Defend the Iranian people! Support Iran’s right to a nuclear deterrent

On March the 18th, protesters will gather in towns and cities around the world to mark the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, and the beginning of a war that still kills thousands of Iraqis every month.

This year the anti-war movement faces the threat of a new imperialist war, against Iraq’s eastern neighbour.

The United States is leading a campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme, and threatening the country with military action if it does not dismantle the uranium enrichment technology in its nuclear facilities.

Bush’s government used aggressive diplomacy to make sure that the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to send the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme to the United Nations Security Council, where the US has a permanent seat and immense influence. Bush has repeatedly said that is prepared to use violence to stop Iran’s nuclear programme even if he can’t get his way on the Security Council.

Iran’s government maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, and after the lies they told about Iraq’s phantom ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ the US and other Western governments can’t be trusted when they say they are certain Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons.

But even if Iran is seeking nukes, what right do the US and its allies have to complain?

The US is a country with many thousands of nukes aimed at targets around the globe and a history of aggressive action against scores of other states. The Middle East’s neighbourhood bully and US ally Israel sits on an arsenal of several hundred warheads.

Both the US and Israel continue to build new nuclear weapons – what right do they have to condemn Iran if it wants to do the same?

Poll after poll shows that Iranians support their country’s nuclear programme, and believe that they have a right to nuclear weapons.

Even the pro-Bush media admits the popularity of Iran’s nuclear programme. Karl Vick, the Iranian correspondent for the pro-Bush, pro-war Washington Post, recently admitted that ‘Ordinary Iranians overwhelmingly favour their country’s nuclear ambitions, interviews and surveys show’.

Why are the Iranian people so keen on nukes?

Some racist commentators in the Western media have suggested that it is because they are a fanatical, bloodthirsty people, who long to fight a holy war against the US and Israel. But the Iranians know better than almost any other people the bloody reality of war. In the 1980s a million of them died defending their homeland against an invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. At the time Saddam was an ally of the US, and the US had encouraged him to invade Iran because it wanted to topple the government there. More recently, Iranians have watched the US fight two bloody wars against Iraq. The war that began in March 2003 is estimated to have killed 150,000 Iraqis already. Now the Iranians hear Bush threatening attacks on their own country.

It is because they don’t want another war that the Iranians want nukes. Iranians realise that nukes would be a powerful deterrent against an attack by the US. They can see that the US invaded Iraq knowing that it had no Weapons of Mass Destruction, but backed away from attacking North Korea because that country had developed nukes.

A look at the whole history of the nuclear era bears out the Iranian point of view. The US says that nuclear proliferation is a threat to world peace, but the only time nukes have been used was before nuclear proliferation began, in the days when the US had a monopoly on the weapons. US President Harry Truman bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki not to defeat Japan, which was already about to surrender, but to intimidate the rest of the world, and especially the Soviet Union and Red China. The US wanted to use nukes to make sure it controlled the post-war world.

In 1950 the US was bogged down in a war against Korea, and General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of their army, drew up plans to explode thirty nukes inside territory held by the North Korean army. Millions of Koreans were saved from death only because the Soviet Union had recently developed its own nukes as a deterrent to US aggression. The US was forced to shelve MacArthur’s plan after the Soviets threatened to retaliate for any nuclear strikes in Korea. Again and again in later years, the Soviet nuclear deterrent saved vulnerable Third World countries from US aggression. Who can blame the Iranians for wanting the same deterrent?

Most Kiwis dislike George Bush and oppose the wars he has started

At the same time, though, many of us are uneasy about the prospect of another country developing nuclear weapons. If a poll were taken today it is likely that only a fraction of us would support Iran’s right to nukes. But we only think like this because we haven’t stood in the shoes of Iranians and other peoples threatened by US imperialism. We live on islands at the bottom of the world, far away from hotspots like the Middle East. We’ve never been invaded, and we don’t have the hostile army of a nuclear superpower camped on our doorstep. The Iranians don’t have the luxury of rejecting nuclear weapons, and we need to understand that. If we don’t, we risk taking the side of the US and Israel in a new war.

The Green Party has already fallen into the trap of supporting the US campaign against Iran, by urging that the UN be used to ‘restrain Iran’.

Others are in danger of going down the same path. In a debate on the Indy media website, one activist said that he wanted to show ‘solidarity with anti-nuclear sentiments among the Iranian and wider Middle Eastern population’. If he looks, he will soon find that the only people in the Middle East interested in campaigning against Iran’s nuclear programme are Israelis and the US armed forces. Anti-war activists should show solidarity with the Iranian people by supporting Iran’s right to nukes.

But solidarity with Iran doesn’t mean political support for the country’s government

Iran is run by a gang of Islamic fundamentalists who hijacked the 1979 revolution against the US-backed Shah. The fundamentalists took power by killing their secularist rivals on the left, and they use violence to stay in power. In the last few months, for instance, the Iranian police and pro-government paramilitary organisations have been attacking and detaining the bus drivers of Tehran. The bus drivers have been campaigning and striking for better conditions and union rights, and three hundred of them have been detained for this ‘crime’.

It’s not only trade unionists that the Iranian government attacks

Iranian women are regularly stoned to death for ‘crimes’ like adultery and pre-marital sex, and gay men are often hung if they are caught having sex.

We should support the Iranian nuclear programme, but we should also support trade unionists and other groups fighting against government repression.

Some Westerners argue that there is a contradiction between these two types of support. They say you can’t support Iran’s right to nukes without giving political support to the country’s government. What they ignore is the fact that Iranian people themselves support their country’s nuclear programme, at the same time as many of them oppose their country’s government. As Karl Vick notes, “Support [for the nuclear programme] runs deep in the population of 68 million, cutting across differences of education, age and, most significantly, attitudes toward the fundamentalist government”.

When we gather next month to mark the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we should also protest against the aggression of the US and the UN against Iran. But we can only oppose Bush’s new war drive by taking the side of the Iranian people by supporting Iran’s right to a nuclear deterrent.

Leaflet issued by Workers Against the War Of Terror (WAWOT) February 2006

From Class Struggle 65 Feb/March 2006

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