Middle East: the rich powers' regional order and the threat of war

8 January 2020

Contrary to the lies told by western political leaders, both in Britain and in the US, the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by a US drone, in Iraq, last Friday, was not an act of "self-defence".  It was an outright act of state terrorism on the part of the Trump administration.
    Nor was the Iranian dictatorship the only, or even the main target.  This attack was aimed at the region's entire population, as a demonstration of the western powers' overwhelmingly superior military might and their ability to strike wherever and whenever they want.
    Its primary purpose was to allow the US leaders to reassert their determination to remain the region's unquestionable overlords, against whom resistance is just not an option!

Four decades of "tensions"

Today, the media and politicians are commenting on this latest twist in US policy in the Middle East.  All of a sudden they claim to be discovering that the current tensions between the US and Iran may result in yet another war in the region.  As if, over the past four decades, the leaders of the rich powers had not been stoking up more and more explosive potential across the region!
    Lest we forget, the starting point of what is happening today, goes back to 1979, when a popular uprising overthrew the region's most hated and bloody dictator - the pro-western Iranian Shah.
    The Islamic regime which took over soon proved just as repressive and brutal as its predecessor.  In that sense, it never was a major problem for western multinationals.  But the mere fact that it had replaced one of the West's most valued puppets in the region, was enough to put Iran in the West's bad books.
    From this point onwards, US leaders and their second rate European allies, including Britain, tried every trick in the book to destabilise Iran.
    At first, they got Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army to wage an 8-year long war against Iran.  Neither side won, but both paid an exorbitant cost.  Then, as Saddam Hussein was becoming too big for his boots, the US led a first war against Iraq.  But this was not enough.  A decade later, the hawks in Washington went for regime change in Iraq.  Another invasion was organised, on the basis of a gigantic lie in which Blair played an active role.
    This time, Iraq was occupied, resulting in years of civil war and the rise of numerous rival Islamic militias.  Out of these militias grew both what was to become Daesh in Iraq and Syria - and the Shia militias, which played a decisive role in crushing Daesh on the ground, while the Western powers only had to provide air cover.

A sense of deja vu

So, to all intents and purposes, Iran - and General Soleimani - have been instrumental in helping the western governments to restore some sort of order, both in Iraq and in Syria.
    But, by the same token, Iran's regional role has expanded.  The same Iranian regime which the West had wanted to see bombed into the ground in the 1980s, is now back on its feet, with more influence than it has ever had!
    While the Western leaders had no option but to take advantage of Iran's help, they certainly never liked it.  As soon as the threat of Daesh seemed to be fading on the ground, they began to change tack in their attitude towards Iran.  Trump's election was the opportunity to bring in characters such as Mike Pompeo, who had long advocated the need for regime change in Iran.
    The result of this U-turn, was first, the US' withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, with drastic economic sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump administration and, now, the escalation of military muscle-flexing on both sides.
    So, it should come as no surprise if what we are witnessing today brings back memories of events that we've seen before, in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when Western leaders were busy softening up public opinion with all sorts of convoluted lies, in preparation for the war that they had already decided to wage.
    From Trump's repeated claims - and without a shred of evidence - that Soleimani was about to launch terror attacks against the US army, to the poodle-like behaviour of Johnson and his ministers, rushing to offer their support to Trump - this all looks very much like what we saw in the Blair days.
    Will this build-up of lies eventually result in another war, in the way it did, 17 years ago?  No-one can be sure.  The Iranian leaders certainly do not want a war, as their token "retaliation" showed.  And the US probably does not want one either, in any case, not for now.  But war and overbidding have a logic of their own which can very easily get out of control.  And this is why it is in the interest of the working class to oppose this bellicose madness by every means available.