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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 March 2006

Will the US bomb Iran?

DEMONSTRATIONS AROUND the world on 18 March will be demanding that imperialist forces get out of Iraq. But opposition to any US attack on Iran will be an urgent theme in this year's third-anniversary protests. LYNN WALSH looks at the current US/Iran brinkmanship and its consequences.

US THREATS against Iran have reached screaming pitch, as the country's nuclear programme has been referred to the UN security council.

John Bolton, US envoy to the United Nations, told visiting British MPs: "We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take out one part of the nuclear operations to take the whole thing down."

The head of the Iranian delegation to the IAEA, Javad Vaeidi, responded with similar language: "The US may have the power to cause harm and pain, but it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if the US wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll."

The Bush regime undoubtedly has military plans for a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Last December, the CIA chief, Porter Goss, reportedly briefed Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan about US plans to attack Iran.

Whether the US will actually carry out an attack, however, is a different matter. A US ground invasion is impossible. US forces are already seriously over-stretched in the Iraq quagmire, and could not take on an angry nation of 70 million.

Given the reckless stupidity of Bush and the neo-con hawks, an air-strike against some of Iran's key nuclear facilities cannot be completely ruled out. Even they, however, as short-sighted as they are, will be forced to think twice before launching such an adventure.

Militarily and politically, the Bush regime is in a much weaker position than before the invasion of Iraq. The catastrophic situation in Iraq has demonstrated the limits of US imperialism's power.

Attacking Iran would have explosive repercussions throughout the Middle East and around the world. It would rebound on US imperialism, even more savagely than the invasion of Iraq.

A US military assault on Iran's independence and terrible 'collateral damage' to innocent civilians and the social fabric would provoke even more intense mass anger against US imperialism. The Iranian regime, with strengthened popular support, would retaliate with a vengeance.

The US position in Iraq is already disastrous. But Iranian leaders could make it even more bloody and costly for the US. The US-British occupation depends on the acquiescence of the main Shia parties. Their leaders follow the advice of the ayatollah Sistani, who is close to the Tehran regime.

An intensive offensive by Shia forces against the occupying forces could force the US to beat a humiliating retreat, hiding in their bases or evacuating from the country much sooner than Bush and company are reckoning on.

Through pro-Iranian, Shia movements like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Israeli-occupied territories, Tehran could create mayhem throughout the whole region. A US attack on Iran would detonate a shock-wave of anger throughout the Muslim and Arab world against western imperialism.

That could result in another spate of individual terror attacks in the US and Western Europe. The survival of pro-US regimes, like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, would be threatened.

Consequences

Then there is the oil weapon. Iran is the world's fourth largest oil producer. Currently, world oil supplies can barely meet global demand, and prices have been hovering around $60 or $70 a barrel for many months.

If Tehran turned off the tap or even restricted supply for a period, it could deliver a mighty shock to the world economy. A "super spike" in the price of oil - $100 a barrel or more - could send world financial markets into a tail spin and trigger a severe economic downturn.

But perhaps Bush, Cheney and their White House cronies are too blind to see all this? Are they so reckless, so desperate to re-assert US power, that they are determined to strike at the Iranian regime regardless of the consequences?

Electoral calculations are also a factor. Bush needs to salvage his image as a tough war-time president and commander-in-chief. Many undoubtedly believe Bush is preparing to bomb Iran. Unfortunately, it cannot be completely ruled out.

Even Bush, however, has been chastened by the fallout from Iraq. Many world leaders who supported Bush in 2003 have been forced to admit the Iraqi adventure as a costly mistake. The same applies to many US politicians, who fear that the overwhelming domestic opposition to the war will cost them their seats in upcoming elections.

The US ruling class fears the consequences of another military adventure by Bush and the neo-cons.

While Cheney and others are hurling treats of military action, other US representatives are still speaking the language of diplomacy. "We have not abandoned hopes for a diplomatic solution," said Greg Schulte, US rep to the IAEA: "This new phase of diplomacy is intended more forcefully to convince Iran to turn back from its nuclear weapons programme." (Washington Post, 9 March)

Even the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, ruled out pushing for UN sanctions as against Iran as a "first step". (New York Times, 8 March). Iran's IAEA rep, Javad Vaeidi, attacked Washington as 'warmongering' but added: "We keep the doors open for negotiation and resolving the issue."

Both US and Iranian leaders are playing a dangerous game of bluff and counter-bluff. If it spirals out of control, it will be the workers and toiling people of Iran who will pay the heaviest price. But workers everywhere would suffer from the terrible fallout.

Condi not welcome here!

"WE COULD not allow her to visit our city." That's how Congolese asylum seeker Innocent Ngung summed up his opposition to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's planned visit to Liverpool.

Rachelann Flinn

Rice was behind much of the US planning for occupying Iraq. She did such a good job for oil giant Chevron that they named an oil tanker after her!

Jack Straw, Blair's poodle abroad, invited Rice here, seeing it as "a chance to show how Britain is thriving". We say it's a chance to show how Liverpool is protesting at Straw and Rice!

Socialist Students and Socialist Party members built for a demonstration. LIPA student Elisabeth reports that lots of people were there, signing petitions and buying 30 copies of the socialist.

In calling the demo, Merseyside Stop the War coalition gave the impression the demo was on the same day - Rice was actually in Chile at the time! But as school student Becci Wild says: "It was good. Lots of people got involved who should bring their mates to the next demonstration."

'Condi' Rice is likely to be in Liverpool on or around 25 March. That gives two weeks to build for a massive demonstration "with clear slogans, better organised and really do something," as LIPA student Gunhild says. "It's important to make a stand."

Nukes and Iran

UNDER INTENSE pressure from the US, backed by Britain and France, the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) has now referred Iran to the UN security council. The Bush regime is demanding that, unless Iran rules out any processing of nuclear fuel on Iranian soil, the UN should impose sanctions against Iran.

It's ironic that the US, which manoeuvred to marginalise and discredit the UN before its premeditated invasion of Iraq in March 2003, should now be pushing for collective UN action against Iran.

This is just another example of how the big powers try to manipulate the UN for their own ends. It is by no means certain, however, that veto-wielding security council members like Russia and China will fall in with US demands.

Nuclear inspections

In fact, Iran has not breached the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows countries to develop nuclear fuel processing. The Ahmadinejad government has rejected an extra IAEA protocol, demanded by the Western powers, which imposed a more intense inspection regime on Iran than required by the NPT.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of IAEA, admits that his inspectors have "not seen indications of diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other explosive devices". The complaint is about "uncertainties" about "the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear programme" - in other words, suspicions that Iran could be preparing a nuclear weapons programme.

Yet Bush claims Iran's embryonic nuclear programme poses "a grave threat to the security of the world".

Nuclear experts estimate that Iran is at least two and up to ten years away from production of a useable nuclear weapon. At the same time, Iran lacks the kind of up-to-date, long-range missiles or jet aircraft needed to hit even regional targets.

Iran, however, is surrounded by nuclear powers: Russia, Pakistan and India. US forces based in Iraq almost certainly have nuclear weapons. Israel, moreover, is estimated to have around 200 nuclear weapons, and also has a large fleet of sophisticated missiles and aircraft capable of hitting Iran.

For this reason, Ahmadinejad has been able to whip up popular support for the country's embryonic nuclear capacity in the face of threats from US imperialism. Nevertheless, many Iranians oppose the squandering of resources on nuclear weapons and fear the potentially disastrous results of a regional nuclear arms race.

While demanding strict NPT compliance from Iran, Bush has in fact opened the gates to accelerated nuclear weapons proliferation.

On his recent visit to India, Bush announced a deal under which India - which has not signed the NPT - will get the latest nuclear technology from the US. Only 14 of India's 22 reactors will be subject to international inspection. India will be free to use the other eight to produce fissile material to produce nuclear warheads.

As a result, Pakistan will redouble its efforts to build its nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile, the Turkish government has announced that it will be developing a nuclear programme, and others will no doubt follow suit.

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In The Socialist 16 March 2006:

Iraq: for the immediate withdrawal of all troops

Will the US bomb Iran?

Is there a way out of the Iraq quagmire?

Mass protests sweep France

The case for a new workers' party

Campaign for a New Workers' Party - come to conference!

Socialist Party discusses with Respect

'We reject New Labour's policies and philosophy'

Sticking to socialist principles, looking after the community

Success in Kendal

Jean Charles de Menezes: No more cover-ups!

Action to defend our pensions!

Still fighting for equal pay

PCS overtime ban - the issues

Parents back striking teachers

NUT executive - vote for Linda Taaffe


 

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