Is Obama Playing With Nuclear Fire?

Fidel Castro came out of political retirement to warn the world that a nuclear war between the U.S. and Iran or North Korea is a very real possibility. The U.S. media either ignored the warning, minimized it, or ridiculed Castro.

Is there a basis for Castro’s “alarmism”?

Consider the following scenario: The U.S. government has already approved massive economic sanctions —through the UN and individually — against the Iranian government. The latest UN sanctions allow for the boarding of Iranian cargo ships coming to and from Iran.

If the U.S. Navy takes it upon itself to stop, board, and inspect all of Iran’s cargo ships — exports and imports — to “successfully enforce” the sanctions, this would essentially equal a Naval blockade, recognized by all nations as an act of war.

In this case, Iran is unlikely to sit quietly while its imports and exports are stopped and boarded by the U.S. war ships.

Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has already warned against such an action:

“You should know whoever takes a decision against the Iranian nation, such as the so-called inspection of the Iranian ships or toward its aircraft, will immediately receive Iran’s reaction.”

Fidel Castro warned against a situation where the U.S. Navy would massively begin inspecting Iranian cargo ships, with Iran sinking the warships in retaliation, and the situation deteriorating from there.

Iran’s coast is already full of U.S. Navy ships, according to the New York Times:

“The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships [warships] off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four [surrounding] Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.” (January 30, 2010).

President Obama has already provoked Iran far more than George Bush Jr. ever did. Obama has not only pressured other countries to adopt the UN sanctions, but has pushed the U.S. Congress to adopt even harsher individual sanctions, while further pushing individual nations to adopt the tougher U.S.-style sanctions as well. These “targeted sanctions” against Iran’s oil industry — the cornerstone of Iran’s economy — equal an economic act of war, from which the majority of Iranians will suffer immensely.

Obama is using the same dangerous approach towards North Korea.

After a South Korean warship was sunk, a U.S. led team of “investigators” blamed North Korea for the incident — a highly controversial and disputed conclusion.

Immediately after blaming North Korea for the incident, the U.S. led a massive, confrontational “war games” with South Korea, obviously aimed at intimidating and provoking North Korea.

Then, the U.S. government announced new economic sanctions against North Korea, claiming that the sanctions would keep “hundreds of millions” of dollars from entering the North Korean economy.

Peace is not maintained by economic or military threats: quite the opposite.

In fact, there is a strong element of either ignorance or madness in Obama’s foreign policy. It is extremely naïve to believe that Iran or North Korea will allow itself to be militarily and economically manhandled by the United States without acting to defend itself.

And if such an unsurprising act of self-defense were to happen, events could very easily spiral out of control and quickly pull in other nations that are either politically, economically, or regionally connected to North Korea and Iran, such as China or Russia.

This easily imaginable scenario is what prompted Fidel Castro to warn of a potential nuclear holocaust. The unwillingness of any U.S. mainstream media to discuss a possible war — especially when U.S. foreign policy is pushing events in this direction — increases the likelihood that another, wider war will occur, since the U.S. population is unaware that such an event is even possible and is therefore unable to protest against the Obama administration’s policies.

But Obama’s policy of war must be resisted. On October 2, the labor movement is leading a coalition of progressive groups — called One Nation — on a march on Washington, D.C. and other cities to demonstrate for jobs, peace, immigrant rights, and other working-class priorities.

Although some in the One Nation coalition would like to use the demonstrations for jobs to help elect Democrats, thousands of others will focus simply on opposing the Obama administration’s anti-worker policies, while still others will attend the demonstrations to argue for the labor movement — and other progressive groups — to adopt a position of political independence, relying on themselves and their collective strength rather than to continually turn to the Democratic Party for meager handouts.

Regardless of conflicting intentions, the October 2 demonstration has the potential to be historic, and will hopefully be remembered as the beginning of a movement where working people challenge the dominance of giant corporations by resorting once again, as was done in the 1930s, to its most powerful weapon: the mobilization of massive numbers of working people in the streets where together they fight for their common needs.

SHAMUS COOKE is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( He can be reached at



Shamus Cooke is a member of the Portland branch of Democratic Socialists of America. He can be reached at