The US and the European powers have introduced sanctions against Iran—dropping any pretence that they are not targeting ordinary Iranians.
The value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has dropped by more than 40 percent in recent weeks.
This has made prices for food and medicine rocket. Prices are up for other products too—both imported and local.
After the European Union (EU) froze the assets of Iran’s central bank, EU banks pulled back from financing grain shipments to Iran.
At the beginning of February more than 400,000 tons of grain had been held up outside Iranian ports for at least three weeks.
Sanctions are sucking the life out of Iran’s dynamic society—the same society that has thrown up strong movements for democratic change and social justice.
Meanwhile, the continuing military threats push Iran’s ruling elite towards militarisation and make life harder for pro-democracy activists.
That is why the sanctions and the military threats have been met with strong opposition from leading figures in the opposition Green Movement, and independent labour, student and women rights activists.
To justify war the Western media treats speculation about Iran developing nuclear weapons as fact, and portrays the Iranian regime as an “existential threat” to Israel.
This isn’t the first time we have been led towards war with lies. In 2002, the Italian and US secret services circulated documents claiming that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. They turned out to be forgeries.
So did pictures of “biological weapons” that the US secretary of state Colin Powell presented to the United Nations Security Council in 2003.
Nuclear-armed Israel has regularly accused Iran of being just “a few years away from nuclear weapons” since 1992.
But in 2007 and again in 2011, all 16 US intelligence organisations reported that Iran was not working on the militarisation of its nuclear programme.
This was recently confirmed by Leon Panetta, US minister of defence, who said Iran is not developing nuclear weapons but a “nuclear capability”. That means that it would have the skills and technical capability to develop nuclear weapons if it should decide to do so.
And if Iran did achieve “nuclear capability”—as Japan and Brazil already have—it would hardly go unnoticed. It would have to shut down dozens of International Atomic Energy Agency cameras in its uranium enrichment facilities and deny access to observers.
Moreover, even with nuclear weapons Iran would not be a match for Israel, which already has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads stockpiled.
Iran’s rulers are not the “mad mullahs” of media stories. They are cold realists when they calculate their foreign policy. For instance, they keep silent about Russia’s repression of Muslims in Chechnya to maintain their strategic alignment with Russia.
Far from being a military threat to its neighbours or the West, Iran itself is under constant threat. It is encircled by Western troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and the former Soviet republics.
It already faces a covert war. After invading Iraq, the US military started operations over the Iranian border and gathered information on “ethnic tensions”.
The US department of state recently revealed that the Israeli secret service recruited members of the Pakistan-based guerrilla group Jundullah for operations in Iran. Both Iran and the US classify Jundullah as a terrorist organisation.
Four Iranian nuclear scientists have been murdered in the last three years.
The US, EU and Israel have escalated their confrontation with Iran because of what they perceive to be a shift in the balance of power in the Middle East.
First, the US withdrawal from Iraq and the planned exit from Afghanistan have left the US ruling class worried about Iran gaining regional influence.
Second, the Arab revolutions have toppled pro-Western dictators like Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.
The West continues to support the most reactionary forces in the region. Last December the US finalised a £19 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, whose troops were essential in crushing the democratic uprising in neighbouring Bahrain.
A war against Iran will not only devastate millions of lives in Iran. It will also set back the democratic movements for decades and strengthen the grip of Western powers and their reactionary allies.