“Whilst the situation in Iran & the region is complex it is not difficult to understand that we must unite around a message which says no to war under any circumstances.”Artin Giles
Much has been said and written about the assassination of Qasem Soleimani ranging from some on the broad left quietly applauding Trump’s airstrike to others praising the Iranian general as an anti-imperialist hero. There has been a dangerous lack of context and little on the absolute need to resist the rush to war, and the role we have to play in that resistance, writes Artin Giles.
The repercussions of Trump’s order to target an airstrike on a convoy carrying General Qasem Soleimani cannot be underestimated for its severity or reach. This was a person at the heart of the Iranian leadership, a regime that has been in place for decades and has a military strength roughly equivalent to that of Pakistan or Brazil – both countries with populations of over 200 million. The possibility of war with Iran has significantly increased, with the Iranian military retaliating just hours after the burial of Soleimani through a rocket strike on Al Asad air base which houses US troops. Whilst there appear to be signs of de-escalation, Trump’s most recent comments should continue to alarm us all.
United States policy in the Middle East has been largely driven by neoconservative thinking and its this ideological straightjacket that has led to blunders and blowback. The Middle East region has been a theatre of Western power play for centuries. The CIA (and MI6) were instrumental in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh and the installation of a puppet who could be brought with petrodollars and would cater to US ambitions. Ever since the Iranian revolution, which established the Islamic Republic in 1979, America and Iran have been engaged in a Cold War which has included the downing of a Iranian plane in 1988 killing all 290 people on board and tight US trade sanctions which as we know hits the poorest the hardest. America’s increasing reliance on Saudi Arabia, both for oil and for arms exports has only served to inflame sectarian tensions in an already tense region.
That’s why the nuclear deal, or JCPOA, between Iran and the P5+1 group was a welcome step towards an easing of tensions, lifting some sanctions and establishing a path to diplomatic resolution. Since Trump abandoned that deal tensions have ratcheted up and US aggression has been backed up by Israeli strikes against Iranian positions in the region as well as by British compliance in seizing an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. It is this compliance to US actions that should have us all worried about the British government’s reaction to Trump’s war on Iran.
Whilst the situation in Iran and the wider region is complex it is not difficult to understand that we must unite around a message which says no to war under any circumstances.
It should give concern to all that the US envoy on Iran, Billy Hook recently stated that Trump and Johnson were ‘very closely aligned’ on Iran. Either this is the case and Boris Johnson is acting against British interests on the matter, or more worryingly the Trump administration have noticed a desperate Prime Minister who can give them some much needed credibility on the world stage. Indeed, it was reported that Trump was unhappy about the support his move had from allies, and like that we saw the British tone change with Dominic Raab clarifying ‘we understand the position and action they’ve taken’ the very next morning on national television. The silence from Boris Johnson is deafening – but is part of a strategy designed to ruffle as few feather’s with America as possible and shows Boris Johnson for the coward that he is. That’s why we must make sure our message is clear: we say no to war with Iran.
The legality of the assassination has also been questioned. The UN Special Rapportour stated that the killing of Soleimani and Iraqi militia general Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis are “most likely unlawful and violates international human rights law”. Others have also criticised this apparent self-defense line. Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats in Washington criticised Trump for failing to inform them of the airstrike prior to its execution and thus going against the Constitution. However, we must be clear that opposition to it is not just for its legal violations. We must oppose war for the death and destruction wreaks on the people of the region – only the establishment wins in war and we can see that with the immediate increase in the share price of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon and doubtless a number of other ‘defense’ and ‘security’ firms.
We must resist Britain being dragged down the path the war and the Labour Party must unanimously call for Britain to be leading steps to de-escalate tensions in the region through the United Nations. It should give everyone reassurance that Jeremy Corbyn, one of the leaders of the anti-war movement in the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq is still the leader of the Labour Party. However, with Boris Johnson as the Prime Minister of a Tory majority government and all his eggs seemingly in a US-trade-deal shaped basked, our movement must provide the extra-parliamentary mobilisation against war. This means signing petitions, passing motions, joining and supporting the ‘No war with Iran’ demonstrations in central London and across the country on Saturday, and indeed joining Stop the War coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Most importantly we must raise awareness of the dangers of war. It is clear that the mainstream media have not heeded the lessons of the past – the first op-ed from the New York Times hailed this move a ‘seismic’ event that was ‘long overdue’. We have seen in recent times how fast-paced events, often in complex geopolitical circumstances have created a perfect storm of conditions that lead to war. This only reminds us that the task of educating our neighbours and friends – and apparently most of Twitter – is vital. These coming weeks will need much organising and education. Our movement has to lead that and set the narrative – that the British people say no to war.
Whilst there are considerable criticisms to be made of the Iranian regime – such as its execution of LGBT+ people, its authoritarian crackdown on civil society – now is not the time or the place. It is almost certain that further escalation will serve to bolster support for the Iranian regime and its anti-American rhetoric. This being the opposite of Mike Pompeo claims that US actions will be giving Iranians ‘freedom’ – a sickly reminder of Dick Cheney’s ‘we will be greeted as liberators’ attitude prior to the invasion of Iraq. Overnight we have seen retaliation by Iran in the form of rockets fired at Al-Assad airbase which houses Iraqi and US troops as well as British and other overseas soldiers. Iran has also warned that their ‘revenge’ will continue making the US response equally unpredictable and uncertain. Trump’s comments that ‘Iran looks to be standing down’ are no comfort when its quickly followed by a request for NATO ‘to get more involved’ and a call for the remaining partners to the JCPOA to abandon it. This should be alarming to all those who wish to prevent another needless war.
As Lee Carter, DSA member of Virginia’s legislative assembly stated – ‘if the ruling class of this country gets us into a war with Iran, there will be no victory for the working class of either nation’. It is vital to resist any urge to war and remind people of the consequences of war – devastation for people, disease, famine, destruction, poverty and death. Years of chaos and neglect in a region that has been the unwilling theatre of proxy wars between the world’s great powers for centuries. We must organise to resist this and we must remember: ‘there is only one war. The war for all working peoples’ liberation, everywhere’.
- Artin Giles is a London Young Labour and Labour Against Racism and Fascism activist.