To the delight of George Bush’s government, all the major world powers last week voted to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear programme.
So what is Iran doing wrong? As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is well within its right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes and has done so under the watchful eye of International Atomic Energy Authority.
It has even voluntarily signed a more intrusive Additional Protocol as a goodwill gesture. And contrary to the White House mantra, US intelligence agents estimate that Iran is still ten years from acquiring highly enriched uranium – the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon.
Not since George Bush proclaimed that free elections in Lebanon could not take place under foreign occupation have we seen such hypocrisy. Iran is surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed, lie to its east. To its west lies Israel with over 200 warheads, making threats.
Neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied by Britain and the US, both nuclear powers and the latter the only one to have ever used nuclear weapons. As for North Korea’s bomb, with the clear lessons drawn from the Iraq war, it would be hard not to see why Iran wouldn’t acquire one as a deterrent.
Some point to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and talk of “wiping out Israel” – statements that are completely reactionary that we should certainly condemn. But these are not unique to Ahmadinejad.
In fact the early 1980s saw far more radical rhetoric from the Iranian ruling class, including that from Western-preferred presidential candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Nor is this exclusive to the Iranian regime, as Alex Callinicos rightly pointed out in his column here two weeks ago.
If anything, these statements have only ever worked to whip up anti-Zionist sentiment to strengthen support at home. And if there are any countries actually doing any “wiping out” it’s the US and Israel in Iraq and Palestine.
And far from the media depiction, restarting uranium enrichment was not a consequence of Ahmadinejad’s election. Iran’s two year suspension of the programme was only ever a confidence building measure.
The decision to restart was made prior to the election in a meeting that included Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani as well as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s outgoing president Mohammad Khatami.
It also has the full backing of the Iranian population—which has implications for any Iranian government. Indeed, in a recent poll 79 percent of Iranians said they were against halting of nuclear activities or complying with demands from the West.
Iranian society is very different from the backward tyrannical regime portrayed in the West. More than 60 percent of university students are women for example. This is a young and socially active population (70 percent are under 30) who talk politics in the cafes and fight for reforms on the streets.
Their concerns are the growing inequality and high unemployment. But while they struggle for change at home, they reject any model set by Western powers.
They’ve seen exactly what 12 years of sanctions have done to their neighbours in Iraq and they certainly don’t want to be bombed into “democracy”. Theirs is a real movement from below that needs no lessons on human rights from the criminals of Fallujah and Guantanamo Bay.
The US neo-conservatives have no interest in bringing democracy to Iran, or anywhere else for that matter. Yet their agenda for control of Middle Eastern resources is not only backfiring, but causing huge problems for them on all fronts—domestically and internationally.
Although their hands are tied, Iran’s alliances with China and a Shia-led Iraq undermines precisely the reason the US went to war in the first place. And if Vietnam is anything to go by, there is a strong possibility the US could escalate the war before a pullout from Iraq.
What’s clear is that, caught in this difficult dilemma, isolating Iran is the first step before sanctions or military intervention. The responsibility now rests on us to build an anti-war movement capable of delivering such a defeat for the US in Iraq, that an attack on Iran, or any other country, doesn’t become an option.
Naz Massoumi is an activist with Action Iran, a group campaigning against military intervention in Iran. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org