Ahmadinejad and company: Reactionaries of the world unite!

The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made several anti-Semitic statements in the recent period, the latest being a denial that the Holocaust ever took place. Why has he come out with such incredible statements? Are his threats to attack Israel real? Or do they reflect the need to divert attention away from the real problems faced by the Iranian masses?

On Wednesday December 14, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, announced once again, that the Holocaust was a myth. In a speech broadcast live on state television he said:

"They have fabricated a legend under the name Massacre of the Jews, and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves. If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream."

He also repeated his wisecrack that Israel should be removed out of the Middle East to Europe or North America. Speaking on Thursday in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, he said that if Germany and Austria believed that Jews were massacred during the Second World War, a state of Israel should be established on their soil. The same Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in October that Israel must be "wiped off the map."

These Anti-Semitic speeches of the Iranian president gave the reactionaries in power in Israel the chance to rally Israeli public opinion, as well as public opinion in the West to its nationalist flag.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately declared that Israel would never accept a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and that Israel needs to do everything possible to prevent such a situation, which he said would threaten stability in the Middle East.

According to Pravda (December 13), "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the Israeli military command to prepare an air strike on nuclear objects of the Islamic republic on the day of the elections in Israel set for March 28, Israeli military structures said."

This information that Sharon plans to attack Iran first appeared in The Sunday Times, (March 13, 2005). The writer Uzi Mahnaimi wrote:

"Israel has drawn up secret plans for a combined air and ground attack on targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to halt the Iranian nuclear programme. The inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, gave 'initial authorisation' for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert…

“The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel's way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.

“Tehran claims that its programme is designed for peaceful purposes but Israeli and American intelligence officials - who have met to share information in recent weeks - are convinced that it is intended to produce nuclear weapons."

Hamas, the Palestinian fundamentalist movement, rushed to declare its support for the anti-Semitic statements of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by doing so of course strengthened Sharon's position in Israeli public opinion.

Khaled Meshaal, the speaker of Hamas, declared that his movement will step up attacks against Israel if it takes military action against Iran At the same time he also praised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his "courage" in having dismissed the Holocaust as a myth and calling for Israel to be moved out of the Middle East to Europe or North America.

"Just as Islamic Iran defends the rights of the Palestinians, we defend the rights of Islamic Iran," Meshaal told reporters in Tehran on Thursday. "We are part of a united front against the enemies of Islam, and if one member of this front is attacked it is our duty to support them."

All this is so much propaganda, for in reality he is indeed part of a united front but not the kind the media would like us to believe. This is a united front of a different kind, a united front of all the reactionaries on all sides, among the Iranians, Arabs, Jews and the Anglo-Americans.

It is so clear that Sharon benefits from these declarations. Public opinion polls consistently indicate that every time the President of Iran makes such a stupid, reactionary speech there is a significant increase in the number of the people in Israel who say they will vote for Sharon in the March 28 elections.

However, it is not very likely that the US would allow Sharon to attack Iran. Condoleeza  Rice, the US secretary of state, has just  repeated that America would support Britain, France and Germany in offering economic aid to Tehran in order to get it to abandon its nuclear programme.

For example, although Silvan Shalom, the Israeli foreign minister, recently declared, “The idea that this tyranny of Iran will hold a nuclear bomb is a nightmare, not only for us but for the whole world” he quickly added that he believes that diplomacy is the only way to deal with the issue.

The threat to attack Iran has been in the air for a long time but it faces very strong opposition within the imperialist camp itself who can see the failure of military occupation in Iraq. For example already back in January 2005 Jack Straw the British Foreign Secretary produced a 200-page document that ruled out military action against Iran and called for a “negotiated solution” to end Iran's nuclear programme. Of course there was also some noise on the part of the hawks in Washington who want to widen the imperialist military front in the Middle East.

However, there is another reason why the US is not very likely to give Sharon the green light to attack Iran. The US welcomes the influence of Iran on the Shiites in Iraq. The US and Iran are acting to some degree not as foes but as de facto allies in Iraq.

On April 14, 2004 the then Iranian Foreign Minister of Iran, Kamal Kharazi, said that there had been a "lot of correspondence" with Washington regarding Iraq.

“ 'Naturally, there was a request for our help in improving the situation in Iraq and solving the crisis, and we are making efforts in this regard,' the minister said after a cabinet meeting. He added that exchanges of written communications between Washington and Tehran continued to be made through the Swiss embassy in Iran, as there was no direct contact between the two countries.” (Al Jazeera)

The irony of course is that the US supported Saddam Hussein in the bloody 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war that left over a million dead. Now due to the war and the occupation of Iraq, Iran has a more powerful position in the region than it has had for many years. The rulers of Iran without moving a finger have won what they dreamt of in the Iraq-Iran war, the removal of Saddam's secular Ba'thist regime and the coming to power of their supporters, the Shi'a parties and militias of “Islamic Daawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), as well as their allies, the Kurdish PUK and KDP. All these organisations have received military, financial and political support from Iran since the 1980s. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is a Shi'a religious party headed by Abd Aziz al-Hakim who is collaborating with the US occupation.

The role of Iran, in particular in Southern Iraq, is also to limit the influence of Shi'a leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia, the Mahdi Army has been fighting against the occupation. This tacit support of the American occupation is good business. The rich are buying a lot of property in many of the southern cities such as Basra.

The rulers of Iran are playing a double-edged game. They want a weakened Iraq to maximise their influence, and they are connected to competing Iraqi factions. Their interest is not very different from the US, i.e. to break or at least to weaken the unity of Iraq.

This might lead to a Shiite province that would include Basra and other rich areas in the South, under direct or indirect Iranian control. Already the southern regions, the provinces and the municipalities are becoming more and more autonomous and are falling under the control of Shiite factions associated with SCIRI [the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Resistance in Iraq], who are connected with Iran. Their armed wing, the Badr Organization, has something like 12,000 Shiite militiamen, many of whom spent a good part of the last ten years in exile in Iran being trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and on their payroll!

So if it is evident that Iran to a certain degree on some questions is an ally of the US how do we explain these anti-Semitic speeches against Israel, which is the main ally of the US?

To answer this question we need look more closely at Mahmood Ahmadinejad, until recently an unknown conservative military commander, who was elected recently to the presidency of Iran. His victory was surprising as many so-called experts were predicting that the "reformist" and "pragmatic"(pro-Bourgeois and pro-American imperialists) Hashemi Rafsanjani would become Iran's next president.

Before he became President, Mahmood Ahmadinejad was a counter-intelligence officer in the Revolutionary Guards, with involvement in acts of terrorism. It is not for nothing that he was chosen to head the Islamic state. The real political power in the Islamic Republic had been for many years been in the hands of the Council of Guardians, not in the hands of the President. The role of the Presidential elections was to confirm the redistribution of power among the various ruling factions.

However, the June elections handed over the organs of power to the ultra-conservatives. The conservative bloc, particularly since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, had occupied all the key positions of power. These included all the organs that came under the command of the Supreme Leader - the armed forces, the police intelligence apparatus and the judiciary. Ahmadinejad was one of the founders of the groups called Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (abadegaran) and Devotees (isar-garan). Over the last few years, backed by the Supreme Leader, these groups have been taking control of the security-police and military organs. Thus a military man, rather than a mullah, took over the executive. This trend of military-security control of the main organs of the state began at the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

In the 1999-2001 period the “reformists” won the support of a large section of the population. However, the economic policies they carried out brought misery to the majority of workers and poor.

With the failure of the “reformist” wing to hold on to its base of support and their inability to act as a safety valve for the regime, the fundamentalists needed a different strategy to deal with the deepening crisis, using naked repression and terror through the military and police apparatus.

The presidential elections that brought Mahmood Ahmadinejad to power were a reflection of the crisis the regime is facing. The “reformists” had failed so all that remained to the fundamentalists was a turn to more brutal repression of the Iranian workers and poor. Thus a military dominated government represents an attempt to save the regime in the face of growing opposition from the working class.

As this wing of the regime also has nothing concrete to offer the poor, they have developed a strategy based on galvanising support among the population by whipping up nationalism and religious bigotry, terrorist activities and religious conflicts. Hence, we find an explanation for their latest speeches. Rather than a real threat to Israel, these speeches are aimed at the poor masses of Iran. The aim is clear: distract their attention away from their own terrible plight and direct their anger against the “external enemy”, in this case the Jews in Israel. The idea is to get the poor to think that all their problems are due to the existence of Israel. While, of course the Zionist regime in Israel is no friend of the poor Arab masses in the Middle East, the problems of the Iranian workers are to found mainly in the continued existence of the capitalist regime in Iran, albeit disguised in Islamic clothing.

The duty of genuine socialists in Israel is to struggle against their own ruling class. The same Zionist ruling class that oppresses the Palestinians attacks Jewish (and Arab) workers in Israel. A growing layer of poor has emerged in Israel. While the rich get richer there are people who are forced to scrape around for fruit and vegetables on the floors of markets. Pensions are under attack and so on.

The duty of socialists in Iran is to explain to the workers and poor that the task is to overthrow the hated fundamentalist regime and bring about genuine workers' power, genuine workers' democracy. The fundamentalist reactionaries who govern Iran attack Jews in words, but they attack their own people with real deeds, imprisoning workers who dare to struggle for their rights and so on.

We need to cut across all forms of nationalism and raise an internationalist, working class perspective as the only way out of the impasse all peoples in the region are facing.

December 2005