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Some Reflections on the Iran-US Cold War

Opinion article by Rostam Rakhshian

A lot of people in the western left continue to misread the situation in Iran and the western powers' posturing toward Iran.

We have seen cycles of intensified rhetoric on a regular basis for at least six to seven years now. Every time the rhetoric heats up, the armies of commentators on all sides get into their now familiar routines. The western powers and their allies insist on the usual demands for accountability from the Iranian regime regarding its nuclear program, while the Islamic Republic regime insists on its inalienable right to pursue nuclear energy, and the various west-residing lobbyists for the Iranian regime start their frenzied petition gatherings, letter/commment writing, and warn everybody of the disaster a war would create for the people, and so they call for open, unconditional negotiations (implicitly asking the western powers to recognize the Islamic regime as a legitimate entity representing the people). And of course, the western left continues to see things only in a black and white picture, in which the U.S. and its western allies are the baddies and the Iranian regime is a poor, overly oppressed entity; in the process conveniently forgetting all the terror this regime unleashes on the Iranian people on a daily basis.

Just about everybody forgets the people of Iran, who continue to be held hostage by a mad policy of nuclear adventurism, just so the Iranian regime can gain some bullying rights in the region.

The western powers, however, do not seem to want an open war with Iran. Sabotage, yes. Diplomatic and economic pressures, of course. But, no open war.

To this end, in the past week we have seen the U.S. putting pressure on Israel to tone down its war rhetoric against Iran, and now president Sarkozy is warning the world about the dire consequences of a military attack on Iran.

Here are some points to consider:

1) It should be noted that any open war with Iran would actually help the trend to solidify the regime, not change it. Any military moves, much like the current sanctions and sabotage campaign, would be intended as an act to induce change of behavior without fundamentally changing the regime.

This is exactly why the militant faction inside the Islamic Republic regime would actually welcome a limited military confrontation.

The people of Iran will be the only losers, as they are the only losers now. They and only they, as they do now, will bear the cost in life, health, in economic deprivation, in increased social misery, in more violence and terror hanging over their heads, and of course it is the people who will suffer from further militarization of their society, and the dominance of various mafias, including the state-controlled and related ones.

The further misery for the people is exactly what the imperialists want. One major point here missed by a lot of western left is that, by equating the people of Iran with the state, they actually forget that for the Iranian state too, the people are dispensable. The mullahs' regime has a historical record to prove this disregard for people's lives.

During the Iran-Iraq war, by 1982 Iranian forces had repelled the Iraqi forces from all Iranian territory that had been invaded. At this point, the war could have ended, but the war had proven invaluable in the consolidation of the clerical regime, so they continued it for another SIX years; in the process, sending hundreds of thousands of people (on both sides) to their deaths under the slogan, 'The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad'.

An open fight with the Great Satan can definitely be put to the same use; especially, considering how hated the regime is by the majority of the Iranian people right now. Such open confrontation can be used most efficiently to more effectively suppress any form of dissent.

2) I really don't think the U.S. wants an open war. They are fully aware of the fact that Iran has TWO SETS of militaries (three, if you include the millions-strong - according to the state itself - Basij forces). This military force, unlike what happened to Iraq before being invaded, has NOT been bombarded for a whole decade, it infrastructure has not been completely destroyed. The Iranian regime has vast capabilities, totally intact, including their own military industries, developed during the Iran-Iraq war and well financed ever since. They have their hands in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and can make those places put some real heat on the Americans. So, if push comes to shove, the Iranian side is well capable of shoving back.

3) The most reasonable explanation I've come across is that the present rise in rhetoric and covert actions could well be the blustering before the sides sit down to negotiate, so the Iranian state has chosen to go on the offensive of its own (in response to the offensive by the west, and instead of backing down) with the aim of raising the ante and maneuvering for a negotiating position that is to its benefit.

4) I think the path of economic sanctions is the Americans' preferred path to achieve change of behavior by the Iranian regime. The Americans know that the Iranian regime is illegitimate, which is exactly why they want it in place (even if some of the faces have to be changed). The Americans therefore know well how mafia-infested the Iranian state apparatuses are. And because they know this, they also know that the regime needs cash to buy its foot soldiers. So, if they can cut the flow of cash, the foot soldiers can then be bought by the rivals and certain modification can be achieved without a hugely costly war, which if it really breaks out in the open, could truly and seriously be too costly for the Americans, and the end-result of it is truly unknown.

5) On the key question being used as an excuse to put pressure on Iran, the nuclear issue, the argument has long been lost. Neither the Iranian opposition (the people, that is, not the reformists), nor anybody else is calling for a complete and total stoppage of all nuclear activity based on environmental and safety grounds. Even after the horrible and ongoing disaster in Japan, a country that compared to Iran is far more technologically advanced and far more thorough-going as far as safety is concerned, even after it has been established that the nuclear plant in Bushehr is sitting on top of an active tectonic plate, even after is has been established for thirty-three years that the Iranian government is not responsive, accountable or responsible toward the Iranian people and in fact considers them as cannon fodder for its bankrupt and expansionist ideology; even after all these factors have become self-evident, still nobody is talking about the most rational and most people-oriented solution: stoppage of all nuclear activity in Iran.

As a result, the skirmishes between the western powers and Iran over its nuclear program have become, and will continue to be, the convenient bone of contention to be picked with the Iranian regime.

Gone is any global attention to the atrocious human rights conditions in Iran, gone are the workers' rights, women's rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, gone is attention to the extremely dire situation of the political prisoners. Gone is any form of love for and solidarity with the people of Iran.

For the state powers involved, as well as for a good portion of the western left, the Iranian people have been collapsed into the Iranian regime, and whatever the Iranian regime or the western powers say becomes the criteria for the discussions. And, unfortunately, the western left continues to reproduce this same rhetorical line. We see leftist publications that point to all the horrors and the implications of the Japanese nuclear disaster for the nuclear industry in the U.S., yet the same publications are rabidly jingoistic in supporting even a military nuclear project carried out by a theocracy, under which not a single one of those western leftists would be willing to live, not even for one day.

The Iranian people alone (in their utter loneliness) remain the only factor capable of enacting true liberation from this madness. Unless the Iranian people take to the streets and intervene with the demand for BOTH no military attacks or economic sanctions AND against the Islamic regime, i.e., unless the Iranian people once again take their collective fate into their own hands, their future will remain one of despair and helplessness, and they will remain the hapless pawns in the power games of the western powers and the Islamic regime.

About the author: Rostam Rakhshian is an Iranian socialist and can be reached at

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