Iranian protests, sanctions and nuclear hypocrisy – a brief comment

The Guardian newspaper, in its online edition, carried a news report of clashes between demonstrators and riot police on the streets of Tehran. The protesters in Tehran were complaining of the worsening economic conditions aggravated by the Western-imposed sanctions that have begun to bite into the Iranian economy. The riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse the rebellious crowds, and the Grand Bazaar, in response to the heavy-handed tactics of the police, went on strike and businesses closed their doors. Discontent with the deteriorating economy has caused social turbulence in Iran’s past, and there is no doubt that the Iranian regime has no answers to the problems besetting the lives of ordinary Iranians. Workers have been fired from various manufacturing industries, particularly the car industry. The once-thriving oil sector of the economy has also suffered, and the rial, the Iranian currency, is gradually losing its value.

The point of this is to emphasise that the Iranian government is a dictatorship, ruling in the interests of a narrow, capitalist class. This financial elite, made up of businesspeople and mullahs, is only concerned with preserving and extending its privileges while the workers suffer imprisonment and torture for the supposed crime of speaking out against the regime’s atrocities and organising into trade unions to improve the lives and conditions of ordinary people. The US-led sanctions have increased the prices of basic staples, thus making it harder for working people to make ends meet. The terrible decline in the value of the rial, occurring dramatically over the last few days, is evidence that the sanctions are hurting the economy. The workers and oppressed people of Iran need and deserve our support. But this leads to the next point – the main reason cited by the imperialist powers for the imposition of sanctions is Tehran’s alleged progress towards a nuclear bomb. The corporate-media never tire of repeating the accusation that were it not for these sanctions, the Iranian regime would have acquired nuclear weapons and thus presented a major escalation of a military threat to the region.

So why this urgent concern on the part of Washington for an alleged nuclear weapons programme in Tehran? I think Glenn Greenwald gets it right: the United States intends on preserving a monopoly on nuclear weapons, to facilitate its bullying of smaller powers and thus expand its geostrategic objectives in the Middle East. As Greenwald point out in his perceptive comment piece, the true reason the US wants to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons is because the Iranian regime will not be so vulnerable to US pressure. Greenwald examines the history of Washington’s purported ‘concern’ for the profusion of nuclear weaponry, and explains that nations that wish to defy the imperial ambitions of the US, such as Iran, China, and so on – respond to US pressure by bringing nuclear weapons into the equation. Greenwald highlights the thinking of American policy planners in the following quote from the American Enterprise Institute:

“When their missiles are tipped with warheads carrying nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, even weak regional powers have a credible deterrent regardless of the balance of conventional forces … In the post cold war era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities.”

Iranian President Ahmadinejad, in addressing the United Nations General Assembly, made the point that even if Tehran acquired a nuclear weapon, it could not redress the military balance of forces weighted heavily in Washington’s favour. No calculating, cynical politician, (and Ahmadinejad surely is one) would start a war which effectively meant committing national suicide. Economic sanctions certainly undermine the economy, make life harder for the ordinary people, but do not actually reduce the nuclear ambitions of Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a belligerent, comical appearance at the United Nations, threatening to launch unilateral military action against Iran should the latter acquire a nuclear weapon. The hypocrisy of a belligerent, war-mongering politician speaking about the menace of Tehran’s nuclear weapons can be summed up as follows:

Netanyahu speaks at the United Nations about the Iranian nuclear bomb threat

Greenwald cites the hawkish sentiments of US politicians who elaborated their thinking in a Washington Post article:

“[A]n Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons capability would be strategically untenable. It would threaten U.S. national security … While a nuclear attack is the worst-case scenario, Iran would not need to employ a nuclear arsenal to threaten US interests. Simply obtaining the ability to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon would effectively give Iran a nuclear deterrent.”

So the main concern of the US policy makers is not to rid the world of nuclear weapons, or support the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian working people, or to alleviate their economic suffering. Their main concern is that if Tehran acquires a nuclear weapon, they cannot be bullied into making concessions to US imperial interests.

Go read the whole article by Glenn Greenwald here.