Imperialism besets Iran

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You’ve probably heard of the capture of ten US sailors and their two navy boats by Iranian authorities. This post aims to tie this to the reality of the existing United States empire and its subsequent imperialism. What is presented here is only part of the picture, but challenges not only the bourgeois media but Celebrity Left figures like Greenwald who claim they hold a higher Truth.™

What the bourgeois media and others have to say

The bourgeois media in the United States assuredly did not approve of the capture of US military personnel by the Iranians and likely scowled at it from their ivory towers of “wisdom.” Jim Michaels of the crappy USA Today claimed that it there was a mechanical failure that caused the boat to drift into Iranian waters, relying on military sources as a basis. The article also quoted CENTCOM (Central Command), a force founded on maintaining US imperialism in the Mideast, which admitted that the crew was not “physically harmed during their detainment” even as they wanted to ask the crew about the possibility of “interrogation by Iranian personnel.” Not surprisingly Iranians were portrayed as brutes first conveyed by showing ONE IMAGE of the captured Marines in a video and implying to the reader they were about to be executed even though this was not the case. The article also declared that “one of the crew is shown apologizing for straying into Iranian waters but it is not clear whether the statement was coerced or how the video was edited…The Americans were escorted “at gunpoint” to a port facility on Iran’s Farsi Island.” Later the article noted that despite “more than three hours after losing communication with the boats, the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio heard from the Iranians that the American sailors were in Iranian custody and were “safe and healthy,” noting a CENTCOM statement which claimed that “two SIM cards from handheld satellite phones” were removed. The article also quoted Obama’s address to the nation about this saying that “we worked directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours,” with the exact time being 15 hours. Eyder Peralta of NPR basically repeated this narrative, as did Fox News and Reuters which claimed the foreign sailors had been captured in the past by Iranian authorities. One article in CBS News followed this same narrative as well along with CNNThe Atlantic and The New Republic acted like (see here and here) their pieces had “new” information that other news sources didn’t, but they towed the same line as well. A number of pieces in bourgeois media relied on New York Times article which claimed that Iranian authorities had seized GPS equipment so that it would prove that U.S. ships were trespassing, and claimed in the title that the sailors were seized “amid claims of spying” despite the fact the article itself and no other sources show this to be the reality. These faulty conclusions were also shown in a Times editorial as well.

Other media weren’t much better. The dependably pro-military Navy Times declared that

“the sailors seem to have mistakenly entered Iranian waters aboard their top-of-the-line riverine assault boats…a refueling rendezvous gone awry is the likely explanation…Top officials say they’re still piecing together what led up to the confrontation at sea…Iranian officials searched for advanced technology and sensitive communications…some of the crew members were exhausted and anxious after their detention but none were harmed.”

The British publication, The Independent was not much better as it quoted numerous anonymous US officials, and was short with few details just like this article in an Arab publication. Some deluded individuals may think that people like Glenn Greenwald would come, riding on his white steed as Juice Rap News laughably portrayed him some time ago, but that is not the case. As I noted on twitter, his article reads like a Washington Post column, not even using the words empire or imperialist which is almost as bad as this article by Justin Raimondo in the supposedly antiwar but actually libertarian-leaning publication, antiwar.com. The article says that the US military is spewing bullshit in its story, asks “what in heck were those two boats doing in Iranian waters” and says that this “isn’t an accident…[but] was a military incursion” and claimed that “Iranians who are riven with factions and conflicting lines of authority: the American empire is overseen by a vast national security bureaucracy.” If I’m missing something here, I’d like to know, because this is what I got from my reading of the article. That may sound nice, but its this part that assumes that “we” implies everyone and is almost childish in tone, unnecessarily sexualizing the situation:

“There’s no denying we were caught by the Iranians with our pants down. The only question is – how were we trying to f—k them over?”

Back to Greenwald, who claims he is revealing a hidden truth and/or challenging the U.S. media. He wrote an article which quotes CBS News, Bloomberg News, Reuters, AP, New York Times, The Daily Beast, LA Times, along with Pierre’s pet publication, The Intercept.  He does claim that the US media is lying, saying that “there are multiple reasons to suspect otherwise” and notes the video taken by Iran, despite what I wrongly said on twitter, which shows a US sailor who said on state TV that they made a mistake, but only mentions it in passing, saying “one of the sailors in the video taken by Iran claimed they were “having engine issues”” and doesn’t elaborate. Greenwald then continues to advance his High and Mighty™ viewpoint of the U.S. media in an article which also quotes The Guardian, his own publication (even linking to @tinyrevolution, another Intercept writer), CNN, Middle East Eye, a UN maritime treaty, and Slate. He then claims that “no matter how many times the U.S. government issues patently false statements about its military actions, those statements are entitled to unquestioning, uncritical treatment as Truth the next time a similar incident occurs.” A good way for those who are critical of the Celebrity Left to challenge Greenwald would be to challenge him on this as he sticks with a “unquestioning, uncritical” approach which is enough analysis to make progressives salivate and want more, but is not a necessary and radical analysis.

Looking at Iran’s state media

Due to these shortcomings it is best to look at Iranian state media. To start with there is a short video (as shown here and here) which shows equipment from one of the ships, that the 10 marines captured eating a good meal, and seeming to be treated well. This video begins to disprove the idea that Iran is a “brute” that is “aggressive” toward the United States, when in reality the opposite is true as the U.S. is the real imperial bully. Other articles noted statements from Iranian and U.S. military authorities saying that the US crew of ten marines, 9 men and one woman, were released after there was proof their entry was unintentional (see herehere, here, and here). A number of other articles quoted a IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) Rear Admiral, Ali Fadavi, as saying that the US marines were dealt with respectfully, which the White House and the IRGC in general confirmed, saying the crew was healthy and well-situated. Beyond the confirmation by the Pentagon and IGRC that two US navy boats were taken into Iran’s custody (see here, here, here, and here), Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Brigadier General Hossein Salami was quoted as saying that

“The marines were crying when they were being captured, but they later felt better after the IRGC forces treated them with kindness. The Americans humbly admitted our might and power, and we freed the marines after being assured that they had entered the Iranian waters unintentionally and we even returned their weapons.”

That article also noted that

“each of the two US Navy boats that were 3 nautical miles deep into the Iranian waters when they were captured by the IRGC Navy’s second naval zone were equipped with three 50mm caliber machine guns and other light and semi-heavy weapons. IRGC officials said the coordinates recorded on the GPS devices taken from the 10 US marines confirmed their trespassing as well.”

While I could look at other articles in Iranian state media about a US apology, there’s one video, which the Navy Times predictably called a “propaganda video,” that is revealing. In the video, which is actually an interview with someone from PressTV and isn’t an interrogation or propaganda persay, an unnamed US captain apologizes for going into US waters saying “that was our mistake, admitting that they penetrated Iranian territorial waters, and saying that “it was a misunderstanding, we did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water.” In the interview the captain also says that they were captured by an Iranian petrol boat when they were “having engine issues” and tried to talk to them until “more boats came out and took us in.” Interestingly, the captain says that “the Iranian behavior was fantastic…we thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance,” and that they had “no problems” when in Iran. In the interview, the captain also says that their departure was from Kuwait and destination was Bahrain. You won’t see a description like this in the bourgeois media because this same video was cut short by CNN as an “exclusive” despite the availability of the FULL VIDEO, which distorts what the captain said, making it harder to recognize what happened.

Before going on and putting this into a broader context, it is important to look at some other state media articles. I’m not talking about what the Pentagon has to say, Kerry thanking Iran for releasing the 10 marines (also noted here), and GOP being unhappy that the marines captured were released. The IRGC, which globalsecurity.org describes as security for the revolutionary regime and “considered the military vanguard of Iran” and the elite Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) describes as an institution founded after the 1979 revolution which was “charged with defending the Islamic Republic against internal and external threats,” predictably had a number of things to say about this incident. One commander, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Hassan, said that the incident showed how vulnerable the US is in front of “powerful” Iranian forces, connecting to an earlier article saying that the Iranian navy has a good amount of strength and is capable enough to save lives on the high seas. Another commander, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi declared that the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took a strong position on the incident by calling for “US officials to apologize for the issue” but also said that while there could be a harmless crossing of the Persian Gulf, “US presence has never been harmless.” Fadavi was also quoted as saying that while the crew, that was detained for a short time, didn’t resist much at all, but that “a US aircraft started doing provocative behavior for 40 minutes.” He said this was, the article summarized, an “indication of the US unfaithfulness to regional tranquility” and he predictably argued that the IRGC restored such tranquility. Other IRGC members conveyed the seriousness of the situation. Rear Admiral Fadavi said that they were ready to strike the USS Truman Aircraft carrier for any hostile movies, a craft as noted earlier, which, in his description, “showed unprofessional moves for 40 minutes after the detention of the trespassers.” The article continued by noting that eventually after communicating an announcement that

“they came to realize the IRGC Navy has the first and the last word in here. The US and France’s aircraft carriers were within our range and if they had continued their unprofessional moves, they would have been afflicted with such a catastrophe that they had never experienced all throughout the history. They could have been shot, and if they were, they would have been destroyed…In the end they and their diplomats acknowledged their wrong action and undertook not to repeat such mistakes.”

The article also quoted Fadavi as saying almost triumphantly:

“the US and its Navy rest assured that they won’t be the winner of any battle with Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz as destruction and sinking of their warships will be the end result of any such war. But in those 40 minutes, the Americans were clearly under intense psychological pressure and they did not act like a professional and responsible force.”

Such statements are not a surprise considering imperialist bullying behavior of the United States in the Middle East and beyond.

There were other statements from IRGC commanders that are worth noting. Another article, which was an earlier version of the article previously noted, quoted Fadavi as saying: “had the US continued its unprofessional deeds after the detention of its 10 marines by the IRGC, all its warships could have gone sinking.” Based on Islamic guidelines, as the article summarized, “the Iranian military should not mistreat the captives, he said the US marines who were detained earlier this week were even privileged to watch the European Cup football tournament.” Another commander, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, even challenged Iran war halks in the US Congress:

“those US congressmen who plot a new problem for Iran each day are apparently fed with incorrect information and take their actions with closed eyes and away from the realities and, thus, harm the American nation. I hope that the incident in the North of the Persian Gulf that will likely be not the last by the US troops gives a lesson to those in the US congress that rock the boat.”

Another article quoted Fadavi as saying that

“the territorial waters of every country are those waters that the presence of foreign vessels should take place with the prior information and permission of that country…Mr. Zarif has adopted a strong and firm stance and told Kerry that they have been in Iran’s territorial water and they should apologize.”

The same article also quoted IRGC Spokesperson General Ramezan Sharif as saying that

“Iran never jokes with anyone about its national interests and won’t show any ignorance either…our behavior will be based on Islamic kindness. If investigations show that there hasn’t been any purposeful action, they will be treated differently, but if the information taken through interrogations reveal that their trespassing has been done for intelligence work and irrelevant jobs, officials will definitely take the necessary actions.”

Another article quoted Fadavi as going even further than Firoozabadi, saying that if anyone wanted war with Iran they would be committing suicide. Yeah, neocons, like those who want an armed intervention in North Korea, and Hillary Killary Clinton, get this message which Fadavi said at a naval ceremony in the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas:

“Today, if any country thinks of military confrontation against the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is either looking for a way to commit suicide and being annihilated or it has become mad and drunken and has developed dementia.”

I could explain in more detail other statements by those associated with the IRGC (see here and here), but readers are open to read those on their own. It is worthy to note that the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Seyed Abbas Araqchi declared that

“this shows Iran’s internal power as we powerfully seized the military vessel of the world’s big military power and then freed its personnel powerfully after ensuring of their unintentional entry into our territorial waters. This is a sign of our might.”

Whether you agree with them or not, the Iranians are justified in feeling this way about their action. Then there’s the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezayee, who said that “the US pilot [of the boat] shouldn’t have made the move and Mr. Zarif [Iran’s foreign minister] needed to certainly lodge a complaint with the Americans since if they embark on such a provocative move again, it can lead to a confrontation.” On that I agree, they should file a complaint and call out the U.S. military on this action, though I’m not sure it is enough. In another article, this same Secretary argued that “if the Americans really believed that Iran is a terrorist state, [they] would they lie down and rest so calmly and relaxed while they were in IRGC’s custody,” putting to rest US allegations about Iran’s behavior. Two other articles in Iranian state media. The first of these noted the following statement from Iranian national legislature, called the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Iranian Parliament or Iranian Majlis, praising the actions of the IRGC navy as showing enemies that Iran is serious about defending its “national security and interests”:

“Seizure of the US warships and capture of the US marines for illegal and unallowed voyage through the Islamic Republic of Iran’s territorial waters and then releasing them after their apology [was a valuable action]”

Another article quoted a senior MP (member of Parliament), the Chairperson of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi. In the article, Boroujerdi said the following:

“The divine Islamic establishment and the great Iranian nation’s national honor and might were displayed again by the IRGC Navy’s wise and mighty measure. The measure by the IRGC Navy forces in the Persian Gulf showed that safeguarding security of this sensitive region is in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s hands and even the US cannot ignore the rules of this game.”

What actually happened in this incident?

Earlier in this article I mentioned an articles by Raimando and Greenwald which claimed to offer alternative approaches to what happened but actually based their articles mostly if not completely on bourgeois media accounts. There were also some on twitter who said the incident was either: a Gulf of Tolkin-like situation intended to provoke war, which the Japanese rejected prior to WWII; just plain weird; was a “big” incident which resulted in some US Navy members being mad at the US government for its response; and was a “delicate diplomatic situation,” a term which downplays what happened. But this doesn’t really help clarify the incident itself.

One line in a recent article in the Washington Post about the incident claimed, which Raimondo blindly quoted without further analysis or fact-checking, that the two vessels captured are “known as riverine command boats, are agile and often carry Special Operations forces into smaller bodies of water.” An article the Post linked to describes the vessels, Riverine command boats, also called RCBs, as “actually Swedish CB-90s and are a type of fast attack craft” which raises further questions. The article also notes the following which puts more of the incident into question:

RCB’s can carry contingents of infantry and special operation forces and are often crewed by sailors in Riverine squadrons, known by some as River Rats. The riverine force came of age in the Vietnam War in what was then known as the Brown Water Navy. In the 1960s and early 1970s boats such as Patrol Boat, River (from ‘Apocalypse Now’ fame) and Swift Boats were the River Rats vessels of choice.

The Wikipedia article on these RCBs notes the following, making them seem like they are attack boats used for military assault:

“[this boat] is a class of fast military assault craft originally developed for the Swedish Navy by Dockstavarvet…The CB90 is an exceptionally fast and agile boat that can execute extremely sharp turns at high speed, decelerate from top speed to a full stop in 2.5 boat lengths, and adjust both its pitch and roll angle while under way. Its light weight, shallow draught, and twin water jets allow it to operate at speeds of up to 40 knots (74 km/h) in shallow coastal waters…In July 2007 The United States Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) specified the CB90 for testing as its Riverine Command Boat. Safeboat International of Port Orchard, Washington, was given a US$2.8 million contract to produce one prototype.”

From there one is brought to a 2007 article in the  pro-military Navy Times which notes the following about these boats:

“…the CB90, a Swedish-designed shallow-water vessel that’s fast, lethal and flexible enough to be an ambulance or a fast-attack craft. The Navy has decided to buy two of the boats, now known in certain Navy circles as the Riverine Command Boat, for use by the newest incarnation of the brown-water navy, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s riverine group…The RCB is designed for maximum adaptability. It has an airy, aircraft-style cockpit with two operator seats and a middle jump seat that swings into and out of place. It has a head just below the cockpit divided by a passageway that leads to a bow ramp, so troops can be put ashore quickly. The bow and hull are heavily reinforced so operators can run the boat up on a rocky stretch of beach to disembark riders without worry, Wood said. “There are not many environments it can’t pull into and away from,” he said. “That’s one of the things the Navy found desirable, that it’s capable and proven.”…While the Navy declined to offer details on how or where the RCB will operate in the near future, a Navy official at the Pentagon said in a written statement that the boats are intended for use in the command role…The ship has cabin space that can be configured to carry more than 20 troops or serve as a floating command post with extra communication gear…The Navy replaced bolt-on Humvee armor with a lighter material, wired up electrical power supply at the gun mounts and improved the optics and communication equipment…The new RCB has stirred up a lot of interest in the Navy, Wood said — both from the new conventional riverine force, the naval special warfare community and surface warfare operators.”

In order to complete the picture it is important to look at Iranian state media once again. The first of these articles asked what what would happen if there were Iranian boats in US waters. Here’s some selected quotes:

“As soon as the news was out, US media condemned Iran’s interception of the US naval boats that infringed its waters as an “aggression”…The Riverine Command Boat (RCB) is a watercraft designed to patrol rivers and other shallow water, fully equipped with GPS systems, radars, sensors and weaponry. Their speed and small size makes them useful for patrolling busy waterways such as the Persian Gulf and protecting larger navy ships…The US anti-Iranian fever was flowing through social media as soon as the news was out…The 10 sailors on the boats did not report the navigational error to their superiors before they were taken by the Iranians…The question in fact should not be about how Iran dealt with the situation. The question should rather be: if the scenario was exactly the reverse, and it was Iranian boats that had “mistakenly” drifted into US waters what would have happened?”

The other article raises questions about what happened during the incident itself. Sadly is broadly relies on Glenn Greenwald’s supposed “better analysis.” Still, here’s some quotes from that article:

“On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the sailors “obviously had misnavigated.” At the same time, mechanical failure was ruled out as a reason for the incident. This means that the boats were not in distress when they sailed near Farsi Island, which houses a naval base of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. This also means that Iran was within its right when it detained the soldiers, Sputnik reported…the US sailors….were most likely familiar with the route, since they often traveled between Bahrain and Kuwait. After all, the US Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain. Second, not a single sailor on the vessels reported the error to their superiors…Yet, many US media accounts of what transpired presented the incident as a hostile act committed by Iran…One could only imagine front page headlines if the US and Iran switched places and those were Iranian boats that had inadvertently drifted into US territorial waters.”

While it seems clear from Iranian state media sources that US warships engaged in provocations that could have escalated conflict if the IRGC hadn’t used their forces and messaging wisely, whatever actually happened in up to the reader. Hopefully the articles in this section help readers think more about what was the actual trajectory of events.

The broader picture of US imperialism

In order to fully understand the incident it is better to take a step back and look at US imperialism as a whole. According to the most recent Base Structure report, the US had 951 bases worldwide, outside the US itself, where there are many more bases. This calculation comes from 110 US bases in territories, plus those 576 overseas, those not in the US, 42 Army National Guard sites and 223 bases in “other sites” outside the US which don’t meet other criteria for being bases. There may be even more than than this since what is considered a “base” by the report must be a military site, which must be “must be larger than 10 acres AND have a Plant Replacement Value (PRV) greater than $10 million” if it is within the US, and if the site is in a foreign country “it must be larger than 10 acres OR have a PRV greater than $10 million to be shown as a separate entry.” From this I came up with two different charts showing where the most US bases are located:

which-country-us-troops

which-country-us-troops-2

The last chart is most relevant here, as it shows that in Bahrain alone, the United States has ten military bases. This is key because, if one uses the major naval base in Bahrain which claims on their website to cover 152 acres and is “home” to over 7,000 “military personnel and DOD Civilian employees,”  then Farsi Island, with land on the small island mostly restricted to a IRGC base, is only over 90 miles away as calculated using this site. A recent AP article noted that Farsi Island was “in the middle of the [Persian] Gulf and home to an Iranian military facility.” Old Times articles from the 1980s say that the island is “where the Iranians have a base,” apparently serving as “a base for Iranian high-speed naval launches used to attack gulf shipping” as one article alleged. The L.A. Times at one point even noted without criticism that Western officials believed that “Farsi Island…was used as a base by Iran to carry out attacks on Gulf shipping and to lay mines in the area.” Another article claimed that some of the dolphins were used as US military weapons to scout for supposed Iranian frogmen who would, in their minds, sabotage barges used as floating bases, ” were taken near Bahrain and “near Iran’s Farsi Island” in order to apparently “protect them from sabotage.” If the US military couldn’t get any more wacko, this is a sign you were wrong. Anyway, also of note here is the expansive reach of the US empire just in buildings alone, with the US Army controlling over 250,000 buildings!

buildings-us-military

Moving on, there are a number of maps showing US bases around Iran at this current time, which sorta update a map created by Al Jazeera years ago. They are as follows:

Iran-map civilian personnel
Civilian personnel in bases around Iran
Iran-map US forces around
Number of US troops surrounding Iran
Iran-map drone bases
Drone bases around Iran
Iran-map us bases
US military bases around Iran

These maps alone, not even including their position in terms of black gold (also see here), make it clear why Iran would be in a defensive posture to US imperial and military aggression. The same could be said about a fear of being bombed, considering that Micah Zenko of the CFR in a blogpost admitted the following: “…last year, the United States dropped an estimated total of 23,144 bombs in six countries [Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia]. Of these, 22,110 were dropped in Iraq and Syria.” However, this seems to be more minimized now than in the past.

Still there is the looming power of US imperialism as Obama declared in his recent State of the Union, really State of the Empire, in which he claimed that China and Russia look to the US, suspiciously promoted before it was spoken by the Vox folks. In his militaristic, nationalistic, and imperialist speech as some on twitter recognized (see here, here, here, and here), and which I chronicled in a set of tweets (see here, here, and here). However, in order to make it easier for the reader, sections of the speech are quoted below, and bolded for emphasis, so it is evident the imperialist bullcrap he is saying:

“…The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin…when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us…the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality. It’s up to us to help remake that system. And that means we have to set priorities. Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks…We just need to call them [ISIS] what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed…We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us…Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight…American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right… that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.”

Still, this isn’t the full picture.

A fuller picture of Iran’s situation

Iranian state media fills out a bit more of this picture. One article declares the US and EU ended economic warfare against Iran, noting that the Iran nuclear deal, officially called JCPOA, with the lifting of UN sanctions “related to Iran’s nuclear program.” This article also said that

“Iran never negotiated out of fear and never feared to negotiate…Iran has now joined the club of nuclear countries and the warmongers can do nothing about it…It is not necessary to wait for positive signals from media outlets to find out more about the world community’s position towards this latest development. The global economy is in turmoil and they need Iran’s lucrative market and trade…Despite the political theatre of “distrust,” Europe has equally come to terms with the fact that Iran has gone nuclear, which means the Congress’s anti-Iran rhetoric is superficial. Otherwise, Western companies and investors would have never come to Tehran to ink deals in business and trade…Iran has every right to master civilian nuclear technology and that many in the West are more than happy to distance themselves from the warmongers on the Capitol Hill and Israel…Iran knew the value of the cards in its hand and knew where it was going.”

This article connected to others which said that Iran is willing to work with the IAEA, that Iranian banks are reconnecting to SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), foreign assets will be unfrozen, and a conversation between Iran’s presient and the Afghan’s president. Other articles touted Iran as a place for Italian companies to thrive in a post-sanctions world and that an ex-German Chancellor is leading a business delegation to Iran. Most interesting of all was the Deputy Trade Promotion Organization Chief for Commercial Aids Mohammad-Reza Modudi telling a business conference that Iran is not only was one of the largest closed economies which hasn’t joined the WTO but that:

“We were hosting a huge wave of foreign economic delegations visiting Iran in the hope to establish economic ties with Iran. Over the past two years, though, the Iranophobia campaign was diminished to the verge of extinction. In export field, we need to work to set brands which has somehow developed inside Iran, but yet to develop abroad. The advancements achieved in the world are indebted to sound competitions, not supportive policies of the governments.”

To me, this indicates that people such as Modudi are fine with Western companies coming in to build and improve Iran but that they do not want those companies to be a mode of regime change. Hence, they don’t want another Operation Ajax or Western regime change program, likely led by the CIA, in Iran. However, there is something else here. Modudi wants Iran to develop its own brands to compete with Western brands in a capitalist marketplace. This is because Modudi, is what one could call a pro-Western moderate, like the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhini, who is about to visit Western Europe soon. These people are content that Iran is buying Airbus planes and opening itself more to Western investment. However, such pro-Western moderates clash with hardliners such as leading religious clerics and the Iranian military enshrined in the IRGC. A recent Christian Science Monitor article said that Iran’s course ahead “depends on the results of an internal struggle raging within the Iranian elite over whether the supreme leader…Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should continue to hold [his]…political powers and be respected as the instrument of God in secular matters.” The article, which clearly took the side of the pro-Western moderates, also argued that “this debate over clerical rule is also central to Iran’s economic recovery…The power of religion lies in its spiritual attraction to individuals, not its authority over the state.” Such hardliners are opposed to increased Western influence and investment in Iran, wanting to continue the domestic effects of the Islamic/Iranian Revolution of 1979 but seem to have made some level of peace with the Iran nuclear deal. That is because such hardliners while they take an arguably anti-imperialist stand, they are part of a country that is neither communist, socialist, or truly radical. Iran after 1979 became anti-imperialist, especially toward the US, which some would characterize as “anti-Western,” but also religiously conservative and not socially progressive like Cuba after 1959 or Venezuela after 1999.

The gap between the moderates and the hardliners is likely to be exploited, with an example being the US empire slapping more sanctions upon Iran which were linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program according to multiple sources (see here and here). The British news source and bourgeois media outlet, the BBC, declared that

“…the new sanctions prevent 11 entities and individuals linked to the missile programme from using the US banking system…They  [the sanctions] were triggered by Iran conducting a precision-guided ballistic missile test capable of delivering a nuclear warhead last October, [supposedly] violating a United Nations ban…[Obama] said differences with Iran remained, and the US would “remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilising behaviour elsewhere” – such as its missile tests.”

The article noted that Rouhani welcomed the nuclear deal along with “many governments, the UN and EU” but criticized by some US Republicans and Israel as allowing Iran to “spread terror.” The article noted the effects of these sanctions is huge:

“The economic sanctions being lifted now were imposed progressively by the US, EU and UN in response to Iran’s nuclear programme[.] The EU is lifting restrictions on trade, shipping and insurance in full[.] The US is suspending, not terminating, its nuclear-related sanctions…The UN is lifting sanctions related to defence and nuclear technology sales, as well as an asset freeze on key individuals and companies…Non-nuclear US economic sanctions remain in place…Nearly $100bn (£70bn) of Iranian assets are being unlocked…Share prices in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest stock market, fell more than 6% following the lifting of sanctions…Iran has always maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful, but opponents of the deal say it does not do enough to ensure the country cannot develop a nuclear bomb.”

The supposedly independent paper, which largely takes a pro-US military bent, since it operates within the military, Stars & Stripes, reprinted an AP article that claimed that “U.N. experts said in a report in December that the missile test in October violated sanctions banning Iran from launches capable of delivering nuclear weapons. A U.S. Treasury official [named Adam J. Szubin as noted in another article] says Iran’s ballistic missile program poses “a significant threat to regional and global security.”” Then there was an article in Telesur which noted the following

“The United States imposed new sanctions against companies and individuals connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program just hours after four U.S. citizens had left Iran after being freed from jail in a prisoner swap deal between the two countries…According to the U.S. Treasury Department, 11 companies and individuals were blacklisted for supplying Iran with material and funds for its ballistic program. The United Arab Emirates-based Mabrooka Trading, and its owner Hossein Pournaghshband, were placed on the U.S. blacklist for helping Iran produce carbon fiber for the missile program…Iran unveiled a secret missile program in October when it conducted its first ballistic missile test…Iran says a United Nations Security Council resolution, approved in July, would only ban missiles specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads so it would not affect its military program as Tehran does not pursue nuclear weapons…The new sanctions also came a day after the nuclear deal between Tehran and six world leaders went into effect Saturday, effectively lifting decades-long economic sanctions against Iran in return for Tehran’s commitment to a civilian nuclear program…the U.S. State Department also announced it had agreed to release $400 million and $1.3 billion in interest for Iranian funds that had been frozen by Washington since 1979.”

Still, likely the best article on this did not come from a tweet saying that Obama stayed harsh on Iran but an Iranian state media source. This article quoted Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, arguably as slamming the new sanctions slapped on Iran and saying that work would continue on “missile advancements”:

“Attempts to impose new sanctions under the pretext of irrelevant excuses show the United States’ continued hostile policies and hatred towards the Iranian nation and its useless attempts to weaken Iran’s defense power, which are not helpful to regional security, stability and tranquility. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile industries are fully home-made and reliant on knowledge, expertise and infrastructures of the defense industry, and imposing sanctions against people and companies don’t affect the trend of its development and strengthening”

The article also quoted a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry which declared that:

“As explicitly stated before, the Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to such propaganda and harassing measures with pursuing its legal missile program more seriously and enhancing its national defense and security capabilities. Iran’s missile program has not been designed for carrying nuclear weapons at all and therefore, it doesn’t violate any international rule”

These statements show that Iranian hardliners and likely Iranian moderates [1] as well are not happy about these new sanctions and will have none of it. Still, the Iranians were willing to make a prisoner swap, which Obama praised, which resulted in 28 Iranians having charges dropped or being released under this swap deal. It is possible that two of the Americans released were CIA agents since their pictures were NOT shown on national television. [2] Not surprisingly, Borzou Daragahi, a “correspondent” of the anti-Russian and pro-US joke of a media outlet, which classifies as part of the bourgeois media, BuzzFeed had a field day over this. Basically, Daragahi acted like Iran’s government was the bad, evil oppressor and that the Westerners were “innocent victims.” Yeah right.

Despite the new US sanctions other countries are opening their doors while some like Saudi Arabia (see here and here) are closing them. Such countries include Japan which is ready to lift its sanctions, in lieu of Iran dismantling a “large section of its nuclear program” and take advantage of the “new” opportunity of an “untapped” market:

“The government will swiftly lift Japan’s sanctions on Iran based on a new U.N. Security Council resolution, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said. The Japanese government “welcomes” Iran’s compliance with a final deal…Kishida said [that] “Japan will further strengthen the historically friendly relationship with Iran. Japan will actively cooperate for the steady implementation of the final agreement (on the nuclear issue).” To support the deal’s implementation, the government will send nuclear energy experts to Iran, officials said…Japanese sanctions on Iran include a halt in investment in the energy field. Japanese companies expect removing the punitive measures will boost economic relations with Iran, which is rich in oil, natural gas and other natural resources and has a market of 78 million people…After scrapping the sanctions, probably this week, the government will conclude a formal investment pact with Iran, to help Japanese firms expand into not only oil but other market segments expected to attract economic reconstruction demand, such as the auto, high-speed rail and aircraft sectors, sources said. The government was also to dispatch a team to Iran as early as Monday to explore business opportunities there, the sources said.”

Closing remarks

I could focus on a ridiculous poll posed by a writer for a tabloid, the New York Times‘s scare editorial, the status of the world’s nuclear materials, a rabid neocon complaining about Iran, or the bombing of a supposed “ISIS bank.” I could even enhance my criticism of Glenn Greenwald whose trolls swamped me after I criticized his self-congratulatory tweet. I will add here that Greenwald nastily replied to me by declaring “is publishing exposés on chemical giants & prison diaries from a victim of US Penal State a violation of Twitter-radicalism?” to which I criticized by saying The Intercept was not that adversarial, causing a back-and-forth conversation to ensue with some of his mindless supporters. [3]

But there is something more important. And I’m not talking about three supposed military contractors captured in Iraq, the effects of imperialism living on from unexploded bombs in Germany from WWII, cheap oil and the United States, or that half of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Instead I’m talking about the US empire, an empire that engaged in numerous bloody occupations over the years, and an empire that defines the modern meaning of imperialism in this day and age.

It seems that Iran has a choice: either it bows to increased Western pressure/influence, which assuredly would come in the form of Western imperialism, as pro-Western moderates want or it resists Western influence as the hardliners want. Some may say that this is a false dichotomy and that there are two other choices, that one could support a non-Western backed people’s revolution in Iran to change the class society and/or non-interventionism by Western states in Iran. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Iran will get integrated into the capitalist system more now that it has in the past. What happens next depends on this clash between differing Iranian elites, Western pressure, pressure from non-Western states, the people in Iran itself, and beyond.

Notes

[1] See the following tweets by Rouhini as proof of this:

[2] Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I think this could be the case. Some also slammed Fox News for this, but I think that’s letting CNN and MSNBC off the book (referring to this tweet)

[3] For these tweets, see conversation threads starting here and here.

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3 thoughts on “Imperialism besets Iran

  1. If this is a preview of what reports on this site will look like, it means a welcome end to “blogging” as breezy, daily micro-commentaries akin to someone muttering while watching television. In other words, great start. You’re setting a high standard for yourself and your readers.

    Like

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