What’s the reality behind the Iran nuclear ‘deal’?
For Iran this was an agreement to lift damaging sanctions which have cost the country 150 billion pounds and ending the country’s international isolation.
For the Americans and their international allies it is about building relations with a new potential ally. Nothing to do with nuclear weapons.
The United States invented Iran’s nuclear threat as a way of isolating what was perceived a hostile state. It is a road down which Washington has travelled many times before.
Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or Libya’s responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing come to mind. No need to produce evidence; simply state the allegation as a fact, make sure the media are on board and international allies are on side with the message.
Of course, the region is menaced by an aggressive military power bristling with nuclear weapons. Israel’s arsenal obviously comprise good nuclear weapons as are those of the United States and Britain. How about and international embargo on these countries until their threat is lifted?
The proposed lifting of sanctions and the move towards ending Iran’s international isolation has been greeted with enthusiasm in Iran particularly among the country’s secular, democratic and progressive forces. Less enthused are the ruling theocracy that used the threat from the United States to their advantage.
As ever the dividing line in Iran is between the forces of Islamic fundamentalism and those of progressive secularism. Iran is formally an Islamic Republic ruled by a theocracy whose power is enshrined in the constitution. This emerged from the revolution of 1979 which established the Islamic Republic.
A popular mass movement against the pro-American dictatorship of the Shah was shaped by Islamic forces largely because the Shah, with American support, destroyed the left opposition; particularly in the Tudah (Communist Party).
The calculated destruction of the left meant that the space was clear for the emergence of a reactionary opposition. Yet also emerging were progressive elements committed to a democratic and secular future. These forces have battled it out for supremacy ever since with autocratic Iranian state also containing space for an elected parliament, elected President and partially independent press.
This struggle between two widely visions of the future define Iranian politics. Islamic fundamentalism; reactionary, anti-democratic and anti-women and progressive secularism; democratic and modernising.
Within the secular opposition are socialist forces although their strength is difficult to gauge because of repression. Overtly socialist parties are either banned or severely restricted in Iran.
During elections socialists would vote for the democratic opposition yet the country has a strong socialist tradition.
On 19 August 1953 the leftist Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq was overthrown in an American and British organised military coup. The main reason was the government’s nationalisation of the British-owned oil industry and its ‘dangerous’ lurch to the left. This reflected a growing radicalisation among many Iranians.
The Communist Tudah Party had emerged at the end of the Second World War as the first mass political party in the country’s history with an estimated 100,000 supporters and strong roots in the organised working class movement and among elements of the officer corp of the army. The coup led to the violent suppression of the party, which remains banned to this day.
United States policy in the region has been changing in recent years. Its opposition to the Assad regime in Syria has softened with the realisation that the main forces fighting the regime are Islamic fundamentalists. More worrying for Washington has been a general collapse of existing states with the destruction of Iraq spreading to Syria and Yemen.
This collapse is being filled by radical Islamic groups threatening western economic and strategic interests. The current military campaign against ISIS in Iraq has been driven in part by the concerns of American oil companies who are based in places like Mosul and Tikrit.
The fear now is that the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria would lead to the general collapse of the state with almost unimaginable consequences for the region. In Iran, the growing strength of progressive secular forces should be welcomed by the left internationally. This can create the space for genuine socialist forces to emerge.
The country is experiencing a generalised economic crisis exacerbated by the banking crisis of 2010 and the effects of sanctions. In particular, in country where young people make up 60 per cent of the population youth unemployment has reached epidemic proportions.
Only the left can offer the kind of radical programme that can deal with these issues.
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