The US and Britain escalated their threats of a new war in the Middle East last week, after Iran retaliated against their attempts to bully it into submission.
Tory foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt warned of “serious consequences” if Iran refused to release a captured British-flagged oil tanker.
The US is also trying to launch an international naval force in the Gulf, a stretch of ocean off Iran’s coast.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp seized the ship, the Stena Impero, on Friday of last week.
It said it wouldn’t release it until Britain released one of its own tankers seized in the Mediterranean two weeks previously.
British Marines invaded the Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, working in cooperation with the US.
Britain claims the Iranian oil tanker was in breach of European Union (EU) sanctions preventing the sale of oil to Syria. But Iran said the tanker wasn’t bound for Syria, and that it is not in any case party to the sanctions as it is not part of the EU.
In reality Britain’s seizure of the tanker is part of an escalating confrontation with Iran—driven by US president Donald Trump.
Trump is escalating threats against Iran in an attempt to maintain the US’s dominance in the Middle East.
US economic sanctions imposed on Iran last year have caused misery for ordinary Iranian people. They have driven up the costs of basic foodstuffs and caused a shortage of life saving medicines.
More recently the US announced plans to send 1,000 more soldiers to the Middle East in preparation for war.
In the past weeks Britain has sent extra warships to the Gulf, while the US has sent soldiers to Saudi Arabia.
Trump boasted last Friday after a US warship allegedly shot down an Iranian drone, which he said was “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran.”
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said this never happened.
Hunt’s warning of “serious consequences” was his second threat in two weeks.
He also said there would be “serious consequences” if Iran began enriching uranium, which could be used to develop nuclear missiles.
Yet he has been criticised by right wingers, who claim he has failed to defend British shipping.
Whichever Tory ends up as foreign secretary after their leadership election ends this week, they will follow the US’s drive towards war.
The West and Iran—anti-imperialism, revolt and repression
For the first half of the twentieth century, Britain controlled Iran’s oil through what is now known as BP.
The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) was 51 percent British-owned. The royal Shahs who controlled the Iranian government were in Britain’s pocket.
Between the Iranian government and the AIOC, all trade unions and political opponents were brutally suppressed.
Anti-colonial revolt saw Mohammad Mossadeq appointed to prime minister in 1951.
He nationalised the AIOC, striking a humiliating blow to the British Empire.
Labour prime minister Clement Attlee considered military action, but decided against it.
This was largely due to US disapproval. The US decided to replace Britain as the dominant power in the Middle East.
But the Communist Tudeh party was gaining support in Iran, so the US organised a coup to replace Mossadeq.
It took two attempts, but the CIA managed to replace Mossadeq with his leading opponent, army general Fazlollah Zahedi.
They then went on to funnel £2 million into Zahedi’s government and made Iran their base for operations throughout the region.
The CIA also trained Iran’s new secret police, the Savak, which killed and tortured thousands of Iranians.
US companies benefited from the carve up of Iran’s booming oil industry. But vast numbers of ordinary Iranians stayed in poverty.
This led to a revolution in 1979 which eventually saw the rise of Ayatollah Khomeni.
People rebelled against US involvement in the region. In response the US backed then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran.
The war that followed lasted eight years and led to 300,000 Iranian deaths.
The US has continued to oppose Iran’s government in the years since. This is only partly because of their distaste for Iran’s policies. More than that, they hate that Iran refuses to accept US imperialist rule.
Now the US backs Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran.