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Middle East: Cradle or Graveyard of Empire?

Ardeshir Mehrdad | 23.07.2006 09:49 | Lebanon War 2006 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Sheffield | World

No, the abysmal failures in Iraq have not dissuaded Washington from embarking on yet another adventure. George W. Bush and his warmongering allies are preparing themselves for another major incident in the Middle East. This time Iran is the main challenge in the establishment of the new world order and a direct target.

Cradle or graveyard of The Empire?

Ardeshir Mehrdad

No, the abysmal failures in Iraq have not dissuaded Washington from embarking on yet another adventure. George W. Bush and his warmongering allies are preparing themselves for another major incident in the Middle East. This time Iran is the main challenge in the establishment of the new world order and a direct target.

The 'Nuclear Crisis' is artificial. The 'war against terror' is total deceit. The fig leaf of 'freedom and democracy' has not fooled anyone. The globe devouring monster is adamant that it can use 'the end of history' to plough the earth. It is determined to make the new century, a new American Century and it has set up its first camp right next to Middle Eastern oil fields. Overwhelmed by illusions of victory, this superpower has no qualms to burn down whatever is left of the countries of this region (1). What can be done to confront this monster? Can one restrain it from engulfing on yet another disastrous adventure in the Middle East? Can one save the world from the dreadful consequences of such an event? Is it futile to seek another horizon? Are such attempts total illusions? This article is an attempt at finding some answers to these questions and it starts with examining the political and theoretical backgrounds.

The current world situation is the result of a historical conjuncture. The culmination of the structural crisis of capitalism (2) accompanied by an increasing ineffectiveness of the existing world command system (what is left over after the cold war) and an acceleration of the crisis of hegemony between central capitalist states are the key characteristics of the global development in its current stage. All these processes take place in a context of an authoritarian capitalist globalization, an internationally restructured labor force and a highly strung post '11 the September 2001'.This background has allowed the most rabid and dangerous political tendencies of the world capitalism to appear on the scene and get involved in the nitty gritty details of one of the most dangerous eras in human history (3).

The current occupants of the White House are placed at the head of such currents. On the very day they came to power, these forces announced that one cannot save the world capitalist order form deathly crises unless one used dramatic surgery. They rewrote the strategic national security of the United States on the basis of redrawing the international political map and the establishment of a new world order. They did not hide the fact that they were seeking a hierarchical system of operation in International relations and legal systems, capable of institutionalizing the United State's military and economic superiority into a new Empire. (4)

The new world order is imposing conditions where the slavery of the global labor force is guaranteed and a model of development capable of globalizing the most barbaric forms of expropriation is established. The new world order aims to sanctify privatization of all public services and establish a model of accumulation by the dispossessed (5) or in the words of George Caffenzis allows 'daylight robbery to replace hidden theft'(4).

In addition, this policy must guarantee to deliver the domination of US multinationals on world markets and to maintain their control over the main production and exchange circuits as well as on the key reproduction fields. Wherever possible it unilaterally breaches international treaties and agreements, redefines the role of international institutions, abolishes national borders and the right of other nation-states sovereignty. (7)

For many years the prescribed solutions of neo conservatives for a regeneration of the world political order had evolved from being a mere notion or a declaration. Their executive plans of a 'new American century' (8) was prepared long before neo conservative Republicans took power in the year 2000. In these plans the final aim was what had already been declared by the Nixon administration: complete control of the Middle East and winning the big prize. In a world where guaranteed access to cheap oil is one of the essential preconditions of production and reproduction, any power that controls the Middle East, possesses one of the most essentials levers to control the world. Victory in the cold war placed the United in such a position being able to lay claim to the entire Middle East as war trophy. 11th of September 2001 created a golden opportunity to raise the flag of a 'war on terrorism' and the deployment of the war machine in Afghanistan and Iraq , leading to the occupation of both countries.

Iran is the next strategic step. The incorporation of this country in the jurisdiction controlled by US's world empire and its reorganization in accordance with Middle East in a new world order (9) is the immediate goal of the current stage. Currently war is the main architect and violence the ultimate weapon (10). Despite all this, the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan will not necessarily be repeated. Not only because these experiences have not achieved the desirable results or that they have incurred colossal costs, but because Iran is a different type of target with its own specific geographic, political and social characteristics. Indications are that the United States has chosen a more complicated route than in the previous two adventures for achieving its aims in Iran. Many scenarios are being followed simultaneously, and the US is operating with considerable flexibility in its choice of tactics. Here it might be useful to point out some of the peculiarities in the tactics used in dealing with Iran.

First: Use of the military option in Iran will not necessarily mean military occupation (or at least full military occupation). In addition to targeting economic military targets with the aim of weakening the regime's defensive capabilities, military strikes can work as part of a plan supported by certain neo conservative figures close to Cheney and Rumsfeld (lead by Michael Leaden and allies in American Enterprise): carving up Iran into smaller territories, then gradually devouring it piece by piece or taking over some parts of it. No doubt sooner or later the attraction of such plans will tempt other politicians in Washington.

Undoubtedly such the occupation of the regions bordering Iran's Western border will not only give Washington control of the oil and gas resources of OPEC's second largest oil producer, but it will also be a significant step towards the overthrow of the Islamic Republic Regime. The successful execution of this plan can cause the regime to face serious difficulties regarding essential resources. On the other hand, it would deprive the Iranian regime of one of its most potent weapons, the use of Shia Fundamentalist groups inside Iraqi territories (11). Current reports suggest show that this plan has gone far beyond a mental exercise and practical steps towards its execution are under way (12).

Second: Following basic principle such as reducing speed, cost and level of operational complexity do not mean that the White House elite will commit the same mistakes they made in Iraq when contemplating an attack on Iran, embarking on a war where "military victory was its start rather than its end" (13). This time regime change is not the only aim. Destruction of independent social resistance as well as total submission of Iran to the new capitalist project following the overthrow of the regime is an important part of this plan. The choice of means and methods is such that the overthrow of the Islamic regime will lead to the coming to power of a subservient, 'desirable' government. Such considerations have leaded the Bush administration to be more cautious and seek diplomatic tricks and the activities of security services and propaganda machinery.

Today the emphasis on diplomatic solutions is than ever at the forefront. Despite all this, it should be noted that the Bush administration has less use than ever before for diplomacy except where it provides justification for military action and reduces its adverse consequences (14). When it comes to dealing with 'rogue states' diplomacy is merely a lever to force them to the edge of the abyss and bring them down. Diplomacy here does not mean bartering or giving reciprocal guarantees. It is a method for burning the opponent's winning cards, breaking its political and ideological legitimacy (providing it has one) and finally throwing into the paws of the war machine (15).

One can understand US-Iran relations with such a definition of the current place and role of diplomacy. On the one hand the United States has placed Iran at the heart of the 'axis of evil' and openly declared war against it. On the other hand, when the US deemed it useful for its long term ends, the administration has made contact with rulers of the Islamic Republic regime, notably before military attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq, engaging them in such plans. The aim behind such contacts was principally to seek the support of Iran's Islamic regime to defeat resistance in these countries and to help the establishment of an order favorable to the United States. Whenever the Islamic regime has responded positively to such approaches (usually in secret and through intermediaries) and done whatever was asked of it -- interceding or spying - the ultimate response has been more or less the same: the Iranian regime is aggressive and unmemorable and remains a threat to international security. As long as such a regime exists, it is a danger and a threat, even if they do everything they are told, there will be no "amnesty" (16).

Moreover when it comes to direct military intervention, it is necessary to seek the diplomatic support of other powerful states and to create an international consensus on this issue. The more widespread the support for US adventurism policies in the Region, the less the political and economic costs of such a venture. This time learning the lesson from Iraq, the US administration is avoiding unilateral military engagement and tries to find new allies. Washington hopes that by amending the 'hub and spoke' relations (17) within the wheel of its international relations, it can find new allies for 'pre-emptive' strikes.

US support for dialogue and negotiations between European Union states and Iran is in line with such a policy. Washington has approved of negotiations covering a limited agenda of 'Iran's nuclear dossier' and with no other function than conveying the political stance of one side to the other. In the absence of any genuine US security guarantees to the Iranian regime, it was obvious from the beginning that these talks will lead nowhere. As a result, by siding with such discussions the US administration was able to rally its European allies while paving the way for the one way path leading to reporting Iran to the National Security Council, and pressuring the Islamic regime.

The removal of 'reformists' from the Iranian government circles and their replacement by pseudo-fascist, militarist groups, has no doubt improved the prospects of success for the Bush administration. With Ahmadinejad's government in power, Washington has found an active ally in Tehran. An ally not only capable of precipitating the defeat of such negotiations but prone to create a psychological war-like atmosphere, events that might lead to economic sanctions, limited military strikes and finally total war.

A two-pronged propaganda was has been unleashed by the White House strategists. Within the US and its allies the obvious task is to create the psychological and political conditions necessary for launching this third direct military intervention in the Middle East. The backbone of the propaganda is, as always, based on fear, the threat of terrorism and Iran's nuclear program. Such statements as "Iran is the biggest threat to world security since the Second World War' (18) and such claims as "Iran's nuclear program poses a threat equal to the dangers posed by the Bolshevik revolution and the coming to power of Hitler' (19) are becoming commonplace and intended at intensifying the pressure.

The reversal of the relation between 'regime change' and the 'nuclear crisis' is one of the achievements of the propaganda war unleashed by the US and its allies. The obedient mass media must act smartly to manufacture a 'nuclear crisis' from the regime's nuclear program (20). They must also disguise the fact that precipitation towards access to nuclear technology is a reaction of fear and weakness by a regime threatened by an important world power (21).

Inside Iran the propaganda war follow two separate trajectories: The way is being paved for a 'color revolution' while instigating separatist ethnic movements. The Bush administration tries to use the dissatisfaction and hatred felt by the majority of the population towards Islamic regime, the sense of oppression and injustice imposed by this regime for over 3 decades to pave the way for another 'color revolution'. It is using old colonial methods such as inciting regional, ethnic and religious hatred, to create an atmosphere of despair and lack of political confidence - the old Yugoslav scenario of encouraging the partition of Iran (22).

A Pentagon-orchestrated revolution is finding a more suitable arena to work in a country where a large gap is developing between the Islamic regime and the majority of the population, whose needs and demands are being ignored, and the regime's resort to militarist repressive solutions to survive. Under such circumstances one can even envisage a scenario where the psychological/political warfare inside Iran will favor military intervention allowing the US administration to appear as a liberator capable of deceiving sections of the population. This plan will carpet bomb the Iranian regime while calling on the majority of the population to join the imperialist project and rise against this regime (23).

There is no doubt that in advancing its propaganda inside Iran, espionage and intelligence networks have an active role. For many months now intelligence agencies have been active, in alliance with the corporate mass media, on two separate fronts: amongst the political opposition inside and outside Iran as well as amongst Iran's national minorities. American intelligence services have increased their activities in this arena; they have not only encouraged the activities of groups under their influence (from the Mojahedin to separatist regional, national groups) but also dispatched specialist forces to specific regions in the country, setting up military bases (24). It is not surprising that in addition to setting up audio- visual media networks we see waves of sabotage, kidnapping, bombings in Khuzestan and Baluchistan (25).

Now assuming that the Bush administration has embarked on the third stage of its plan to colonies the Middle East, it should be said that it is deploying more complicated and diverse methods than in the past. Assuming that a future darker than Afghanistan and Iraq awaits the Iranian people we should return to the principle question of this article: Can one stop Bush's attempts to impose sovereignty in the Middle East and stop another disastrous war?
The peoples of Iran and the Middle East have been placed in a perilous situation. Yet they don't face a blind destiny. One can say this with confidence. Stopping Bush's war machine, defeating his domineering intentions are difficult but not impossible.

If nothing is done, the Middle East is a scene of eternal tragedy, enslavement and captivity. The principle players are fundamentalists of all shapes and sizes Islamists, Jewish or Christian fundamentalists, nationalist and racist groups, a dozen corrupt dictatorial governments and finally the agents and operators of major oil cartels and arms manufacturers. In such a scenario, the player capable of overthrowing injustice, darkness and dictatorship appears absent. One cannot see a force capable of expressing the wishes and the interests of the masses and this is a serious problem facing the Middle East. The more one avoids confronting this reality, in the name of 'wisdom' or 'realism' the worse the situation will get and the more inevitable the prospect of a major disaster. As long as this shortcoming exists one cannot imagine a Middle East capable of standing up to the US aggression, capable of protecting itself from war, destruction and annihilation.

One cannot depend on regional states performing miracles. We can obviously set aside the members of the Empire's club, those who in reality act merely as second hand contractors. However, one should not be optimistic about those states that do not fit in this circle. Not only are these states no different from the others in the region when it comes to repression and dictatorship (often they are amongst the worst), but when confronted by imperialist offensives, they have neither the willingness nor the resolution to stand up to it. Nor do they have the necessary popular base and capability needed for such a confrontation. Amongst the regimes of the region, it would be difficult to find a single example that would not sell its independence and all its citizens' belongings and livelihoods, at the offer of an imperialist 'breathing space. Even when such regimes face the abyss and they are forced to defend themselves, they don't give up the hope for deals and negotiations and they do not miss any opportunity for seeking 'diplomatic initiatives' (26). Rather than their anti-imperialist rhetoric, the problem of these regimes is their incompetence and inability at playing a sufficiently useful role as servants of the 'New order'. Iran's Islamic regime is a perfect example of such regimes.

Even if we assume that the will and intention to resist imperialism exists, a regime such as Iran's Islamic Republic can only confront a major super power, if it possesses sufficient defenses. It would utter folly to rely on the military power of a third world country to stand up to the US war machine. One cannot imagine that military maneuvers, showing off a few old and new military equipment, even the threat of using weapons of mass destruction can create any hesitations in the intentions of the custodians of the new world order (27). Such quixotic gesturing are merely open invitations to Washington to use its most destructive weapons with a vicious, barbaric attack without scruple. Such an invitation will pose no inconvenience to the US war machine. It will not affect their 'neo' consciousness.

The weapon of suicide bombings or the use of the Iraqi Shiites as a winning card, can itself become a source of encouragement to launch pre-emptive attacks (28). Irrespective of the usefulness of such tactics and irrespective of the capability of the Iranian regime to use them, one cannot ignore the fact that the threat of terrorist attacks or a religious war will only serve as justification for the theory of 'unlimited war on terror' and a cover for the 'clash of civilizations'. Many amongst influential neo conservatives believe that victory against 'jihadist terrorism' can be achieved by destroying their refuges and states supporting them. Many such ideologues are of the opinions that the road to victory in Baghdad passes through Tehran and drying up resistance in Iraq requires an attack against Iran and overthrow of the Islamic regime (29). "Real Men" (a name given by neo conservatives to themselves) have argued such ideas for many years. They believe in closing the 'Iran file'.

The sole weapon of any government in confronting imperialist powers is solid and powerful popular resistance and mass mobilization. Without such a support it is absurd to talk of resistance by a third world country. The Islamic regime in Iran has no such weapon nor does it possess the ability to gain one. The fundamental problem of the Islamic regime is not just that it has lost its social backing. More importantly it faces a paradox were it to rely on mobilizing its citizens in the event of an imperialist attack. This regime is unable to call on Iranians to defend their sovereignty against imperialist aggression, while for decades under the name of the God and Islam violently depriving them from their right to self-governing. Those in power in Iran will not be able to call on Iranians to defend the 'republic' when in the words of its real leaders (individuals such as ayatollah Messbah Yazdi) there is no such thing as a 'republics' in Islam.

These rulers don't even have enough confidence in themselves to at least make some temporary conciliatory moves towards their own people in order to reduce the divide between them and the majority of people of country. Indeed, their dictatorial, reactionary nature is so overwhelming that as the crisis deepens they are imposing harsher conditions and alienating large sections of the population. If the Iranian state's initial customary resort to deceit, playing on religious sentiments and demagoguery fails, it has no hesitation to resort to rabid violence and repression.

The 'ayatollahs' and their military commanders have reached such a situation that they are ready to bribe any 'Satan' and accept any indignity to remain in power. Yet in confronting their own people, they cannot afford to show even the kind of flexibility shown by Saddam Hussein on his last days of rule. If in those days the Baathist dictatorship opened prison gates and turned over arms stocks into peoples homes, the Islamic regime considers the current situation as an opportunity to fill its prisons and embark on a new wave of arrest of workers, women, youths, intellectuals, activists of national and religious minorities in an effort to deprive the masses of the only weapon left to them: protest and collective action.
Nor can one rely on the intervention of other players on the world stage. There is no doubt that Washington's victory in the Middle East, and especially in Iran, will be a major regional transformation against the interests of some world powers. However one cannot deduce from this that these powers will stand up to the United States. Nor does this mean that they will be able to stop America pursuing its interests. The position of Europe is more or less clear. There is really no reason why they should pursue the policy they had pursued regarding Iraq. They will follow the US either haltingly or running fast behind it.

Russia and China too, despite their current opposition, are capable of using Iran as a lever to gain certain advantages and gain their share of the war booty. Given the existing relations within the global political power structure, at a time when those in power in the White House have rebelled against common norms of international relations, one cannot imagine that Russia or China's choices will go much beyond non-acceptance and challenging of the US hegemony. Within such limitations, opposition, however serious, does not appear to present an obstacle to Washington's authoritarian tendencies.

Emphasizing internal differences within ruling circles in the United States is also undoubtedly exaggerated. These differences are real. However they are only directed at reducing the error coefficient, avoiding unforeseen consequences. There is little doubt that amongst the US elite there are no principal objections to military intervention in Iran (30). It should be added that none of the political factions has ruled out military attacks. Differences are essentially limited to the scale and spread of the military operations, the kind of weapons to be used as well as debates on the management of the operation. The questions are more focused on technical issues: is the use of nuclear weapons acceptable? (31) Have all necessary precaution been taken regarding Iran's reaction? Is Donald Rumsfeld capable of managing and leading another military conflict? (32) Within such a framework, although differences can affect the plan for the military operation, its timing or intelligence and diplomatic preparations, it is impossible believe that they will lead to a change in policy and a review of strategic directions.

Under present circumstances, therefore, there is little point looking for a force capable of reigning in US aggression within the upper echelons of official power. Such a force to oppose the US must be found elsewhere: somewhere within the depth of those movements standing up to it. No force in the world, except the region's destitute and poor -- those already "living in hell" - can save the region from the barbarism that awaits it. It is impossible to end the horror show, whose principle players are forces of death, unless wide-ranging, independent and progressive movements completely overturn the situation; and brings the huge power of the people of labor and toil to become engaged in self liberation, self rule and control of their own destiny.

Today Iran is the front line. Neither the victory nor the defeat of the peoples of this country in direct confrontation with one of the most powerful enslaving empires of human history is pre-ordained. The destiny of this battle will depend on answers to two essential questions. Will the majority of the Iranian people, those who have nothing but their labor power to live for, be able to overcome the subjective and political obstacles challenging their united, decisive and independent movement? Will they be able rise as a powerful and broad movement against ruling reactionaries and the colonial enslavement, and offer a brighter future for Iran? And can these people rely on the active support and solidarity of the millions in the region, and the support of egalitarian and progressive anti war forces throughout the world in the life and death battle against imperialist aggression and reactionary repression?

In answering these questions it must be emphasized that in the current situation in Iran the only force capable of halting imperialism's advance must primarily present a radically different political and structural perspective for the majority of the population of this country. First and foremost it must convince the millions of Iranian who over the last 28 years have witnessed nothing but injustice and repression by a religious state to conquer apathy and get involved within the ranks of the anti war movement. An inability to unite the struggle against imperialism with the struggle for political freedom and self rule will condemn this movement to becoming an appendage of the regime, isolated and paralyzed (33).

It should be noted that without attaining an independent identity, opening an alternative political /structural horizon is impossible. This in itself is dependent on overcoming existing theoretical challenges and defeatist tendencies operating on two opposing fronts and threatens the political space with a clear split. Despite contrary political positions these tendencies share common ideas. In their perspective, the Iranian people presently have neither the capability nor the potential to self-defense and self-emancipation. Neither can they have any role outside the political games being played by the major powers. Thus any possibility of fighting the US while opposing the Islamic regime is rejected, negating either is proof of the other. In choosing between bad and worse, the only political choice presented to the people is to choose between fundamentalist Islamists and imperialism or between sovereignty and freedom.

At one extreme, there are those who see Bush's aggression against Iran as the main threat and call on the Iranian people to unite behind the religious state. In their view Iran's reactionary regime is the main force against imperialism and not only any attempt at its overthrow should be set aside but even weakening its position is tantamount to aiding and abating imperialism. 28 years ago the advocates of this view were in the forefront of the forces justifying the Islamic government's brutal repression of those who fought for freedom, equality and democracy in Iran. They were instrumental in paving the way for the consolidation of one of the most dictatorial and reactionary regimes of the region (34). These same currents have once again become active. Their position that resistance against imperialism is means we should rally round the Islamic regime has damaged the mobilizing power of anti imperialism. It has deprived it of its liberating and progressive content.

On the other extreme, the Islamic republic is painted as the greater evil. Here we see tendencies which under the guise of defending freedom, directly or indirectly support US intervention in Iran. In their view a dictatorial and violent regime as the Islamic Republic cannot be overthrown by its people alone. Only foreign intervention and military repression (not unlike Mussolini and Hitler's methods) can crack this regime. Accordingly, in the current world conditions the US government remains the only force willing and capable of bringing about such a change, irrespective of its nature or the specific policies it pursues regarding Iran. In this analysis the opportunity created by the overthrow of the regime through US intervention will allow the Iranian people to participate in politics and take charge of their own destiny.

The least danger of the hold of these two twin-like tendencies in Iran's political scene, particularly amongst certain leftwing forces, will be to turn the current bipolar position into a permanent situation. The choice between bad and worse simply chokes an independent movement capable of change and liberation. It will close the door on those forces which are capable of breaking down the historic hurdles of enslavement and fear.

Undoubtedly the threat of colonialism is serious. We must stand up to this threat and mobilize all our forces in this struggle. However, to rely on reactionary religion in order to achieve this is tantamount to ignoring the main question. It is to forget that it is precisely the Islamic republic regime that has created the conditions that allow imperialism to question Iran's national sovereignty and take such bold steps towards colonizing the country. Moreover, confronting imperialism from a reactionary fundamentalist viewpoint (even supposing it does not end up in compromise and a sell out deal -- as it has done in the past) will have no other consequence but to strengthen the religious dictatorship. And this is tantamount to destroying nearly three decades of bloody struggle by workers, students, intellectuals, women, youth and religious and national minorities, groups that have fought for emancipation from this regime.

Clearly the overthrow of this dictatorship is an urgent necessity. Every day that lengthens the life of this regime, engulfs the majority of the people of Iran in further calamity, forcing them to face harsher political and social conditions. Were such accumulated social and political conflicts to remain unresolved, the outcome can be nothing but destruction and desolation. It should be understood, however, that the consequences will not be the same irrespective of who overthrows the Islamic republic regime. Overthrow of the Islamic regime by Pentagon and the CIA will not bring anything but a continuation of destitution and misery, albeit in other formats.

Let us not forget that the force that has the greatest role in the political overthrow of the Islamic regime will play a crucial role in determining its successor. What can one expect from an alternative regime that seeks to help the construction of a new Empire engineered through cruise missiles and B52 bombers, a force that has officially moved from the globalization of the Middle East towards colonizing it and promises a new era where instead of a new 'Pax Americana' promises a 'new Holocaust'.

Under such circumstances where can one find hope for the establishment of a social and political alternative? It is clear that this global power can replace the current regime with a variety of alternatives, but none that might serve the interests of LashkarAbad, ZourAbad, Kouye Tollab (some shantytowns in Iran) or an alternative that will bring about a better prospects for a Tabrizi student, a woman in Khoramshahr, a worker in Sanandaj, a tea plantation worker in Lahijan or a child in Zahedan.

Effective resistance against the intervention of the most powerful contemporary imperialist country can only be achieved through an independent, widespread movement: A movement capable of dramatically changing the balance of forces; a movement capable of mobilizing huge power of the down trodden masses, those on the margins of society. This is impossible except by a movement capable of struggle for self determination and self rule, a force capable of uniting the struggles for political freedom with social emancipation, one capable of presenting a hopeful alternative regarding the lives of millions of deprived and exploited masses. The least cost in failing to achieve such a perspective will be that pseudo-fascistic military-religious groups will to try and manipulate the wave of despair and distress amongst the deprived, and mobilizing sections of the population, help the repressive state and its war machine protect the current system of terror and fear (35). Under these prospects, uniting in a struggle against neo liberal capitalism and the corporate agenda of global domination can become a force capable of mobilizing a true anti imperialist movement.

And finally confronting the aggressive policies of the United States towards Iran, necessitates the formation of a movement emerging from the multi ethnic, multi-national and multi-religious solidarity movement that can liberate itself from racial and sexual divisions. A movement that in a country like Iran, riddled with numerous ethnic, religious and gender crises, would be capable of firmly standing up to patriarchy and religious and ethnic hierarchy. Such a movement must be capable of combining the struggles against sexual, national, ethnic and religious discrimination with the struggle against imperialism in order to thwart colonial attempts at misdirecting current disaffections. To call on the peoples of Iran to unite on the basis of collective self rule and regional self determination can create the umbrella organization that recognizes various social movements and unites them in a battle against imperialism (36).

Progressive and in particular left wing forces, those who believe in socialism, have an undeniable responsibility in taking the first steps towards such a plan. Responding to this necessity depends on the capability of these groups to overcome mental paralysis, short sighted political views and false opinions, so that they are capable of picturing a new world order. These forces must believe in the power of the masses as well as their own ability to achieve political and social emancipation. They must accept that not only is it disastrous to ignore wider horizons, but overlooking scattered and smaller potentials and failing to unite such forces can also be catastrophic. They should not allow the role of the vanguard to be less than the followers, and the anti-imperialist struggle to degenerate into a mere formalistic or moral duty, good for historic documentation.
The Iranian working class and the toiling masses have both the potential and capability of standing up to US aggression. They can stop their country becoming a protectorate of the US and its citizens slaves of American multinational corporations. However the ultimate defeat of Washington's plans for the Middle East requires the solidarity and coordinated resistance of the peoples of this region and an active international support movement. Such solidarity is necessary even to dissuade the US from following its "Imperial" project on Iran. Such a movement can only rise from within the radical progressive forces of the Middle East.

We should not have any illusions about religious and ethnic movements. Such movements cannot stop the disaster engulfing the countries of the region one after the other, indeed they play an important role in the creation if this terrible situation. By dividing the peoples of the region to rival religious and ethnic groups (through creating a wall separating religious from non religious people, between secular forces and religious forces) and by encouraging conflict between them, these movements have in practice served the interests of imperialist powers (37). Today in the Middle East, the enforcers of the New Order project are confident that they can rely at all times on the support of one nationality or ethnic group against the other. They can seek the cooperation of one religious group to suppress another group. Most importantly they can rely on religious fatwa against all communists and non believers. Today the main function of major Shiite organizations in Iraq or Kurdish nationalist groups in this country has left no doubt the power of religious and ethnic groups in paving the way for imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation.

The Middle East requires another movement. One that can challenge religious fundamentalism, ethnic narrow mindedness, tribal rivalry whilst fighting against Imperialism. One that can strengthen genuine solidarity between the deprived, suppressed Arab, Kurdish, Turkish, Fars, Turkmen, Baluchi people and unite their struggles against imperialist pillage and capitalist enslavement. We must create a common language for the Afghani, Iranian, Pakistani, Iraqi, Tajik, Palestinian worker and toiler. This new movement must create an opportunity for the Assyrian, Armenian and Jewish, Zaratostrian and Muslim, believers and non believers in the region to respect each other in order to open the doors to a new world, ending the era of wars, dictatorships, injustice, poverty and inequality.

The first step is to build an alliance capable of uniting dispersed anti imperialist, anti capitalist struggles. A social forum capable of stopping the isolation of regional struggles and creating a widespread movement. A movement capable of engaging and involving the revolutionary potentials of women, the youth, students, workers and peasants throughout the region. Unity amongst such movements will create the framework for building national unions and creating multinational movements. The formation of nation-wide trade unions, women and student movements can not only become the backbone of a genuine revolutionary/secular social forum in the Middle East, but is itself a genuine qualitative political metamorphosis in the region. Worker activists, together with progressive women, students, accompanied by writers, artists, journalists and many other social groups whose very existence is being challenged under the present conditions can act now. Although the path ahead is exceedingly difficult, it certainly is not a dead end.

The struggles of the Iranian people and the peoples of the Middle East against Imperialism and reactionary forces are a struggle that will directly influence the destiny of humanity on our planet. In this battle we will either witness the burial of the architects of the New World order of slavery, and their twin allies in the backward religious movements, or the world will succumb to violence and barbarism. There will be few places left in the world that can remain immune to events in the Middle East.

However it is also true that one can find nowhere on earth where solidarity with the resistance of the peoples of the Middle East will not play a crucial role in the eventual outcome of these events. The anti capitalist movement, anti imperialist movements and especially the international antiwar movement play a vital role in awakening the people and neutralizing the deceptions created by corporate mass media. These struggles and campaigns can also play an important role in mobilizing the protest movement in the centers of world capital, creating despair and division amongst the US elite and their allies.

However the experience of the last few years has shown that given the complicated political scene in the region, these campaigns can themselves face contradictions and adopt unworkable positions. Capitulation to the bipolar scene in the Middle East (choosing to side with imperialism or the regimes in the region) can paralyze the anti war movement. Within the framework of such an outlook, some tendencies go as far as not only supporting the regimes of the region in the name of anti imperialism, but also denying the existence of any movement that defines itself in opposition to both imperialism and local regimes. They are silent against tyrannical regimes such as Iran's Islamic Republic (arguing that one shouldn't find ideological justification for imperialist intervention). In fact such forces are helping to create the disastrous conditions where the protests against poverty, deprivation and dictatorship are suppressed and independent, progressive anti imperialist movements are paralyzed.

Last February and March , in the middle of the 'nuclear debacle', at a time when Washington was trying to justify another military intervention in the Middle East, the Islamic regime in Iran embarked on a new wave of terror and repression of various social forces. Unprecedented violence was used to attack gatherings of protesting bus company employees in Tehran. Workers who were demanding pay rises and the right to set up their independent organizations. Thousands were arrested; women and children were held hostage and peaceful protest by women celebrating International women's day were attacked by thugs and club-wielding Islamic militia. Security-military forces opened fire on Kurdish and Arab protesters in Sardasht and Ahvaz and some young protesters were executed. "Voice of America' was quicker than any progressive group at condemning these events, the White House issued non-stop statements. However the silence of some in the anti war movement was not once broken.

Whatever the excuse for this reluctance, it is difficult to understand how such actions can strengthen the international antiwar movement or how they can strengthen the anti imperialist movement of the Iranian people. Can one imagine any society where setting up workers organizations is a crime, where demanding a fair wage is an offence punished with imprisonment and where protesting against discrimination and deprivation is repressed, being capable of confronting imperialism and capitalist plunder? Can one find a better ground for the advance of US tanks than a country where the society is impoverished, repressed, facing religious, national and sexual repression, where society is sinking in a quagmire of addiction and prostitution? If a repressed population can only find Rumsfeld, Rice and Cheney on their side, will they not waver over Washington's adventurous interference in their country?

There is no doubt that worldwide protests against Bush' war mongering policies have the potential of becoming an influential power capable of changing the course of events in the Middle East. However the realization of such an aim demands that such protests take place not only against imperialism's war efforts but also in protest against the dictatorial, repressive policies of corrupt reactionary regimes in the region (38). Success depends on whether anti war anti imperialist movements themselves can become the support base for the creation of an independent, self emancipating movement. A movement capable of making the cradle of the first Empire of the third Millennium it’s grave. Comment

Ardeshir Mehrdad is co-Editor of Iran Bulletin - Middle East Forum .

1. A large number of articles have countered the propaganda war unleashed by US administration to justify their aggressive policy against Iran. Among them see: Antony Loewenstein, Spining us to war in Iran. March 08, 2006; John Pilger, Iran: the next war, February 13, 2006, New statesman,; Jorge Hirsch, war against Iran April 2006,  http://www.informationclearinghouse.into/ ; Edward S. Herman & David Peterson, The Iran Crisis as a Prelude to U.S. and / or Israeli aggression, Nov. 2005, ; Michael T. Klane, Oil, Geopolitics, and the coming war with Iran ,
2. Here the structural crisis of capitalism is understood as described by István Meszáros: a deep, permanent (unlike cyclical), and intensely destructive crisis where the normal tendencies for development are in turn ruinous. István Mészáros, The Uncontrollability and Destructiveness of Globalizing Capital,
3. There have been a number of studies on the ineffectiveness of the present global command system of capitalism, the US hegemony in the capitalist world being questioned or the impossibility of maintaining the superiority and privileges of American monopolies there. See for example: Immanuel Wallerstein, U.S. Weakness and the struggle for Hegemony, Monthly Review, July -- August 2003 ; Peter Goven, U.S. Hegemony Today, Monthly Review, July-August 2003 ; István Mészáros, Socialism or Barbarism , From the American Century to the Crossroads , Monthly Review Press, 2001.
4. See America's National Security Strategy 2002 & 2006, first published in 2002 and reiterated in 2006. I have reviewed the Bush administration's approach to global developments and international relations in Rahe Kargar no 170 Summer-Autumn 2002 (Farsi)
5. For an elaboration of "accumulation by dispossession" see David Harvey, The New Imperialism , Oxford University Press, 2003; A Conversation with David Harvey, Logos, Winter 2006
6. See George Caffentzis, From Stealing to Robbing: A Post-Script to "No Blood for Oil! (3/27/2003)
7. I have elaborated on the unilateralist policies dictated by the US government in the international arena, as well as its isolationalism, especially during the presidency of Bush junior in another article - Another World is Possible Rahe Kargar no 169 Winter 2001 (Farsi).
8. The Project for New American century
9. From the point of view of the "new order" the Middle East is defined by two characteristics. Firstly its extensive oil and gas deposits resources place the region and its countries within the bounds of "vital interests" of global capital. Secondly the cultural "backwardness" and its political equivalent, namely "irresponsible", "incompetent" or "rogue" States. For the strategists of the "new order" the ultimate solution for such a region is to remove the oil and gas deposits beyond the realm of national sovereignty, and place them under the "mandate" of world capital and its political command headquarters, which is currently situated in the Pentagon. The tasks for the project for restructuring the Middle East and the countries therein is dictated by neo-liberalism: the complete abolition of social welfare, the sale of public resources and state enterprises, deregulation of financial systems, freeing trade, de-regulating and coercive casualisation of the labor force, de-organizing workers and making it impossible for them to organize collective resistance and confrontation with the owners of capital.
10. There is nothing new warmongering. The history of capitalism, just like previous class based social orders is full of large and small ruinous wars. Nevertheless war and military intervention assume a different place than before within the present objective necessities of imperialism in its current stage of development, namely the implementation of the project of violent and imperious globalization. It has been implemented by the neo-conservative crew in power and facilitated by the more favorable post September 11 conditions. George Bush's government, while extolling the virtues of the miracle of the "invisible hand" chooses war as the main route for fulfilling "national interests", even going so far as to consider using nuclear weapons. The assumption is that the unequivocal military superiority of the US renders any challenge to the hegemonic and leadership role of the US unfeasible. Richard Perle describes the place of war in Washington's foreign policy with rare openness: "(There will be) no stages"“ hesaid "we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war." See John Pilger, The colder war, Mirror, January 29, 2002.
11. The Beirut-based Daily Star published a widely cited article where it was alleged that the invasion of the oil-rich Khuzestan province would be the first step. The web site Global Security reveals a strategy named "the Khuzestan plan" where US and British forces will try and repeat their success in Iraqi Kurdistan by supporting an ethnic uprising in Iranian Khuzestan and create a protectorate called "Ahwaz" or "Arabestan" with some form of de facto autonomy. See Zoltan Grossman, Khuzestan: The first front in the war on Iran?, November 07, 2005
12. Washington hopes that even if the invasion does not result in complete occupation of the country, by occupying the neighboring provinces its position within Iraq would improve. This will strengthen their hands in controlling the Iraqi Shiites and neutralize them as a winning card in Iranian hands.
13. I owe this interpretation to Moshe Machover in a speech given to a seminar on Middle East organized by the Jewish Socialist Society in March 2006 in London.
14. David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between George Bush and Tony Blair "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning" These discussions took place three weeks before the invasion of Iraq and in them Tony Blair thought the second UN Security Council resolution on the country "was essential for both countries to lobby for a second United Nations resolution against Iraq, because it would serve as an insurance policy against the unexpected". See Don Van Natta Jr., Bush was set on path to war, British Memo says, New York Times, March 27, 2006
15. In an interesting article Norman Solomon comments on a recent Wall Street Journal headline "U.S. Chooses Diplomacy on Iran's Nuclear Program" thus: "It's a time-honored scam: When you're moving toward aggressive military action, emphasize diplomacy". See Norman Solomon, The Iran Crisis: 'Diplomacy' as a Launch Pad for Missiles
16. R. Nicolas Burns under Secretary for Political Affairs addressing the House Foreign Affairs Committee called Iran the "central banker of terrorism" and went on to say "Today, the Iranian leadership is actively working against all that the U.S. and our allies desire for the region -- peace in Lebanon, peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and an end to terrorism. In fact, no country stands more resolutely opposed to our hope for peace and freedom in the Middle East than Iran." See R Nicholas Burns, Opening Statement before the House International Relations Committee, March 8
17. The relationship of the hub and spoke is the relationship of the main capitalist countries (spokes) with the hub (US) in the post second world war period. See Peter Govan footnote 3 ibid
18. US senator John Maclean in a television interview in early March. See Antony Loewenstein, Spinning us to war in Iran. March 8, 2006
19. See Ghali Hassan, Selling War Against Iran. Propaganda campaign portrays Iran as a pariah state February 7, 2006.
20. It may be useful to make two points. Firstly Bush is not alone in creating a crisis around the issue of nuclear weapons. Certain powerful circles in Iran, in particular among the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij (a paramilitary organization) are also interested in blowing up the crisis. To transform the nuclear project into a national question allows them to hide behind an incited "patriotic sentiments" of certain sectors of the population. Moreover an accentuation of the crisis speeds up the process of militarization of the state structure and extends the influence of military and quasi-military institutions. Second, although the quest for nuclear energy, even in countries as rich in oil and gas deposits as Iran, may not be mistaken on the long term perspective, long term economic interests of the country is clearly the last thing in the mind of a regime such as the Islamic Republic which is pursuing a nuclear program with such tenacity.
21. Recent opinion polls show that the propaganda offensives of large news corporations have had some effect in changing public opinion in favor of another military intervention in the Middle East. See Americans would back military action in Iran dispute, Pollsays, Bloomberg, January 27, 2006. And also Ghali Hassan ibid footnotes 19.
22. Each of these has its advocates among influential neo-conservatives. For example Richard Perle wants a political alliance of Iranian pro-US anti-Islamic regime groups. For him the aim of an attack on Iran is not occupation but creating conditions for a directed popular uprising to topple the regime. See The Richard Perle Interview by John Hawkins, Others who in the past strenuously fought for a "democratic revolution" such as Michael Ledeen appear to have had an about turn in the face of quasi-fascistic military-religious gangs and the populist policies of Ahmadinejad, and are looking at separatist movements and rebellions among the various ethnic groups as a solution to the question of Iran.
23. The official allocation of 75 billion dollars to establish a media network to serve US propaganda machinery is an overt act in smoothing the political and psychological space inside Iran and to facilitate Washington's multilateral intervention. In his speech to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Nicolas Burns expounds at length on the priorities and uses of this allocation. See footnote 16 ibid.
24. The Financial Times is explicit: The intelligence wing of the US marines has launched a probe into Iran's ethnic minorities at a time of heightened tensions along the border with Iraq and friction between capitals ... the Pentagon was examining the depth and nature of grievances against the Islamic government, and appeared to be studying whether Iran would be prone to a violent fragmentation along the same kind of fault lines that are splitting Iraq. US Study probes Iran’s ethnic mix, FT. com site, Feb 23, 2006.
Seymour Hersh quoting a Bush adviser with close ties with the Pentagon in the New Yorker paints a similar scenario. See Seymour M. Hersh, the Iran Plans, the New Yorker, Issue of 17-04-2006.
25. Over the last few months the two provinces of Khuzestan and Baluchestan have witnessed a number of bomb attacks on government buildings, oil pipelines, assassination, hostage taking, and such like. There are currently many unanswered questions relating to their nature and source, and it difficult to ignore some level of linkage with Washington's policies in Iran. Hersh's (ibid) quotes Patrick Clawson an Iran specialist and deputy director of research in the Washington Institute for Middle East policy that underground activities and sabotage are part of the US plans in Iran, and are indeed his own preferred option.
It should also be noted that evidence for the footprints of the Iranian regime has also not been lacking. Throughout its life the regime has never flinched fro the use of terror and sabotage to create the right atmosphere for repression or for factional purges. See for example Hossein Bastani, Rereading a dossier of terror, August 9, 2005 (Farsi)
26. Ahmadinejad's letter to George W Bush is a superb glimpse into the real nature of his so-called anti-imperialist slogans. Putting aside the tone and condescending nature of the advice offered at the core of this "diplomatic initiative" was nothing but an official invitation to open the door for dialogue. One might ask what, other than expediency, has persuaded a president who for 28 years has been calling America the Great Satan and marching under the flag of "death to America" to bashfully invite Bush to talks and deals just at the moment when the ultra-conservative Bush regime is plugging Islamic lands with bombs and rockets and openly declares war on the Islamic Republic by putting it at the top of its list of "rogue states". You can see the real core of the way the Islamic Republic views the "Great Satan" when Ahmadinejad bases his invitation to talks not on shared interests of the two people, or even the two governments, but on shared religious beliefs. That is in order to soften the opponent and arrive at an agreement he places his bets on the conservative and fundamentalist core of the Christian-Zionist ideology of Bush and co. What, other than dimwittedness, can persuade some on the left to mistake this for progressive and anti-imperialist populism?
27. A week-long military maneuver in April in the Persian Gulf where the regime paraded new weapons to present an image of a regional military power with high defensive and offensive potentials.
28. Over the last few months the regime has tried to portray itself as capable of hitting US interests anywhere in the world. An official invitation to join the newly created "martyr brigade", videos by a high ranking security official in the Revolutionary Guards (with a pseudonym of Dr Abbasy) threatening the US with revenge terrorist attacks in case of attack on Iran, and other threats by official Revolutionary Guard commanders are examples.
29. This view is strongly supported by members of the American Enterprise. Michael Ledeen was advocating a military attack on Iran to dry up the roots of Iraqi resistance on the eve of the occupation of the country. Michael A. Ledeen, The War on Terror Won't End in Baghdad, Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2002.
30. Today the Republican ultra-conservatives have been joined by well known liberal voices in the Democratic Party such as Hillary Clinton in advocating a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
31. Alongside pressures on Russia to prevent sale of military equipment to Iran, there have been open discussion as to the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the country. The debates have now shifted such that the question is not whether an attack on Iran will take place, but whether it will be with conventional or nuclear weapons. While the aim of airing such issues may possibly be to pressurize Russia, it is not inconceivable that there are those in the Pentagon or the White House who have entered the actual use of nuclear weapons into their calculations. See Seymour Hersh ibid, Saul Hudson, Bush Won't Exclude Iran Nuke Strike, Reuters, April 20, 2006. For an analysis of a nuclear attack on Iran see: Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear war against Iran,, January 3, 2006; Aijaz Ahmad, The Imperial nuclear order,, Vol: 23, Iss: 09, 19-05-2006
32. Most of the criticisms of the war, particularly those coming from military or security sources, are directed against the weakness of the non-military leadership of the Pentagon. They are accused of a bunker-mentality giving impractical advice out of touch with reality from behind concrete walls.
33. Interestingly even when many colleagues holding such views were physically purged in the wave of repression by the Islamic regime in the first years of its existence, they were rarely able to embark on a radical critique of the roots of their beliefs. The result was that a section went on bended knees to the opponent's camp and waxed lyrical over the virtues of capitalism and imperialism. Another section sunk into their shells for over 2 decades, becoming bystanders in the political arena, until today's favorable conditions has given them a chance to move again.
34. Undoubtedly, acute crisis in foreign relations and the danger of military conflict and war increasingly favor the emergence and growth of religious-military gangs. With the militarization of the government apparatus a condition may well arise when the discredited velate faghih (absolute rule of the supreme religious leader) may give way to the absolute rule of military commanders who are presently hiding behind a cloud of populist slogans. This scenario - whether through force or compromise - is most likely if the regime, confronted with the current storm, were for whatever reason to weather the storm for some time. For this reason the control of the Majles-e Khebregan (Assembly of Experts), which elects the Supreme Leader (or Leadership Council) in the forthcoming elections will be critical. See Ardeshir Mehrdad & Mehdi Kia, New -- conservative, regime crisis and political perspective in Iran, Iran Bulletin Middle East Forum, series II, no. 3, December 2005.
35. An example is the various Shiite sects in Iraq. One might well ask whether the role of Ayatollah Sistani or Mohammad Bagher Hakim in creating conditions for the occupation of Iraq was less than Saddam Hussein or Taha Yassin Ramadan. If one made it easier to occupy the country, the other gave a fatwa sanctioning Iraq's occupation by America and its allies. In the name of Islam, and for the sake of a morsel of power and a constitution that institutionalized religious and sexual tyranny, they sold of the people of Iraq and their interests to Halliburton, Chevron, Bechtel, and Texaco, if not to Christian-Zionist fundamentalism!
36. I have expounded in another article the meaning of participatory democracy and self-government as a progressive and liberating alternative to religious and colonial despotism. I wrote "there are only two roads facing the new order: either become liquidated as an independent political unit or restructure the political power in the country in such a way as to enable it to confront this "new order". In the current perspectives facing the world it would be difficult to define an alternative. One can say with confidence that the democratic alternative to the Islamic Republic is that political order which is based on strengthening the people in the depths, and their real participation and self-government." And "the real alternative of the ruling power is that structure of power that is decentralized, organized from below, and based on the self-government and participation of all the sections of society in decision making in all the affairs that effect their life. The more direct this influence, the more direct that participation. This is a structure of power that in distributing political and material resources, ends all geographic, ethnic, religious, and sexual differences. Its basis structure are local and regional self-governing societies, and self-government of both production and distribution", See Ardeshir Mehrdad. Which alternative: Colonial rule or participatory popular sovereignty? Iran bulletin -- Middle East Forum Series II no Zero, Summer 2003
37. In the current conditions of the world, it is difficult to imagine ethnic nationalism culminating in independent nation-states. On the contrary it is clear that they end up as new colonies, protectorates and city-states under tutelage. Today, rather than a force of national or social liberation, warlords and mercenary armies arise from ethnic nationalism.
38. There is no shortage of voices among the anti-war movement that take an independent and progressive stand. See for example Campaign for Peace and Democracy initiated by Michael Albert, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Frances Fox Piven and many others. Campaign for Peace and Democracy,

Ardeshir Mehrdad


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