Two deeply related issues that are of concern to anti-imperialists have been stirring U.S. capitalist politics.
The first is the speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu given to a joint session of Congress and his subsequent victory in the Israeli elections.
The second is the nuclear talks involving, on one side, the U.S., its imperialist partners plus Russia and China and, on the other, the Iranian government.
Along with the nuclear talks, another development that has drawn the attention of anti-imperialists around the world is Iran’s recent intervention, along with the leader of the Iranian Quds forces and Iranian-allied militias, in the struggle inside Iraq against ISIS.
The controversy in the ruling class is generated by fear, on the part of the camp of the right wing and conservatives, that the Obama administration has used the nuclear talks to engineer a rapprochement with Tehran. On the other hand, it is obvious that the Obama administration and the active U.S. military high command are desperate to find some points of support to keep their military strategic situation from completely unravelling in the region, from Afghanistan to North Africa.
Hypocritical U.S. uproar over Netanyahu
The uproar caused by the rift between the Obama administration and the settler regime in Tel Aviv was inflamed by Netanyahu’s desperate campaign speech pledging never to recognize a Palestinian state. He also tried to start a racist stampede to the polls by warning of Arabs heading “in droves” to vote.
The uproar in U.S. ruling circles belongs with one of the famous lines from the movie “Casablanca” where the police captain, while closing down a gambling house, says, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Even as he utters this ironic line, an employee of the gambling establishment hands the captain his winnings.
Despite the fraudulent cry of outrage from the U.S. political establishment, Netanyahu’s racist, chauvinist remarks are hardly a surprise. He is the head of the Likud party, a party whose program clearly states:
“a. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.
“b. Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.
“c. The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River.
“d. The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.” (Informed Comment, Aug. 4)
The Zionist ruling class of Israel always aimed to establish complete sovereignty over the West Bank, Gaza and all the land up to Jordan — even before it expelled the Palestinians from their homeland by force and violence, including the use of unspeakable terrorism.
The U.S. ruling class has always known this, but has never exposed it. The U.S. has carried on “negotiations” between the Israelis and the Palestinians with full knowledge that the Zionist leadership was pledged never to yield any genuine sovereignty to a Palestinian state.
Now Washington is stuck with a “partner” that openly acknowledges the fraudulent nature of any negotiationfor a sovereign Palestinian state involving Israel. Netanyahu has blown their cover.
What has been offered to the Palestinians in the past by Tel Aviv and its U.S. brokers has been something resembling an apartheid-like bantustan, crisscrossed by Israeli-only highways, Israeli checkpoints and Israeli domination of the air space and the economy. This has been the version of a “Palestinian state” that they have put on the table — and that has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
The Zionist leadership would never agree to any genuinely sovereign Palestinian state, for the simple reason that it would become a beacon for the material, political and social support of the entire Palestinian diaspora, for the entire progressive, anti-Zionist Arab population and would eventually challenge the very existence of the Zionist state.
Washington’s political rift with the Netanyahu leadership, however, should not be mistaken for any military/strategic divergence. Washington and the Pentagon have reiterated during this entire political crisis that the $3 billion a year in military hardware and strategic coordination of intelligence, spy satellites, etc., will continue without a hitch. Israel is, and always has been, tied by an umbilical cord to U.S. and Western imperialism. It is the only reliable military ally in the oil-rich and geostrategically vital Gulf region. Tel Aviv has proven this time and again.
ISIS brings havoc to Washington’s position
Now, in light of the advance of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, and in light of the nuclear talks with Iran, a sharp divergence in political strategic interests has emerged between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration.
But a deep difference also exists between the Obama administration and significant sections of the U.S. ruling class. The Washington Post, Henry Kissinger, Gen. David Petraeus (retired and disgraced) and many other pundits are baiting the Obama administration for supposedly catering to Iran. They point to the fact that the Iranian Republican Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Saleimani, is helping direct the struggle in Iraq to oust ISIS from Tikrit.
John McCain, Lindsey Graham and other militarists are denouncing this as collaboration between Washington and Tehran. They say that it is part of an Obama administration ploy to improve Iran’s position in Iraq in order to facilitate the nuclear negotiations, and that it could be a prelude to a realignment in the region.
From the vantage point of the anti-imperialist movement in the U.S., it is not possible to grasp the diplomatic and political implications of the Iranian military intervention in Iraq. Only time and events will reveal its full significance. But for now there is an alternative interpretation of events.
First of all, ISIS is a mortal enemy of the Shiite religion and of Iran. Second, Iranian forces are operating in alliance with Baghdad in order to diminish U.S. imperialist influence and to strengthen Iranian influence in the country. And third, Iran is operating as an independent country, and its forces are taking advantage of the desperately weak position of the U.S. military on the ground in Iraq. (Of course, it would be highly detrimental if the Iranian forces lent themselves to anti-Sunni reprisals of any sort and did not reach out to the Sunnis in the struggle against ISIS.)
No one knows at this point what the results of the nuclear negotiations will be. But it is clear that, so far, both sides have made compromises. The Obama administration is being attacked, not just for compromises in the military sphere, but for not insisting that Iran stop its support for its allies in the resistance front — Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. This is labelled as not requiring an end to “support for terrorism.”
The administration is also being criticized for not guaranteeing the rights of the reactionary, pro-Western, bourgeois moderates inside Iran, as it did during the so-called Green uprising of 2011. This is labelled as lack of support for “human rights.”
The right wing has no answer for the crisis on the ground. Even the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, said that the Iranian intervention could be “a good thing” if it does not lead to sectarian strife. Dempsey, of course, cannot afford the luxury of attacking Iranian intervention when this intervention may be what stands between victory and defeat for forces backed by the U.S. and Baghdad. McCain and Graham can criticize from the sidelines, but they are not in command, nor have they said what should be done at the moment on the battlefield.
The Obama administration is between a rock and a hard place. It has pledged to destroy ISIS. But it knows the U.S. cannot send in massive U.S. troops, while the other Arab governments are sitting on their hands.
Washington’s crisis goes beyond Iraq
The crisis of Washington goes beyond Iraq. The head of the CIA, John Brennan, in a foreign policy briefing recently cautioned against an early overthrow of the Assad government in Syria because if Assad were to fall, “ISIS would march to Damascus.” (Mideast Eye, March 14)
Of course, the Pentagon plunged into Syria with its proxy forces, but they were defeated by Syrian military forces. Now ISIS has taken large parts of Syria. This is not to mention that Washington and the West, after bombing and destroying much of the region, have lost control in Libya, Yemen, parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and are generally on the defensive.
U.S. imperialism and its allies have created a widespread social foundation for the growth of ISIS and related organizations. This was as much as admitted by none other than Obama himself.
In an interview with Vice News, Obama said: “Two things: One is, ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al Qaida in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. … Which is an example of unintended consequences.” (RT, March 17)
Of course, Obama was telling the truth in order to blame George Bush. He neglected to mention that 12 Muslim countries have been bombed by the U.S. in the last two decades, including the ruthless drone campaign conducted by his own administration.
The bombings plus the hopelessness, poverty and complete bankruptcy of all the bourgeois and feudal regimes in the region, in addition to endless imperialist aggression, have created a worldwide basis for ISIS, which is growing in scope.
In this context, the struggle over the nuclear negotiations is more than a struggle over centrifuges and inspections, although those core issues are vital. The broader issue is that Washington would like to pull Iran further toward the imperialist West, while the right wing thinks it cannot be done.
Hopefully, the maneuvers of the Obama administration as well as the war plans of the right wing will be frustrated. The best outcome would be if Iran could fully retain its anti-imperialist independence and still get out from under the onerous sanctions imposed by Washington and its imperialist allies, while retaining its peaceful nuclear program.