Hemophilia Society, it all amounts to “blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights.”

From the oil fields to the assembly lines and small shops, sanctions have taken an enormous toll on the proletariat. Placing the burden on the backs of workers and the poor, the Ahmadinejad government slashed subsidies for food, gas, electricity and other necessities in 2010. Last year, according to Iran Labor Report (10 October 2012), a petition signed by some 10,000 people protesting this economic austerity stated that slim wage increases have been far outpaced by price rises, and that “millions of workers cannot afford their monthly housing costs.” As the Wall Street Journal (3 January) wrote, “Poor families now go months without eating meat or poultry, which have seen some of the biggest price hikes.”

Reporting on the industrial area of Delijan, the Journal article also noted that the 2012 sanctions caused many small factories to shut down due to lack of parts for maintaining aging machinery, with many larger plants struggling to avoid bankruptcy. Iran’s car industry, the largest in the Near East, posted a 60 to 80 percent decline in production last year, with hundreds of thousands losing their jobs. France’s Peugeot carmaker, for example, was forced to suspend sales of assembly kits to Iran because of tighter sanctions.

Iran’s Chamber of Commerce now reports that 67 percent of the country’s industry has been shut down (Financial Times, 16 January). It should not be lost on anyone that U.S. imperialism and its cohorts have, through conscious policy, qualitatively worsened the plight of Iranian workers in the midst of the five-year-long world recession. Brought on by the speculative binges of the finance capitalists of the imperialist centers, that crisis has meant ruin for millions upon millions of workers in the U.S. and around the world. In Iran, cascading unemployment is undermining the ability of the working class to wield its social power, based on its role in production, in its own defense. This underscores the need for the proletariat internationally to oppose the sanctions in support of its Iranian class brothers and sisters.

Iranian Prison House

A big reason for Washington’s gloating over the “success” of the sanctions are signs that increased social turmoil is posing a challenge to the Iranian government, which is due to hold presidential elections in June, when Ahmadinejad’s term expires. In early October, the Majlis (parliament) struck a political blow against Ahmadinejad by voting to consider halting a second round of subsidy cuts. The vote took place several days after a protest against the government, precipitated by the sharp fall in the rial, shook Tehran’s main bazaar. This marked the first time in three decades that the bazaar merchants—a highly conservative layer that formed a principal social support for the 1979 “Islamic revolution”—publicly turned against the regime. (The merchants had already been alienated by government policies favoring the business interests of the Revolutionary Guards and others.) The tens of thousands of protesters included many workers, but the protest was firmly under the leadership of the shopkeepers and traders.

The harsh fact is that the Iranian proletariat has never recovered from the historic defeat it suffered with the rise to power of Khomeini and his mullah regime in 1979. What followed was a reign of terror in which trade unionists and any and all forces of the left were simply smashed. Vicious repression continues to this day, with Kurds and many others charged with moharebeh (waging war against God) subject to execution. Amid rising crime brought on by austerity, on January 20 the regime staged the public hanging of two unemployed men from poor families who had robbed a man of the equivalent of $20 and wounded him with a knife. The New York Times (20 January) reports that many in the crowd shouted in protest.

The defeat of the Iranian working class in 1979 was not preordained. Militant struggles by oil workers and other sectors of the proletariat against the Shah’s hated U.S.-backed dictatorship had posed the possibility of a fight for workers power. But those struggles were betrayed by the workers’ putative leaders, centrally the Stalinist Tudeh (Masses) party, which led its proletarian base into a bloc with the reactionary Islamists in the name of “anti-imperialism.” That treacherous path was followed by almost the entire left internationally, from the fake-Trotskyist United Secretariat of Ernest Mandel to the Stalinophobic followers of Tony Cliff. In sharp contrast, the international Spartacist tendency, forerunner of the International Communist League, declared: Down with the Shah! Don’t bow to Khomeini! For workers revolution!

To this day, the opportunists of the Cliffite school, who grooved on not only Khomeini’s “revolution” but also the war by CIA-backed mujahedin cutthroats against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, have continued to support the forces of political Islam—and/or more-liberal bourgeois nationalists, depending on which way the winds are blowing. (For more on Afghanistan, see article on page 3.) Meanwhile, the reformists of the Workers World Party hail Iran’s theocratic regime for supporting such Islamist “liberation movements” as Hamas and Hezbollah. The utter phoniness of Tehran’s anti-imperialist credentials can be seen in the fact that as NATO troops occupied Afghanistan early last decade, Iran armed the Northern Alliance forces that fought alongside U.S. troops.

There is and has long been enormous discontent in Iranian society: workers struggling to survive on pitifully low wages; peasants and the unemployed eking out an existence under conditions of intense austerity; women and youth yearning for freedom from deeply oppressive Islamist strictures; Kurds, Azeris, Baluchis and Arabs groaning under Persian chauvinism. However, with the workers movement severely repressed, the most visible opposition to the government comes from reactionaries like the bazaaris or pro-imperialist forces adopting the guise of “reformers.” The latter describes the “Green Movement” that led mass protests in 2009 during the rigged presidential elections pitting Mir Hussein Moussavi against Ahmadinejad. A “reform” cleric, Moussavi served as prime minister under Khomeini for eight years in the 1980s, when thousands of leftists, women’s rights activists and Kurds were slaughtered in the prisons and buried in mass graves.

As the only class with the social power to sweep away capitalist rule, the proletariat in Iran must begin to emerge as a class fighting for itself and for the liberation of all the oppressed masses. The central lesson of the disaster it suffered more than 30 years ago is that it can do so only by maintaining strict independence from and opposition to all bourgeois political formations, all forms of religious reaction and all imperialist forces. The remnants of the Tudeh party operating in exile continue to trample on this fundamental Marxist principle. In 2009, Tudeh called for support to Moussavi, whose hands are covered with the blood of their own comrades.

In Iran as elsewhere, the key to mobilizing the class power of the proletariat is the leadership of a revolutionary workers party modeled on the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which led the workers to power in Russia in the October Revolution of 1917. The ICL is dedicated to building such parties internationally, not least in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast, to lead the fight for new October Revolutions.

Drones Over Iran: Remembering Vietnam

Moises Saab

IN 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson inherited the U.S. presidency from the assassinated John F. Kennedy and the intention to initiate a conflict which Washington was sure of winning.

Barely three years had passed since the failure of the Bay of Pigs adventure and South East Asia was a suitably distant area, in addition to which the advantage of U.S. forces in terms of men and military equipment over those of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam guaranteed a victory, at least in the understanding of the Pentagon and CIA analysts.

The opportunity for unleashing the war took the form of an alleged attack by North Vietnamese vessels on U.S. warships patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin, confirmed as false with the passing of time.

The rest is history: all the calculations were erroneous and, according to those centrally involved and graphic testimonies, the U.S. departure from Saigon 11 years later was a hasty and undignified affair, to say the least.

Close to 50 years have passed since then and another conflict of incalculable magnitude is brewing in the Persian Gulf with other weapons, other strategic doctrines and different allies, but based in the same concept: the evil beast, Iran, and its alleged intention to acquire nuclear weapons.

The indications have been obvious for a number of years, since Washington initiated its campaign against the Iranian nuclear development program, the subject of comings and goings, talks and negotiations and, above all, as is habitual among the Western powers, an economic and financial blockade designed to destabilize the government of the Islamic Republic.

However, to date the dispute has remained within certain limits, in spite of pressure from the Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, whose aggressive posture is a cause of concern for the United States, given his poor sense of timing.

Although Washington’s super-objective, the liquidation of the Islamic government in Tehran, converges with that of Israel, the means for attaining it differ, possibly prompted by memories of the fiasco in South East Asia.

However, having said that, the statement by the U.S. military command concerning an incident on November 1 in the Persian Gulf, when one of its drones was forced to withdraw by Iranian fighter planes is disturbing. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi subsequently acknowledged that the air force forced an unknown aircraft to withdraw from its position over the country’s territorial waters.

The incident has an embarrassing precedent for Washington. Last year, Iran brought down within its territory one of these aircraft which, according to an official statement, was engaged in espionage over the Islamic Republic.

The United States asked for the return of the aircraft; Iran refused and shortly afterward announced that it was thinking of auctioning it off, after making scale models as toys, one of which it offered to send to Washington as a gift.

The conditions are present for an outbreak of hostilities which could be confined to a specific area, but could increase in intensity, by predetermined intent, interference on the part of a third party, or imponderables, which are never lacking.

The United States has transformed the Persian Gulf into a kind of military mare nostrum, in which it led multinational military maneuvers some weeks ago. The gulf’s geopolitical significance is evident given that it is an obligatory transit route for a large volume of the oil which fuels western economies.

Moreover, there is the factor of its strategic proximity to Russia and China, countries with which Washington has an unspoken but perceptible rivalry.

Given these factors, it is worth noting what importance the reelected U.S. government will concede to the incident, minimal in material consequences but which could be used to initiate a conflict similar to that unleashed in the Gulf of Tonkin, but unpredictable in its global repercussion.

Drone Incident Exposes USA Spying on Iran

Mazda Majidi

On Nov. 1, Iranian fighter jets fired towards a U.S. Air Force Predator drone over the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The drone was not hit and returned to its base. According to Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, “The drone was flying near Kharg Island and our understanding is that … it was gathering economic information and intelligence on Kharg Island and oil tankers.”

According to the Pentagon, the drone was flying in international airspace “east of Kuwait” performing “routine maritime surveillance.” U.S. Press Secretary George Little stated that the U.S. drone was about 26 kilometers (16 miles) off the Iranian coast.

The geography of the western-most part of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, where the incident occurred, makes it unlikely for the target of the drone’s surveillance to have been anything other than Iran. There are only two other countries in the region, Kuwait and Iraq. Kuwait is a U.S. client state that houses several U.S. bases. Iraq was under U.S. occupation for over eight years. The United States has no reason to gather intelligence on either Kuwait or Iraq—there is little about Kuwaiti and Iraqi facilities that the U.S. military does not already know.

Spying on Iran seems a more plausible purpose for the drone’s mission than surveying the seas. Why would the U.S. Air Force need a radar-evading drone to do “routine maritime surveillance”? And what is “routine” about the U.S. Air Force performing “surveillance” off the coast of Iran? It is not hard to imagine how the U.S. military would have reacted if an Iranian drone was performing “routine maritime surveillance” 16 miles off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

In accordance with international law, Iranian nautical sovereignty extends 12 miles out from its coastline. So the Pentagon’s own report indicates that the drone came within four miles of Iranian airspace, unquestionably an aggressive maneuver.

In December 2011, Iran brought down a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone in eastern Iran. The United States’ claim was that the drone had malfunctioned and lost its coordinates. There have been several reports of U.S. drones flying spy missions into Iran’s airspace.

Whatever the specific coordinates of the Predator drone’s location, the fact that the United States continues to fly aircraft in or near Iranian airspace is another indication of the aggressive U.S. approach towards Iran. As the United States and its allies suffocate Iran through sanctions that have already caused severe hardship for working-class Iranians, threatening U.S. statements and military maneuvers continue.

The sanctions, the threats, the drone flyovers and the U.S. military deployment in the Gulf region are all parts of the U.S. regime-change strategy. As an independent state that does not take its orders from Washington, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a threat to global domination of U.S. oil companies and mega corporations.