Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Iran: a people caught between tyranny and empire

During his appearence at the farcical Chilcott Inquiry, Tony Blair pronounced that the international community needed to take a "very hard, tough line" on Iran. The country is "linked up with terrorist groups" and must be prevented from gaining nuclear weapons. As such, "we face the same problem about Iran today," as he did with Iraq. We do indeed face the same problem, but that problem is not a Middle Eastern terror state with nuclear ambitions - it is the continued belligerence of the West.

Former ambassador to Iran Sir Richard Dalton accused Blair of "putting the question of confronting Iran into play in the election." But, as Gordon Brown has shown, we don't need a former PM for that.

Despite beating the drum for aggression in Yemen, the US and Britain have not forgotten the Islamic Republic. The United States has deployed anti-missile defences off Iran's coast in a move that Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani has called "America's new puppet show ... to pave the way for its presence at others' expense." And Vice President Joe Biden has said that Iran are "sowing the seeds of their own destruction" and announced plans for a sanctions regime. Brown has followed suit by saying that Tehran must be "isolated" and that "it's essential that the international community shows that it has strength in this matter by imposing these sanctions."

Biden's words came "at a time when some Republicans have urged a return to a policy of promoting regime change in Tehran," and supposedly indicate that the Obama administration's approach is more "cautious." But we have been here before. In Iraq, a decade of sanctions served only to starve and drag down its people whilst Saddam Hussein's regime became stronger, before "regime change" finally tore the country apart in sectarianism and civil war. When Brown tells us that a "balance" has to be struck between such concerns and the "need" to send a clear message to the Iranian leadership, he is offering a propaganda line utterly out of touch with practical experience.

It may be true "that 20 years of undeclared nuclear work in the country had undermined international trust in its intentions," as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report. This would not be surprising given the external aggression it faces from both the US and Britain, and their Israeli client. Only last year, Israel declared itself ready for a massive aerial assault on the country, and has even proposed an attack with its own nuclear arsenal before now. Such a threat is far more immediate than the largely hypothetical one which justifies Britain's renewal of Trident and the US's development of "mini-nukes."

Also offered as a pretext for sanctions and other aggression is the Iranian governments brutal repression of opposition movements, which has culminated in the planned execution of nine dissidents. Before anything else, it should be noted that Iran is mired in "tyranny and dictatorship" as opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi states. It is guilty of "stifling the media, filling the prisons and brutally killing people who peacefully demand their rights in the streets," amongst many other crimes such as the brutal persecution of homosexuals. But the use of sanctions and external aggressionis neither motivated by or the way to stop these injustices. The lessons of history, including the last decade, show that external aggression only serves to shore up the position of a tyranny, and no nation can genuinely liberate another.

The intentions of one state towards another are never altruistic. Power and influence are the key motivators, specifically the control of strategic markets and resources. The people of Iran need our solidarity against a repressive and despotic government, then, but aggression and sanctions from the West must be opposed outright.