Seizure of British sailors by Iran – who is provoking who?

The real question to be asked is not whether the British sailors were in Iranian or Iraqi waters. The real question is who benefits from this "provocation". The incident would seem to fit in well with the plans that imperialism has to strike at Iran's nuclear development plan.

Last Friday we were told by the capitalist mass media of another so-called Iranian crime. We were "informed" that the Iranian state had kidnapped 15 British sailors and marines members of the frigate HMS Cornwall who were engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters, and had completed their inspection of the merchant ship suspected of carrying weapons to the anti American fighters in Iraq. If we are to believe the official version, all of a sudden they were accosted by Iranian vessels.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett demanded a full explanation of the incident. Sir Peter Ricketts, a senior aide to Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, held a brief meeting with Rasoul Movahedian, after the Iranian diplomat was called to Britain's Foreign Office to account for the incident.

One day before UN Security Council met

This incident happened one day before the meeting of the UN Security Council scheduled to impose harsher sanctions on Iran. And as could be expected the United Nations Security Council on Saturday voted unanimously to impose tougher sanctions on Iran to force Tehran to capitulate to the demand that it suspend its nuclear enrichment programme.

The same capitalist mass media was very sarcastic about Iran's side of the story. Iran said that the 15 British military personnel were inside Iran territorial waters, in a clear violation of its national sovereignty and that they confessed to it under interrogation.
None of these gentlemen of the mass media stopped for a moment to ask themselves why Iran would carry out such a provocation, the same Iran that in the last month has offered the US help in maintaining its control over the Middle East after the US occupying forces will be forced to withdraw from Iraq following its defeat there. What interest could the government of Iran have in provoking an international incident on the eve of the UN Security council? Could there possibly be any connection between this incident and the fact that the United States House of Representatives on Friday voted to impose a September 1, 2008 deadline for withdrawal of all American combat troops from Iraq, and that Bush reacted by saying that he will use his power to veto it?

The decision to end the occupation by the end of next year was carried by a narrow majority of a 218 to 212 votes, which shows the extent of the division within the American ruling class over this issue at a time when the majority of ordinary Americans are opposed to the war. While the Democrats voted for the Bill all but two House Republicans voted against the legislation, which they say will tie military leaders' hands and contribute to failure in Iraq.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio warned, "We have no choice but to win. If we fail in Iraq, you'll see the rise even further and faster of radical terrorism all around the world."

It does not make much to understand that Bush, as President, the commander-in-chief of the army and the leader of the Republican Party, is determined to continue with the war and even extend it to Iran. In that sense the incident with Iran serves him well.
The Security Council, supporting Bush, approved a ban on Iranian arms exports and a freeze of the assets of 28 additional people and organisations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programmes. The list includes Sepah, a government-owned bank This resolution would allow Bush in the near future to open a new military front, this time against Iran.

In the interests of US imperialism

The cynicism of these gentlemen of the Security Council has no limits. They are ready to allow Bush another war after what he did to Iraq, on the ground that it is necessary to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear capability, while the US and Israel are armed to the teeth with these same weapons. And the US has a history of using atomic bombs against Japan, while Israel has a record of using biological weapons against the Palestinians back in 1948, the systematic oppression of the occupied Palestinians over decades and the horrible destruction it brought to Lebanon last summer.

There is also one very interesting fact: none other than Shimon Peres of Israel, serving as the vice Prime Minister of Israel, last week stated before the Vinograd commission that since in his opinion it is impossible to prevent other states in the Middle East from developing nuclear weapons it is time to make peace in the Middle East. In other words as long as Israel was the only state with such weapons it was in a position to terrorize the people of the Middle East, but now it must rethink its position.

And yet the UN Security Council, under pressure from the US, rejected an amendment from Indonesia and Qatar that wanted the resolution to include a sentence calling for the Middle East to be free of such weapons of mass destruction, namely including Israel.

But let us return to the incident. Today, Sunday, March 25, the mass media in Israel began to admit that it was a British and not an Iranian provocation. In an article in Haaretz under the title Analysis: Iranian President Ahmadinejad sends a signal, Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, wrote: "The border between Iraq and Iran on the Shatt al-Arab waterway has been in dispute for decades. Thus, the possibility that British Royal Marines were inside Iranian territorial waters when they were abducted should not be entirely discounted."

In the past there have been similar incidents. In June 2004, six British Marines and two sailors were captured, then paraded blindfolded on Iranian television. They admitted they had entered Iranian waters illegally but were released unharmed after three days.
In the recent period Iran has attributed various subversive activities, carried out by opposition and separatist groups, to the CIA and MI6 agents. Several months ago an elite US unit raided the Iranian consulate in Irbil, northern Iraq, and arrested five Iranians..."

Now the official line is that if the British Marines are not released within a few days, as happened in that similar incident in 2004, the crisis may take a sharp turn for the worst. To say it in simple words: the British incursion was aimed at provoking a reaction on the part of Iran that would justify "retaliation".

In the meantime the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, cancelled his appearance before the Security Council, where he was supposed to present Iran's position. There has been some speculation about the reasons for this, some stating security concerns, but it seems to be more a diplomatic gesture of defiance on the part of the Iranian regime.

They talk of peace while they prepare for war

For some years now the line of the imperialists has been that Iran is a threat to the "free world". From time to time we are "informed" of the possibility that the US and Israel must attack Iran to "save democracy". A strange kind of democracy indeed, one that is identified by the mass media with the war crimes committed by the US and Israel in Iraq and Palestine!

We have been told over and over again that the nuclear energy programme of Iran "must be stopped" before this "evil" state develops "weapons of mass destruction" and this will require a massive aerial attack on Iran.

Gerard Baker, Times Online US editor, who supported very enthusiastically the invasion of Iraq, wrote on 27 January, 2006: "The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth is that we are going to have to get ready for war with Iran... If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming of Hitler."

The justification for such an attack is the fraudulent and well-worn cliché of the "war on terror" that has been used since 9/11 to justify every US attack on a sovereign nation. Bush is doing a lot of dreaming and in his dreams his God is telling him: "go my beloved son and disarm Iran and I will reward you with all the oil of Iran."

Iran on the other hand claims that it has the right to acquire nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and it does not want to arm itself with nuclear weapons. However, even if Iran is aiming at arming itself with nuclear weapons, it has the same right to this as the US and Israel that are using their nuclear arsenal to terrorize the world.

While Iran is denying that it is developing nuclear weapons, the US and Israel do not hide the fact that not only do they have them but that they are also ready to use nuclear bombs. They have warned time and again of the possibility that they will attack Iran's nuclear installations.

The other side to this is that the Iranian regime is clearly trying to build a deterrent in order to create a new balance of fear. They saw Iraq that did not have weapons of mass destruction being invaded. Therefore to them it makes perfect sense to acquire such weapons in order to prevent such an attack.

Anyone at all familiar with the recent history of Iran, must know that while Iran has not attacked anyone it was the US that used Saddam Hussein to attack Iran using weapons of mass destruction provided by the US in the 1980s. And that was a terrible war that lasted 8 years and cost the lives of one million people.

At the same time, the same propaganda machine that portrays Iran as a "terrorist state" is the one that uses ugly racism to attack the Muslims in general. Last year's media campaign against the Muslims in Europe, presenting the Prophet Mohammed as a "terrorist", is the same racist campaign that is aimed at justifying wars against Muslims worldwide. It has nothing to do with "free speech" but every thing to do with promoting hate against oppressed people. It is the same kind of propaganda used by the Nazis in the 1930s against the Jews. It is not Iran that has created the nightmare in Iraq and Palestine, but the American and Israeli imperialists.

As a result of this war propaganda, many people in the West, even among those who now object to the continuation of the war against Iraq, Americans in particular, have been led to believe that war against Iran is necessary. They are being led to believe that Iran is developing nuclear weapons in order to use them against the US and Israel.

American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear centre in Iraq, and would most likely to be the opening days of an aerial bombardment like the 2003 air campaign against Iraq. Using the full force of operational B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying direct from the United States, possibly supplemented by F-117 stealth fighters staging from al-Udeid in Qatar or from Saudi Arabia, the two-dozen suspect nuclear sites would be targeted.

Yesterday's sanctions show that the 15 members of the UN Security Council are acting in unison, contrary to what we saw prior to the invasion of Iraq, which was partly opposed at the diplomatic level by France and Germany. Washington has been building "a consensus" both within NATO and on the UN Security Council.

Moreover, a number of front line Arab states, the so called "moderates", Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, the Seniora government in Lebanon and the Saudis are now tacit partners of the US/Israeli military plans against Iran.

How desperate Bush is can be seen from the fact that he has even looked at the nuclear option. The preparation for such a war against Iran is in fact based on the Bush administration's doctrine of "pre-emptive" nuclear war under the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review. The media has played its part by extensively concealing the devastating consequences of military action involving nuclear warheads against Iran.

What is most alarming is that, according to a 2003 Senate decision, the latest tactical nuclear weapons or "low yield mini-nukes" as they call them (in spite of having an explosive capacity of up to 6 times a Hiroshima bomb) are now considered as "safe" because they explode below ground! Thus they are considered not only as legitimate weapons but also as a means of "building peace" and a safer world!

What further aggravates the situation is the number of sites that would have to be bombed. A recent report by the Oxford Research Group has revealed that to attack Iran's nuclear facilities (that all the evidence point out it is so far for civilian use), the US and its allies would have to attack Kalaye Electric Company that produces components of gas centrifuges, the Nuclear reactor at Bushehr, the heavy-water reactor at Arak, the Uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and the uranium mines and mills at Saghand, as well as the research reactor at Isfahan. However, the chances of destroying al off them at the same time are very slim. Besides, such an attack would cost the lives of many innocent civilians.

The irony of this is that Iran today is still some years away from having enough fissile material to fabricate nuclear weapons. But the end result of all these threats to bomb Iran's nuclear research facilities is that it will be pushed to build at least one nuclear bomb at any cost. And it will do it in a very short period, a maximum of two years.

While the US speaks of this "evil state", in Iraq the US occupying forces and their vassals continue their murderous campaign. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been murdered by the occupying forces. Tens of thousands more have been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured to death.

While Bush and Blair boast of the great benefits for the Iraqis as the result of removing Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi economy has fallen below pre-war levels. The living conditions of ordinary Iraqis have worsened considerably since the 2003 criminal invasion of the country. Iraq, which once enjoyed a reasonable standard of living compared to today, is in a terrible state.

Similarly while Israel is presented in the mass media as the "only democracy in the Middle East", it continues to steal Palestinian land in contravention of international laws and UN resolutions. Some 2,000,000 Palestinians, residents of the West Bank, are prohibited from entering around one-third of the West Bank, and this includes the Jordan Rift, the area of the Dead Sea shoreline and the eastern slopes of the West Bank. At the same time the Israeli soldiers use brutal force to kill and maim many Palestinians.

In addition, Israel has encircled and isolated Jerusalem from the rest of the Occupied Territories, making the creation of a viable Palestinian "state" impossible. More than 3.5million Palestinians are living in ghettoes under an unbearable apartheid system of control, checkpoints, roadblocks and walls. And with the election of Hamas, Israel has increased the terror against the Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinian men, women and children are imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces without charge. It has sent thousands of Palestinians to prisons using a Mickey Mouse military judicial system that by itself is a war crime.

Mecca Agreement

In the light of the preparations for a new war, the real meaning of the Mecca Agreement is becoming even clearer. It is an attempt to bring the so-called "moderate" Arab states, namely those who act as American puppets, on board in the preparation of the war against Iran. It is simply the continuation of the war on Lebanon last summer.

This agreement will in no way solve the question of the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people, but it will serve to isolate Iran from the other Arab states. We saw it before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 when Israel and Egypt made a so-called peace that in reality allowed Israel to attack Lebanon while Egypt was neutralised. The fact that the civil war between the gang of Abu Mazen's Fatah and Hamas - that flared up again last Wednesday and that has cost the lives of several Palestinians including a two-year-old girl - does not fall from the sky. The fact is that the imperialists are not ready to accept Hamas' half capitulation to their demands; they want a totally subdued Hamas.

This was clear from the visit of the South Korean UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon (remember that South Korea is a client state of the US) during his visit to the region where he put pressure on the new Palestinian coalition government to accept the demands of the "quartet, i.e. to recognize Israel and renounce violence, as if the main source of violence has not been Israel since its creation and later on throughout the years following the 1967 occupation; as if it were not the US forces and their allies who are continuing the destruction of Iraq, the killing and the torture of Iraqi civilians.

Ban speaking after he had talked with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was hosting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Arab foreign ministers this weekend for discussions on the "Middle East peace process", said, "We expect that the national unity government will meet the expectations of the international community for peace and security in the region," and added that he had discussed the need to encourage this ongoing peace process with Mubarak.

Needless to say Ban did not meet with the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh but only with President (Mahmoud) Abbas and other members of the cabinet, all people who are trusted by his master, Mr George W Bush, to be loyal puppets.

It is clear that the imperialists and their servants feel the need to free Israeli hands in other areas so as to be able to prepare aggression against Iran. Part of the propaganda machine is this need to spread new illusions about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Saudi Arabian regime is playing an important role in this. It fears the rise of Iran as a regional power and is this trying to help by brokering some kind of deal between the Palestinians and Israel, not to make peace in the region, but to prepare for war.

It is in the interests of the international working class to defeat the plans for war against Iran. It would not serve the interests of the workers of any country. In particular it would bring terrible destruction and suffering on the people of Iran. It would consume immense resources, both material and human on the part of the aggressor countries, increasing the suffering of the workers in these countries.

Some of the more far-sighted strategists of imperialism (see the Baker report) are of the opinion that rather than waging war on Iran, this country should be involved in finding a solution to the mess in Iraq. They must be watching with dread as Bush pushes for an attack on Iran. But the situation is so unstable, and the contradictions have piled up to such a degree, including the contradictions within the US ruling class itself, that an attack looks likely. Once an attack does start it would be difficult to limit it to a so-called "surgical operation". It could indeed escalate. In such circumstances it would be in the interests of workers everywhere that the imperialists and their servants should be defeated.

Imperialist Hands off Iraq and Iran!

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