Trump signs Executive Order imposing sanctions on Iran, June 2019. Photo: Public Domain Trump signs Executive Order imposing sanctions on Iran, June 2019. Photo: Public Domain

The threat of war with Iran isn’t over and the anti-war movement must continue to organise against it, writes Shabbir Lakha

Following missile attacks by Iran on two US bases in Iraq, Donald Trump announced that the Iranian retaliation showed Iran was “standing back”. While it is a relief that there isn’t a further US retaliation at this time, US aggression against Iran is far from over.

The situation remains extremely volatile. In the same statement, Trump announced he would be imposing further sanctions on Iran, more than the already crippling sanctions in place, and urged European countries to formally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal (JPOA).

We should be clear that the sanctions in place and those to come are an act of war. The economic warfare that the US has used against Iran, as it has against Iraq and Latin American countries, is responsible for countless deaths. The economic growth that Iran mustered since the signing of the JPOA has been wiped out since Trump tore up the deal and it has been the most vulnerable Iranians that have paid the price. In the context of the last few days, sanctions rather than bombs might seem like a de-escalation, but it is in fact a continuation of aggressive foreign policy aimed at destabilising Iran.

It will inevitably lead to a further increase in tensions. As will the, now essentially dead, JCPOA which will mean Iran will probably restart the expansion of its nuclear enrichment programme.

But there is also the pretext of the recent assassination of Qassem Soleimani, which hasn’t gone away. The US has been fighting Iran by proxy for years, in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, and Israel has repeatedly bombed Iranian positions in these countries. Diversion from all-out war will only mean an increase in these battlefronts – which is still war.

It was revealed by the Iraqi Prime Minister that Qassem Soleimani was in Iraq to negotiate with Saudi Arabia, a meeting called by the Saudis at the behest of Trump. So while Trump may have somewhat erratically chosen the most severe option possible in deciding to assassinate him at Baghdad airport, it seems the situation was a lot more calculated than that.

Typically, the Trump administration changed its story and reasons for the attack several times and tried to use every excuse it could. There has been no evidence provided of an imminent attack on US personnel or civilians being planned by Soleimani, and in the immediate aftermath of the attack Vice President Pence even tried to tie Iran to 9/11 as a justification for the attack.

The drone attack against Soleimani also killed Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, a leader of the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF), and Hashd, Hezbollah and other militias in the region have mobilised and prepared for the possibility for war with the US since the attack. The possibility of another escalation, deliberate or accidental, and potentially by a non-state actor has increased exponentially.

And after the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel US troops from Iraq, Trump threatened to impose sanctions once again on Iraq as well.

The simple reality is that as long there are US and UK troops in the Middle East and the sovereignty of these countries are not respected, as long as sanctions are levelled against Iran and Iraq, as long as the Iranian military and Hezbollah are considered terrorist organisations by Western nations, and as long as the US continues to militarily intervene along with Israel and Saudi Arabia, a hybrid war with Iran is in fact ongoing and the danger of another more serious, more deadly escalation remains a likelihood.

After Boris Johnson’s eventual return, his statements addressing the crisis have been dismal. He has justified the US’ extrajudicial assassination of Soleimani, and in preparation for the possibility of further US escalation, refused to rule out Britain supporting the US in a war with Iran. More than that, Britain has sent two warships to the Persian Gulf and has made preparations for troops and military equipment to be deployed to the region within 48 hours.

His response to Iraq saying all troops should leave the country was to dismiss it and say that Iraq relied on British troops. All of this shows that the role of the anti-war movement in Britain remains critical in building the opposition to war with Iran and pressure to remove British troops from Iraq. Demonstrations have been taking place across the country and Saturday’s demonstration in London will be a key mobilisation, and this will need to carry on in a concerted permanent campaign until the threat of war is truly over.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.