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Iran deal reflects weakness of US – and helps ordinary Iranians

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Issue 2462
Western politicians meet their Iranian counterparts
Western politicians meet their Iranian counterparts (Pic: US State Department)

Cheering crowds in Iran’s capital Tehran welcomed the historic deal with world powers on Iran’s nuclear capabilities this week.

The deal lifts the shadow of war and the burden of sanctions on ordinary Iranians.

It signals the weakening of US imperialism in the Middle East—and opens up possibilities for resistance in Iran. Both the Iranian state and the Western powers made major concessions.

The Iranian government agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium for eight years and to allow intense inspections for 25 years. Even military sites will be open to inspectors if they present “legitimate” reasons.

On their side, US, Britain, France and Germany have acknowledged Iran’s right to have a nuclear programme and they will lift the sanctions that have hit Iran’s oil industry and banking system.

These concessions have led to opposition on both sides.

In Iran, conservatives with vested interests in the military and state-owned businesses fear losing influence as their perverted version of anti-imperialism is undermined.

Meanwhile Israeli prime minister Binjamin Netanyahu accused US president Barack Obama of making “a mistake of historic proportions”.

Hawks in Washington still want regime change in Iran to remove what they see as an obstacle to US power.  

But Obama’s shift from confrontation to containment of Iran is a way of coming to terms with the weakening of US power in the Middle East. 

Having lost the authoritarian Shah of Iran as an ally in the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US opposed the Islamic Republic that replaced him.

It sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after he attacked Iran in September 1980, providing military information and eventually attacking the Iranian navy.


US president Bill Clinton imposed sanctions on Iran in the 1990s. When Iran’s reformist president Mohammad Khatami sought closer links with the West, US president George W Bush put Iran in his “axis of evil”.

US troops occupied Iran’s neighbours Afghanistan and Iraq, and Bush threatened regime change and war.

The Iranian military became intensely worried about a possible invasion.

The Iranian state isn’t developing nuclear weapons. It pursued nuclear capability as a strategic asset to guarantee its security from the West.

The biggest loser from the deal is US imperialism. The biggest winners are ordinary Iranians. 

Politicians and the media in the West pretended that economic sanctions targeted Iran’s rulers. 

But the sanctions only gave Iran’s rulers the opportunity to strengthen the military, increase repression and do business through the black market and state channels.

Ordinary Iranians lost their jobs and paid the price for inflation. 

The lifting of the sanctions will lessen their economic suffering. But it won’t solve the problems of corruption and neoliberal policies.

The deal will also undermine the power of the conservatives. But change will not come by itself. Workers, students and women’s rights activists will have to seize the new opportunities to build collective resistance.

Teachers’ protests in recent months have shown the way in Iran. 

And acts of solidarity from trade unionists across the world demanding the release of their arrested leader Esmail Abdi show how socialists elsewhere can help.

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