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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 23 New Delhi May 25, 2019

Increasing Pressure on Iran and the threat of War

Sunday 26 May 2019

by Archishman Raju

Recent moves from the American establishment have a sinister character. They have steadily been putting pressure on Iran in seeming preparation for an attempted “regime change” war. The Trump Administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a deal between the US and Iran, and put renewed sanctions on Iran in May last year. These renewed sanctions have had a significant effect on Iran’s economy with the Iranian President recently comparing the misery of the sanctions to the misery during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. On April of this year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was declared by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation, “the first time that the United States has ever named part of another government as a foreign terrorist organisation”. Trump’s current National Security Adviser John Bolton has long wanted war with Iran (and other countries), and seems to have lobbied successfully for these increasing pressures. He spearheaded, along with his uneasy partner Mike Pompeo, a failed coup attempt in Venezuela and botched negotiations in North Korea (for which the North Koreans directly blamed Pompeo and Bolton), and now their sights have turned on Iran. Bolton has several times made it clear that he wants regime change in Iran and has issued a continuous set of warnings and threats to Tehran. Trump has shifted in his rhetoric, but of late has clarified, once publicly, that he does not want war with Iran. While this may be reassuring for the moment, it is merely another example of political disunity and confusion in the American White House.

The United States blamed Iran for attacking Saudi and UAE oil tankers, reminiscent to many of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which the US used an imaginary incident to escalate war on Vietnam. It has been a stock American tactic to invent imaginary reasons for full-scale attacks on countries, exemplified most recently in the Iraq war.

A war in Iran would not be like the Iraq war. The Iranian military is well prepared for a US attack. In 2002, the Pentagon simulated a possible war with Iran and it led to approxi-mately 20,000 US casualties in a single day. The simulation went so badly that the Pentagon had to stop it. However, not only is Iran considerably bigger and stronger than Iraq, the world situation has changed substantially from 1964 or even 2003. China has risen as a global player and presents a significant economic challenge to the US, recently being discussed as a “a civilisational challenge” in the Western press. The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in February, primarily to discuss Syria but also to discuss an alliance which would have seemed unlikely some years ago. Russia recently intervened both in Syria and in Venezuela and it will not merely watch any move in Iran from the sidelines. Moreover, even though the US has tried to fund internal dissent and promote regime change in Iran, and the sanctions are likely to fuel the Opposition, the political leader-ship of Iran is relatively stable.

On the other end, the US itself stands more politically divided than at any other time in recent memory. Indeed, several analysts have recently said that the US is more politically divided than it has been at any point since the civil war. The US is spending “almost as much as the next eight countries combined” on its military according to a recent report, even as many of its own people live in “extreme poverty”, according to the UN. There is an opioid epidemic going on in the country, with drug overdoses sharply increasing and a failed prison system jails more people than any other country in the world (disproportionately African American). The wealthiest country in the world is not able to provide its people with adequate housing, medical care or employment. Moreover the American people have found to be, in recent polls, overwhelmingly against further pointless wars but their voices fall on deaf ears in the foreign policy establishment of the US. All of this prompts the question: what right does a country, which cannot manage its own affairs, and has enough problems of its own, have to preach to others how they should manage theirs?

Many are seeing the actions of the US as gasps of a dying empire. Precisely because this is true, one must be wary of the possibility of violence that comes with it. India has had an old relationship with Iran, and even as the situation in West Asia grows in complication, we must defend Iranian national sovereignty and call for peace and detente. Not only should we openly condemn any attempts to promote war with Iran but even more so, we should reject the unilateral sanctions the US has put on Iran. The historical moment calls for an increased cooperation based on relations of mutual respect between developing countries, and this should be supported by all peace-loving people.

Archishman Raju is a Research Fellow in Physics and Biology at the Rockefeller University. He is a member of the Saturday Free School in Philadelphia, the US.

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