'Don't attack Iran protest at Downing Street, June 2019. Photo: Jim Aindow 'Don't attack Iran protest at Downing Street, June 2019. Photo: Jim Aindow

We shouldn’t be fooled, the British state has been deliberately ramping up military aggression with Iran, argues Alistair Cartwright

Events of the last month have brought us to the brink. On 20 June, Congressional leaders gathered at the White House in preparation for airstrikes on key Iranian military targets, after a US surveillance drone was shot down close to the Strait of Hormuz. The strike was called off with hours to go.

It is easy for Mike Pompeo to call Iran an ‘outlaw regime’. But the dozens of US military bases encircling Iran show who the real aggressor is. Britain has also been ramping up its military presence in the Gulf with a new £40 million facility in Bahrain and another base under construction in Oman. Even on a regional level, Iran’s military spending is relatively lower than its neighbours, with Saudi Arabia out-gunning Iran by a factor of 5-1.

And let’s just remember the sequence of events here: It was Trump who unilaterally took the US out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Return of the Neocons

Iran has been the number one target of US plans for regime change since at least 2001. After George Bush’s election propelled a powerful group of Washington right-wingers to the forefront of American politics, the so-called ‘Project for the New American Century’ – with its ideological pairing of economic liberalism and military power projection – became a catastrophic reality. 

Invading Afghanistan was the first step, Iraq the second. But Iran, with its vast oil reserves and influential position, was the ultimate prize. 

Under the supposedly isolationist Trump, the Neocons have managed to take back some of their seats at the high table of US foreign policy. National Security Advisor John Bolton, once a key advocate for the Iraq War, provides a direct link back to the Bush era. He is joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who claimed the US would act to prevent a Corbyn government; and Gina Haspel, said to have been involved in Bush’s torture programme and now taking up Pompeo’s old job as Director of the CIA.


These second-generation Neocons hark back to the early 2000s and even the Cold War, but the world they confront is a much more chaotic and challenging place for US power. The irony is that the ‘war on terror’ actually increased Iran’s influence in the region. 

Back in 2001, even Russia supported the operation in Afghanistan. A few years later, the US had managed to alienate long-standing allies like Canada and France. Regime change in Libya led to the humiliating evacuation of US troops earlier this year, while in Syria, the defeat of Isis has been a victory for Hezbollah and other Iran-backed fighters. The experience of the last decade has also strengthened ties between Russia and Iran.

If the Neocons choose to spark off a new war, no one should believe that Trump will be declaring ‘mission accomplished’ within a few months. The consequences will be devastating.

Antiwar Movement 2.0

Peace activists, trade unionists, Corbyn supporters, anti-racists and all those opposed to what Trump stands for must re-commit to building a mass antiwar movement that can stop this war before it starts. We can take heart from the huge demonstrations against Trump’s visits to the UK, and from the networks of experience that Stop the War Coalition and other organisations have built up over the last eighteen years. 

In Britain we are in a unique position. Our task is to break the ‘special relationship’ with its craven backing for failed Neocon policies, and to knock out all international support from under the US war machine.  

The Stop the War Annual General Meeting takes place in central London on Saturday 7 September. Please access the website for more details.

Alistair Cartwright

Alistair Cartwright is an activist with the Stop the War Coalition and a member of Counterfire.