By MYA SHONE and RALPH SCHOENMAN
No time elapsed Tuesday, May 8, between President Trump’s announcement that he had pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and Israeli fighter jets crossing into Syria to attack a military base close to Damascus, killing Iranian and Syrian personnel.
As Wednesday follows Tuesday and Thursday follows Wednesday, so did the escalation of Israeli attacks on Syria targeting Iranian forces. Reports emerged late Wednesday of Israel’s sustained shelling of Syria emanating from the occupied Golan Heights – Syrian territory seized by Israel in 1967 – followed on Thursday by dozens of missile strikes. Marking the fifth Israeli airstrike since September, Thursday’s attack was the largest.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman declaimed that its warplanes destroyed “nearly all” Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria. The ostensible pretext, still unsubstantiated, was that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds force had fired 20 rockets at Israeli border posts in the Golan. These projectiles, Israel maintained, were intercepted and no injuries occurred. “If there is rain on our side, Lieberman threatened, “there will be a flood on their side.”
Plans for a military attack on Iran, by both the U.S. and Israel, have been longstanding. The issue was never if, but when.
William Arkin exposed in The Washington Post (04/16/06) that in early 2003 the U.S. Army set in motion TIRANNT, “Theater Iran Near Term,” a plan for a full-scale war. President George W. Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to prepare a global strike as part of an all-out attack upon alleged Iranian “weapons of mass destruction.”
Plans for U.S. invasions of Iran were not unique to the Bush Administration. U.S. CENTCOM (Central Command) under Clinton prepared “war theater plans” for an invasion first of Iraq and then Iran. Arkin confirmed that the active component of these plans was launched in May 2003 in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. The New Statesman (02/19/07) provided further detail, revealing that, “The U.S. army, navy, air force and marines have … spent four years building bases and training for ‘Operation Iranian Freedom.’”
The extent of targets for this blitzkrieg was vast: “A single raid,” according to the Gulf News (02/21/07), “could result in 10,000 targets being hit with warplanes flying from the U.S. and Diego Garcia.” These included industrial sites and civilian infrastructure such as roads, water systems, bridges, electric power plants, telecommunications towers and government buildings.
Although initial plans were developed by the Pentagon, Israel was soon incorporated into the scenario. Since late 2004, the Israeli Air Force has prepared joint operations with the U.S. against Iran’s nuclear power facility at Bushehr, later adding other targets for U.S. and Israeli bunker buster bombs, weapons featuring both conventional and tactical nuclear warheads. Two Israeli air force squadrons, cited by the London Sunday Times (01/07/07) were in training. This was stepped up in June 2008 with the “Glorious Spartan 09” exercise involving 100 F-15s that would be loaded with GBU-28s and F-16s along with refueling tankers and rescue helicopters.
Defusing the Threat of War
The 2015 Iran Nuclear deal (JCPOA – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) placed these overt plans of the U.S. and Israel on hold. Two years of extensive negotiations resulted in a long-term agreement with some features extending to 2031. It was signed by France, Germany, Great Britain, China and Russia, as well as by the U.S. and Iran. United Nations, U.S. and European Union sanctions were lifted. One hundred billion dollars in frozen assets were released, oil flowed and trade and foreign investment in Iran were tentatively restored, particularly by China’s state-owned investment arm and by European corporations.
All this was put at risk by the presidency of Donald Trump and his campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from the Accord and to re-impose crippling economic sanctions to be followed swiftly by additional unspecified punitive measures. Representatives of capitalist interests, particularly French President Emmanuel Macron and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, despite different tactical approaches (flattery, reason and accommodation), joined the host of U.S. government officials whose attempts to deter Trump were in vain.
Military Action Back on the Table
Trump further consolidated a war cabinet by installing far-right ideologues Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as National Security Advisor. Bolton, known for unrestrained war-mongering, had long proclaimed that the 2015 accord was “a massive strategic blunder” and left no ambiguity in a New York Times opinion piece (03/26/15) titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
“The inconvenient truth,” wrote Bolton, “is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. … The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”
As with the lead-up to the 1991 and 2003 genocidal invasions of Iraq, alarmist fabrication has characterized the U.S. and Israeli proclamations culminating with the April 30 quasi-farcical and bombastic performance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserting that the Mossad had stolen “hundreds of thousands of files from Iran” that provided “definitive proof” of Iran’s “concealed” nuclear weapons program and arsenal.
Netanyahu’s theatrics had a notable antecedent in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 orchestrated presentation at the United Nations of “decisive evidence without conjecture” of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” (which did not exist).
This time, a wing of the U.S. ruling class determined to maintain the 2015 Iran Nuclear Accord disavowed Trump and Netanyahu. The New York Times (05/09/18) published a “Fact Check: President Repeats Inaccurate Claims in Critique of 2015 Agreement” that concluded: “Mr. Netanyahu did not provide evidence that Iran had violated the Iran deal itself.” Foreign Policy was more direct. Ilan Goldenberg’s article (05/02/18), titled “Netanyahu’s ‘Iran Lied’ Presentation Shows Why Trump Should Keep the Nuke Deal,” included the sub-head: “Israel and the United States are both led by men who are hard to trust.”
Aside from the inter-imperialist rivalry for markets, the imperialist wars for oil (Iraq and Iran have one-fifth of the world’s oil and gas reserves and Afghanistan was intended to be a key route for Caspian Basin oil and gas pipelines) have created conditions for de-stabilization for European capitalist states.
The massive displacement of populations is no longer contained within the region. The vast migration of refugees from Syria and Iraq alone were 38% of the 1.3 million people who applied for asylum in the European Union, Norway and Switzerland in 2015 and 37% of the 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2016 (Pew Research Center).
United Front Against War
Today as before, workers and the oppressed in the United States must stand together to say no to yet another imperialist war of aggression. Resistance to imperialist war is not conditional upon support for the Iranian regime. There is no question about the repressive and privileged ruling core of the theocratic regime pitted against workers’ control and the aspirations of the mass of the Iranian people. There also is no question that our response today is to organize on a united front basis against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and, on the horizon, Iran.