The Trump administration is stepping up its aggressive campaign against Iran, writes Chris Nineham
One of the most worrying passages in Trump’s surreal performance at the United Nations on Tuesday targeted Iran.
The Iranian leadership, he claimed, ‘do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.’ They are spreading "chaos, death and destruction across the Middle East and far beyond.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t just a Trumpian tongue-lashing.
It comes after the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran and the re-imposition of sanctions and it was immediately preceded by an appearance by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defence, at an anti-Iran meeting in New York.
Bolton’s rhetoric at the meeting was downright threatening. He assured the Iranian government that ‘if you cross us, our allies or our partners, if you harm our citizens, if you continue to lie cheat and deceive. Yes there will indeed be hell to pay,"
The Trump administration has promised a new round of sanctions in November which will have a devastating impact on a country already going backwards. Sanctions are deliberately targeted to effect oil exports on which the Iranian economy still depends.
John Bolton is famously in favour of regime change in Iran and has called for support for anti-regime forces including backing for separatists in Khuzestan, where a bomb was detonated a few days ago, killing at least 25 people including twelve members of the Iranian police.
A strategy of tension
The campaign against Iran will only inflame the situation in the Middle East and most likely harden attitudes in Iran itself.
The idea that the US administration is concerned about peace and stability in the Middle East is in fact laughable. More bombs were dropped and drones fired on the Middle East in Trump’s first year than during the whole of Obama’s first administration.
Trump has ramped up support for the Saudi regime, a monarchy heavily implicated in arming and funding the militias in Syria, which supports the separatists in Khuzestan and is the main protagonist in the terrible war on Yemen. That war has created the worst humanitarian catastrophe anywhere in the world.
Trump has stepped up support for Israel at a time when it is engaged in semi-permanent military operations against the nearly two million Palestinians imprisoned in the Gaza strip.
Trump’s transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem was a provocation designed to humiliate the Palestinian population that can only entrench hatred and division. Unlike Iran, Israel actually does have a nuclear arsenal which it refuses to discuss.
The increasingly aggressive posture towards Iran is part of a wider shift in US foreign policy in the Middle East. Encouraged by one of the most hawkish cabinets in memory, Trump is lining the US up with a Saudi-Israel axis that is committed to confrontation with Iran and its allies. By doing this the US is in grave danger of regionalising war.
The British government is colluding in this dangerous policy by stepping up arms sales to Saudi and other Middle East powers and by active participation in the war on Yemen.
Winning the argument
There is widespread opposition to isolating Iran, partly because it damages others’ economic interests. European countries have been meeting with Chinese and Russian officials to try and find a way to get around the new sanctions regime.
Further ratcheting up international tension, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has attacked these moves saying "This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security." US sanctions on Iran come with punishments for companies that breach them and many big companies around the world have succumbed to pressure and wound down trading and investment plans.
July’s massive anti-Trump protests in Britain showed that millions hold him and his policies in contempt. Arguments against the war on Yemen and arms sales to Saudi Arabia featured heavily at the Labour Party conference.
We are strategically placed to help block Trump’s foreign policy. Trump’s new turn means it’s time to step up the campaign against sanctions on Iran, do more to expose the horrific reality of the war on Yemen and work hard for a complete break with Saudi Arabia.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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