Since the 18-month season of bourgeois national elections in the United States has already started, it’s not surprising that an agreement negotiated between the Iranian government and the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — has become a big political issue.
The Obama administration says the agreement will keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years. In return, the Western imperialists say they will lift some — not all — of the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran since 2005. By preventing Iran from selling oil on the world market, among other strictures, they have hobbled its economy.
The agreement is being attacked by all the Republican would-be candidates as little short of “treason.”
Congress must vote by Sept. 17 on whether or not to approve the deal. Some Democrats have joined Republicans in saying they’ll oppose it. Furious lobbying is going on, including not only direct pressure on representatives and senators but large ads taken in newspapers and on television by both sides.
The latest example was a letter to Obama signed by 214 retired U.S. generals and admirals that also appeared as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Aug. 30. It called the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, “dangerous” and said that the deal “makes it likely that the war the Iranian regime has waged against us since 1979 [sic!] will continue, with far higher risks to our national security interests.”
Earlier, on Aug. 11, a group of three dozen retired generals and admirals had sent a letter to Obama arguing just the opposite. They said that “the Iran deal benefits U.S. national security.” The Washington Post pointed out: “Signers of the [pro-deal] military letter include retired general and flag officers from every branch of service. They include four-star Marine Gens. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Joseph P. Hoar, former head of the U.S. Central Command; and Gens. Merrill McPeak and Lloyd W. Newton of the Air Force.”
The Netanyahu government in Israel is violently opposed to the deal. To show that there was Jewish and even Zionist support for the agreement, however, the Post also pointed out that one of the signers, retired Navy Rear Adm. Harold L. Robinson, was a rabbi who describes himself as “a life-long Zionist.”
The Post added: “The letter from the retired military officers followed the release this past weekend of a letter to Obama by 29 of the nation’s leading scientists, who called the Iran deal ‘technically sound, stringent and innovative’ and said it would ‘provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.’”
False arguments distort history
There are so many false arguments being bandied about in this debate that a little history is necessary to understand what is really going on.
First of all, the U.S. and the other Western imperialists had no problems with Iran when it was ruled by the autocratic and brutal Shah Reza Pahlevi, who had got his job through a CIA-organized coup in 1953. The U.S. agent coordinating that coup was Kermit Roosevelt Jr., grandson of notorious imperialist Theodore Roosevelt. KR bragged about riding on a tank into Teheran in his book “Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran.”
The Iranian oil industry, which had belonged to the Iranian nation, was denationalized in 1955. Three years later, Kermit Roosevelt left the CIA to work for Gulf Oil, soon becoming a vice president of the company.
The Shah on his Peacock Throne was a conduit for Western imperialism to get rich off Iran’s major marketable resource, petroleum.
Almost as soon as the Shah was anointed by U.S. and British bankers and oil magnates, he announced in 1953 that Iran would launch a civilian nuclear program as part of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative.
The Western imperialists were all for it — indeed, they facilitated Iran’s nuclear program — until 1979, when the masses rose up in a heroic struggle and overthrew the Shah and his torturing secret police, the Savak.
That was when the imperialists began looking for ways to justify an economic war against Iran. By the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration was levying sanctions on Iran, ostensibly over its nuclear program. That was 20 years ago, and U.S. hostility has only grown worse since then.
If the issue driving the sanctions really were the possibility that at some time Iran’s peaceful energy program could lead to nuclear weapons, then why hasn’t Israel been sanctioned for its widely known but never admitted nuclear arsenal? It has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty; Iran has.
Now comes the possibility that, despite all the hullabaloo about “risks to national security,” the P5+1 agreement with Iran may become a reality — although it might be necessary for the president to veto a majority “no” vote in the House and/or Senate to get the agreement approved. Sixty-seven of the 100 senators would have to vote “no” to override Obama’s veto.
Instability drives Washington
There is speculation in the corporate media that Obama wants to push it through in order to cement his “legacy.” But reports show that the U.S. government — and an important part of the ruling class that relies on profits from abroad — has much bigger worries than that. In fact, they are trying to figure out how to shore up their position, especially in southwest Asia, where horrendous wars of U.S./NATO aggression have created crisis conditions for tens of millions of people — and totally disrupted the economic life on which big business fattens.
The current volatility in international financial markets is just one indication of how unstable the position of all the major capitalist countries has become.
Secretary of State John Kerry defended the agreement at a televised event on Aug. 12. Reuters news service reported: “If the United States walks away from the nuclear deal with Iran and demands that its allies comply with U.S. sanctions, a loss of confidence in U.S. leadership could threaten the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency, the top U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday. ‘If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell them, “You’re going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway,” that is a recipe, very quickly … for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world,’ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a Reuters Newsmaker event.”
It is highly unusual for a top government official to sound panicky about the U.S. economy, even when motivated by the need to defend some big initiative. But panic, it seems, is in the air, both on Wall Street and in the boardrooms of the major oil companies.
Their strategy to greatly expand U.S. oil production and make billions by fracking for oil and gas — a very expensive way to get energy — has totally boomeranged as world overproduction and stagnant or shrinking economies recently drove the price of crude below $40 a barrel. Oil from Saudi Arabia and Iran can still be profitable at that price — but not oil from Canada’s tar sands or much of the U.S.
This explains why there is support for the Iran deal from a powerful section of the military-industrial-banking complex. The Obama administration’s agenda is not more “liberal” than that of many Republicans — it’s just more tuned in to Wall Street and less encumbered by far-right rhetoric and ideology.