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The U.S. military capabilities, personnel and hardware alike, having reached a stalemate in Iraq, are said to be increasingly more likely to be sent on more insane and murderous missions in the region. There have been a growing number of reports of intended attacks on Iranian military forces carried out by the U.S. armed forces, up to and including ‘imminently’, based on two official accusations: the Iranian nuclear ambitions and the Iranian regime’s use of their influence in Iraq.
The number of US-trained Iraqi security forces available to protect the government of Iraq are still lacking a fully beefed up body, but they can suffice for a mediocre administration of a medium-intensity civil war, dragged on for some time to come. Additionally, given the exhaustion state of the official military personnel required to maintain an occupation army, the larger number of unofficial private mercenaries can be increased with no political cost, working in conjunction with local paramilitary organizations. This will provide for an option politically more acceptable to the U.S. citizens’ representatives in the Congress (but not necessarily acceptable to the U.S. citizens themselves). Hence the talk of ‘draw down’ of U.S. forces in Iraq.
In this context, an attack by the U.S. on Iranian military forces, without sending in any troops (the way Cambodia was destroyed mostly), is a likely scenario. This will naturally lead to increased intensification of the ongoing horrid nightmare not only for the Iranian people but the inhabitants of the whole region, for decades to come. The only winners will be the imperialists and their corporations, whichever local bullies survive this hell, and whatever local lackeys imperialists deem valuable as they do their business.
If, after a disastrous invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the ruling elites in the western countries are still talking openly about further military aggressions, this time against Iran, the western leftists have clearly had less than zero effect on the debates that matter most.
Too late for hard work?
Because of these increasing threats against Iran in rhetorical and diplomatic forms, with the poised fist of the gunboats parked off the Gulf coast directed at the livelihoods of millions of Iranians and Arabs in the region, a sense of panic has beset a lot of us.
In the fog of justifiable panic, some good comrades, friends and allies are prone to (and do) argue the following: Because the Iranian regime is under fire by the imperialists, we must support whatever the mullahs do, unconditionally. That regime is involved in a fundamental conflict with the imperialists, and all other conflicts (those involving the civil and social rights of the Iranian people vis-à-vis their state) must take a backseat to this supreme conflict.
Instead of building real alliances and solidarities between the peoples of the Middle East and the peoples of the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, etc., and instead of leading a spirited and effective fight against these western states’ aggressions against the lives and resources of the peoples of the Middle East, these comrades, feeling virtuous on our behalf, ask the Iranian people to likewise push for no demands on their state, either. Worse, our good friends warn, any serious attempt to build social movements for such demands for more civil, human and workers rights is just not a good idea right now. Why? Because, you idiot, it aids and abets the imperialists!
Refusing to do the hard work, some of us have consequently fallen back on ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend, god be dammed!’ type of thinking; a mentality that, when adopted previously by western leftists, led to their defeat in one battlefield after another during the Cold War; failed to set a different tone for the direction of social change after the Cold War; and will be ineffective in producing any realistic alternatives for peace and justice during these hot war years.
In some permutations of this argument, the line proceeds to discard the great abyss separating the overwhelming majority of the people of Iran from the current government of Iran. Victors write the history, and lazy leftists buy the story.
A fact these leftist friends refuse to see is that the current Iranian regime is in fact the result of the victory of the counter-revolution launched during the very process of the revolution by the traditional ruling classes : the bazaar merchants and the mullahs, both of whom have been two of the three pillars of the traditional ruling classes (the third being the monarchial dynasties), for at least a millennium. In the process of organizing their counter-revolution, the mullahs stole two of the Iranian left’s most popular slogans: anti-imperialism and support for the Palestinian people. It is the adoption of these two slogans that has since sent knee-jerk leftists off the track and chasing their own tails (not excluding some Iranian leftists).
The Cold War leftist’s arguments find clever (yet strange, coming from the left) twists, when applied to the nuclear program adopted by the Iranian regime for producing energy, a program that is declared by the U.S., British, German, French and assorted lesser imperialists, to be dangerously ambiguous and a cover for development of nuclear weapons, hence their insistence on keeping open the militarily option for attacking Iran. These leftists apply the inverse logical operation and say that if the imperialists are opposed to the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, then we must defend this nuclear program as a principle.
The argument for an unconditional support of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program asserts that no matter how fundamentally opposed you may be to the current regime, at this unique historical juncture you must support its legal nuclear program; implying, or stating categorically, that if you are against Iranian state’s nuclear plans, you are supporting the imperialists.
Flies in their ointment
The argument for an unconditional defense of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, in our view, is fallacious on many levels.
First, and on a legalistic ground (with seriously flawed implications for strategic moves by the left), their argument supports an imperialist-dictated treaty, namely the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT), which has two strategic goals: keeping the monopoly over nuclear weapons by imperialist powers and their allies, as well as ensuring the proliferation of nuclear industry for ‘energy production’. The fact that this treaty is the biggest international lobby on behalf of the operators of nuclear power plants and military contractors seems to have completely gone over the heads of those among the western left who, through their positioning vis-à-vis Iran’s regime, support and venerate the NNPT, and therefore see no need to seriously fight against the nuclear industry in the western countries (particularly, in the U.S.).
Second, this argument has an undertone of wishful thinking, imagining that a nuclear weapon-capable Iran is the only guarantee of a ‘détente’ that leaves the Iranian people free from imperialist harassment. In effect, this argument wishes for and indirectly advocates for a new nuclear arms race, as this is presented to be the only deterrent capable of stopping an imperialist invasion; consequently, this argument calls for an increasing amount of the social resources of Third World nations to be sucked up by a mad proposition.
This logic also cannot explain the case of Pakistan, a nuclear weapons-capable nation, which is a virtual slave to the designs of the imperialists. Pakistan, currently run by a sycophantic regime inseparable from imperialists, is not safe from the insults thrown it by the U.S. ruling elites and their representatives, every so often reminding the Pakistani regime of how much of a slave they are in the eyes of the U.S. ruling classes (I am referring to Barak Obama’s prescription for invading Pakistan should the need arise to ‘fight terrorism’ there).
Third, this argument is anti-environmentalist, and goes against the stance normally taken by the western left with regards to the need for a ban on nuclear industry as a whole, on environmental grounds. The fact that Iran’s nuclear energy is to be provided by a nuclear plant constructed over a period of thirty-some-years, in haphazard fashion, by different companies and countries at different points, in Bushehr, which is located on tectonically active plates, should alarm all anti-nuclear writers and activists wherever they may be. Any leftist, who, in standing with people’s health and well-being, must by tradition strive to present a materialist outlook and analysis, yet fails to take this geological fact into account, is not only an ignorant leftist but is an irresponsible advocate.
Fourth, given that most western leftists have little problem foreseeing the very probable harms of the nuclear industry in their own backyard, one can only conclude that racism may have something to do with their line of thinking when they ask us to tolerate all the ills of an industry that has hardly been an accident-free, healthy and safe alternative for providing energy in the west. This thinking must pre-suppose either that our environment is not worth keeping clean or that Iranians have not ‘developed’ enough to be worried about a clean environment. Like all good, obedient subjects, we are merely pawns in the mental schemes of what these leftists (much like their rightist counterparts) wish to happen in our world.
The argument is indicative of a defeatist mentality that can only wish for a better world in its own backyard yet at the same time, ironically, cannot even imagine a different world possible for us lesser peoples in the Third World.
Instead of leading a spirited tactical (yet strategically-oriented) fight against the nuclear industry in the U.S. and against the use of depleted uranium in munitions used in Iraq and Afghanistan __ an act by the U.S. armed forces and weapons manufacturers that constitutes a crime against humanity, a war crime, is actionable in an international tribunal, and which should be used to call for legal mass mutinies by the armed forces serving in Iraq __ in short, instead of strategically joining other international forces calling for a Nuclear-Free World, these ‘leftists’ would instead have us read the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty very carefully, wherein we can find the particular clause pinpointing the right of signatory nations to master the enrichment cycle!
We are forced to ask in bewilderment: Since when have such trivialities bothered the imperialists? Since when have imperialist invasions been based on conscionable, altruistic reasons to do with legalities?
The Left currently has little impact on the actually existing political reality, so the only things we can bring to the political table are ideas: questions, critiques, persuasive explanations, occasional inspirations, maybe some good suggestions, and if we are spirited enough, some fun and delight; and in all these, we most definitely must stick to our principles.
Now, since we are in the realm of ideas, why be so stingy? Where has your imagination gone? Why be so morose? Why not wish for environmentally healthy, socially just, empowered Third World societies capable of putting up a real fight against the imperialists, in full international solidarity with each other and with the working peoples of the First World?
Fifth, and finally, those arguing in support of Iranian regime’s nuclear program are not only capitulating to an imperialist-dictated frame of debate, they aid and abet a theocratic regime so reactionary that it stones human beings, while buried waist-deep, to death; for the ‘crime’ of loving another human being.
If you want to defend the people of Iran (which is what we have been doing), do so based on principles and not based on some realpolitik knee-jerk, bankrupt Cold War mentality that ends you up in bed with reactionaries.
To push aside diversions, let me state that those of us Iranian socialists, who oppose a nuclear energy program in Iran, speak from a clear and unambiguous anti-imperialist stance. Wars, and very specifically imperialist wars, are universally launched by the ruling classes, and are done so only for the benefit of the ruling classes, while all the harm and injuries to the flesh, mind and the spirit, and all the economic costs are borne by the working peoples of the warring states. Wars are therefore to be universally opposed and condemned. Further, we declare that the true reason for the current threats of (or actual) military attacks on Iran by the U.S. forces have as their political objective the subduing of an independently minded Iranian government in pursuit of its own strategic goals, which do not necessarily coincide with the strategic interests of the people of Iran.
Our opposition to imperialism and imperialist wars is based on our standing with the health and well-being of the people, their interests, their security and their freedom from harassment, and does not require us to side with any regime, be it the Islamic Republic’s regime, or Saddam’s, the Taliban or any other local bully. Further, we believe that Third World/South/What-have-you people, whose political and civil rights have been disappeared and been victimized and oppressed by their states, are in turn more likely to be victimized by the imperialists.
A halt to all nuclear activities in Iran is a very reasonable proposition, due to the dangerous confluence of the following three factors, simultaneously and structurally (down to geologically) operative at the location of the nuclear power plant-to-be:
1. Nuclear energy production, per se, has inevitable harmful by-products, including an extremely poisonous radioactive waste that cannot be got rid of. Ever. A threat that, through leakage and its resulting contamination, can lead to environmental contamination capable of lasting not just decades, but thousands of years, accompanied by genetic mutations leading to fatal deformities,
2. Geology, which dictates that the location of Bushehr’s nuclear plant will be subject to numerous earthquakes in its lifetime; earthquakes of varying magnitudes, historically as strong as magnitude 7.6 (with the likelihood of even stronger ones), and
3. Iranian government’s incompetence and endemic corruption, which dictate a complete and total lack of transparency and lack of people’s right of oversight over the government’s handling of all procedures involved in the production of nuclear energy.
Some will point out that incompetence and lack of transparency are regular currency in the U.S. and the European countries as well. I agree and haste to add: That is exactly why you had the Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl nuclear accidents. We don’t want to have the same disasters, having only hundredths of the socially available capabilities to recover from such monstrous eventuality.
Others may paint a picture of us espousing Orientalist misgivings, pointing to our argument as an indication of our lack of faith in the competence and intelligence of Iranians as a whole. We assure you that as Iranians we believe in our own intellectual brilliance and are quite aware of our capabilities. As a good friend likes to remind, U.S. and other western engineering corporations are happily gobbling up the best of our minds, enriching themselves greatly in the process; NASA enjoys the capabilities of Iranian chief engineers and technicians daily; and our ancient know-how in trade has given you the e-Bay!
We are arguing that the current regime is incompetent therefore (or is it, because?) maximally secretive, and dangerous to our people. And there will be no recourse to justice in Iran should any nuclear accidents happen, nor will there be meaningful relief. But, this is not the entire point.
Besides being a very inefficient and capital-sucking way of producing energy (see Wasserman’s Nuclear Surge, the nuclear industry is, again, a gigantic producer of a particular form of waste that never goes away and is extremely toxic. There really is no safe way of getting rid of this kind of garbage. At this moment in our history we do not have this toxic madness besetting our environment with ravages without cures. Such is not a ‘cost’ we consider ‘worth it’ (whatever ‘it’ is supposed to be). We would like to keep our environment clean and our people as healthy as our resources allow.
Iran has access to a vast and endless alternative source of power: solar energy. The right engineers can do the rightful calculations, but I am sure cultivating solar panel farms can easily match (if not surpass) the energy needs that a horribly wasteful and waste-producing nuclear industry can never match.
The Maoist concept of ‘major versus minor conflicts’ simplifies matters greatly, which must be practical for lazy thinkers, especially in difficult times. But it is an erroneous concept since the major (or the ‘primary’) conflicts between the imperialist powers and the peoples of the Third World, as well as the major conflict between imperialists and their own people, are fed and reinforced daily by the minor (‘secondary’) conflicts between Third World peoples and their local bullies. Neither of these conflicts can be dismissed by wishful thinking, ‘resolved’ one at the expense of the other. As much as it is true that the freer we are from imperialist harassment the better we can fight our local bullies, it is equally true that the freer we are from local bullies the better we can defend ourselves against the imperialists.
To emphasize a point that Cuba with all her troubles and shortcomings has been proving, the only defense against imperialism, in the first, second … and the final analysis, is empowered people, both in the belly of the beast (and subordinate associates) as well as all around the subjugated world.
A nuclear-free Iran not only removes a clear excuse for the imperialist posturing against Iran, in the long run it guarantees a life there free from toxic threats to the livelihoods of millions of people inhabiting the area in the vicinity of Bushehr’s larger region, which includes not only Iranians, but people in all the Arab countries on the southern coast of the Gulf, plus its entire ecosystem; a life free from the potentiality of millions of cases of cancer, birth deformities, and the complete destruction of entire ways of life among the local peoples inhabiting the shores of the Persian-Arabian Gulf and the adjacent regions, and all points downstream.
REZA FIYOUZAT can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org