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Forum on Iran calls for no U.S. intervention

‘Let Iranians solve their own problems’

Published Aug 5, 2009 4:17 PM

Even a country that possesses arms as powerful as those of the United States cannot conquer through military might alone.

That is the lesson of this period of seemingly endless U.S. imperialist invasions and occupations that began with the assault on Korea in 1950 and continues to the present.

WW photos: LeiLani Dowell

The desire for self-determination of peoples who have known the horrors and humiliation of colonial and imperial domination and have decided to resist, whatever the cost, can and has worn down the invaders. It has eroded the political grip of the war hawks over the people in the imperialist countries and around the world. That happened in Korea and Vietnam. It is happening today in the Middle East.

The strategists in Washington who ponder world domination know this. They know that they must win at least a modicum of support at home to pursue military adventures abroad. If their effort to do this is too crude—as in the lies spun by the Bush/Cheney administration to justify its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan—it can backfire and eventually lead to their ouster.

Manijeh Sabeh

For some time the spin masters for war have been directing a well-orchestrated campaign of demonization against Iran, which is literally surrounded by U.S. military bases and warships. It reached a crescendo when Iran recently held its national elections.

At a forum held in the Solidarity Center here on Aug. 1, Iranians as well as U.S. speakers examined the complexity of the political situation in that country and took a strong stand against imperialist intervention of any kind. They urged others in the U.S. progressive movement to take a good look at who is behind the current campaign to invalidate the recent elections in Iran and bring about regime change there.

Sara Flounders, a co-chair of Stop War on Iran and the International Action Center, set the tone for the discussion in her opening remarks.

Sara Flounders

She reminded the audience that “We are confronted with enormous propaganda. When the media 24/7 grabs an issue; when the Congress without any discussion or debate unanimously votes to allocate tens of millions of dollars to intervene directly into Iranian affairs, as it did again just last week; when Vice President Biden assures three times on a national interview that Israel has a sovereign right to bomb Iran; and when there is a whole new round of threats, sanctions and deadlines on Iran, then we need to take time to remind activists of the ugly role of past U.S. interventions. ...”

“There are issues that arise in the political movement that become a dividing line, a watershed for years to come. It is important to note that imperialism has been able to capture mass movements in the past, even workers’ movements with genuine grievances, to use as a battering ram against a government that imperialism is working overtime to subvert and destabilize. We have seen this against struggling socialist countries and against anti-imperialist and nationalist governments in developing countries.”

Who the ‘reformers’ are

Ardeshir Ommani

Ardeshir Ommani, a co-founder of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee, shed light on the political forces inside Iran who are accusing the current government of Prime Minister Ahmadinejad of being undemocratic:

“A former president of Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s wealthiest men, who is publicly known as ‘The Shark’ regarding financial transactions that led to his family’s massive accumulation of wealth during his presidency, led Friday prayer at Tehran University about a month and a half ago. In his sermon, Rafsanjani put stress on the ‘impending crisis’ which in his opinion has engulfed the country. ...

“As a reaction to this criticism, the pro-Ahmadinejad and Khamenei forces in attendance began chanting, ‘Down with the USA.’ Suddenly, as a clear expression of their class position, the pro-Rafsanjani forces began yelling out, ‘Down with China’ and ‘Down with Russia.’ ...

“In the White House, Zbigniew Brzezinski has been advising President Obama about the essentiality of breaking up Beijing-Moscow-Tehran relations. As we know, China, Russia and Iran, along with many countries of Africa and Latin America, strongly advocate that the current unipolar world order has to be replaced by a multipolar arrangement which would enhance the role of other nations, especially a multitude of smaller countries, in the running of world affairs. Furthermore, these three countries have seriously enacted the policy of replacing the U.S. dollar, as a sole world reserve currency, with a new basket of currencies that would reduce the arbitrary pressure of the United States on the currencies of other countries.”

Ommani added that the reformists seek to transfer a major part of the Iranian economy from public to private control and also to “remove the encumbrances in the way of U.S. Big Oil from reaching the Iranian oil reserves in the Caspian Sea.”

Phil Wilayto, who wrote the book “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey Through the Islamic Republic,” pointed out that few of the people in the U.S. who are being swept up in the anti-Iran campaign ask about the view of the workers, who have been Ahmadinejad’s main political base.

“You may have heard about the poll by the ‘Terror-Free Tomorrow’ group three weeks before the election in Iran,” said Wilayto. “It was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, so this was not a leftist poll. And it predicted that Ahmadinejad would win two thirds of the vote, based on the support that he had in the country.” Ahmadinejad did win the election, but the opposition has accused the government of rigging it.

Wilayto cited a World Bank report showing that poverty had been drastically reduced in Iran, along with a narrowing of the income gap, showing why the current regime is popular with the masses. Oil revenues, which used to be siphoned off by U.S. and British imperialism, have also allowed Iran to provide health and education to the vast majority, including in rural areas, he said.

Manijeh Sabeh, an Iranian human rights and women’s rights activist, said that the situation in Iran “is very difficult for me, I tend not to see things in black and white.” She added, however, that “No matter where we come from, there should never be any support for the U.S. or any outside forces intervening in any country. There should be no sanctions.

“I am for a secular government and the Iranian government has a lot of problems. It is very repressive—I cannot close my eyes to that. Despite all this, Iran is a very progressive society and has always been and women have been at the forefront of the Iranian movement.” Sabeh emphasized that “The Iranian people are capable of taking care of their own issues and they don’t need outsiders to tell them what is right and what is wrong.”

Dustin Langley, a Navy veteran and organizer with the Stop War on Iran Campaign, reviewed the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. government has spent on manipulating public opinion here and in Iran in an effort to bring down the government. Much of this money has been funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy.

“The protests in Iran,” he said, “no doubt have many sincere participants with legitimate grievances and concerns. But these protests are not spontaneous and the organizations behind them have received millions of dollars from the NED, from George Soros and from other sources in the United States.

“In the U.S.,” said Langley, “a group calling itself United4Iran came out of nowhere and the next day had protests in 105 cities with offices, phone numbers, fax machines, emails and staff. It makes me wonder where the money comes from.”

The final scheduled speaker was John Catalinotto, a managing editor of Workers World newspaper who reminded the audience of U.S. imperialism’s long history of interventions, especially its recent offensive to seize energy resources. “It is entirely consistent with their past misdeeds,” concluded Catalinotto, “that the corporate media and all imperialist politicians—at least in North America and Europe—have targeted the Iranian government over the elections and have praised the opposition demonstrations. They have exaggerated the support for the opposition, have exaggerated the state repression, and have given enormous publicity to the Iranian events compared, for example, to their treatment of the Honduran military coup.

“Whatever the motive of the protesters themselves in Tehran, the imperialists’ motive is to eliminate Iranian sovereignty and reverse the 1979 revolution.”

In the discussion period that followed, quite a few Iranians took the floor to elaborate on the main points that had been raised. They praised the International Action Center for informing the anti-imperialist left on this question and expressed hope that broader sectors of the progressive movement can be won over to support self-determination for Iran. The speeches can be seen and heard at youtube.com/user/PeoplesVideo.