[Marxism] The Real Deal Behind Iran-U.S. Nuclear Deal

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 7 10:48:04 MST 2013

The Real Deal Behind Iran-U.S. Nuclear Deal
By Amir Samin

For years now we heard the siren warnings of imminent military attacks 
on Iran, and about the imperialist plans for regime change in Iran. Now 
that an interim nuclear deal has been reached, let's evaluate the 
truth-value of all those years' worth of warnings in light of the recent 
agreement between the Iranian government and the six world powers (U.S., 
U.K., China, France, Russia and Germany).

The agreement's terms dictate certain limitations over the 
nuclear-related operations currently conducted, and demand a halt on 
work on some facilities and usage of certain class of centrifuges. Terms 
of the agreement include, among other details, limiting the allowed 
enrichment levels (up to 5%), diluting or otherwise de-operationalizing 
stockpiles of 20% enriched uranium, halting work on a heavy water 
nuclear reactor currently being built in Arak, which would be capable of 
producing plutonium, and disconnecting centrifuges capable of enriching 
to more than 5%. In exchange, the world powers have (if implicitly) 
recognized Iran's right to enrichment activities (albeit to only 5%) 
which are guaranteed for signatory nations to the NPT (Nuclear 
Non-Proliferation Treaty); also, some sanctions will be suspended, 
including those on importation of medical equipments and auto and 
airplane parts, among other things, while maintaining the banking and 
oil embargo in place. As announced, and as everybody following this 
issue knows by now, this is an interim agreement to last six months, by 
end of which period a more permanent deal is to be worked out.

On the face of it, you can call the agreement a win for either side. In 
fact, a multitude of sides can claim they have something to show the 
home crowd based on this agreement. Even superficial anti-imperialists 
can (and do) point to it and say, "See? Like we told you, Americans are 
trying to contain Iran!"

Yes, of course! The imperialists always try to contain other powers, 
including regional powers; they even contain each other, you might have 
noticed: they are merely displaying characteristics dictated by their 
definition. To utter such things is to state the obvious; however, 
stating the obvious or pointing to surface characteristics does not 
provide a deeper understanding of what it is that the imperialists are 
trying to contain, nor does it give us any insight into how much actual 
power the U.S. can really wield, or what kind of containment (of Iran) 
can the U.S achieve in the greater Middle East region.

To stay on the face value of the nuclear agreement, however, is to miss 
the larger negotiations going on below the surface.

Before going any further, however, we must remind the reader that the 
real loser in this whole drama from the start up to this point and for 
the foreseeable future (unless they chose to take matters into their own 
hands) has been and will remain the Iranian people. Below the fanfare 
and bombast of the nuclear spectacle, there is another side that has 
never been at the negotiating table, and whose woes and stories of 
torture chambers visited on their social activists rotting in the 
Islamic Republic's dungeons have long been forgotten by most of their 
supposed western comrades; a good part of the western left has long 
forgotten that women's rights activists, student activists, unionists 
and just plain supporters of separation of mosque and state are kept in 
jail in Iran for the mere asking of being recognized, legally, as having 
basic rights; these unkind leftists have long kicked to the side any 
love or compassion for their fellow workers' activists and unionists in 
Iran sitting in jail just for organizing a tiny workshop. Yet in the 
historical long term, only this silenced party can determine what kinds 
of 'agreements' will be accepted between the imperialists and the local 
states. It must be reminded that the people in Iran have experienced the 
sanctions in terms of higher inflation and huge price rises, fewer 
medicines available, more plane crashes, more closures of their 
factories and workshops, higher unemployment rates, along with the 
flooding of their stores with cheap Chinese goods imported by the 
government; in short, they have seen more misery and poverty than they 
should have. Equally importantly, however, and on the political side, 
Iranian people have warily watched a very decisive deep-entrenchment and 
empowerment of a repressive regime ruling over them.

To get back to the issue at hand, the real question to be asked is: What 
is the actual deal being negotiated? To understand the subtext, which is 
the real larger context here, one needs to look at the real balance of 
forces in the greater Middle East.

To begin, let's put to rest once and for all the idea that the U.S. is 
going to strike Iran militarily. The military option, in my opinion, has 
never been a realistic option in any serious policy circle in the U.S. 
Some of the so-called loony right-wingers may incessantly espouse such 
madness just for keeping in shape, but at least for the realists who 
actually run the state, it has been officially not recommended for some 
time now.

And it is very easy to understand why. Let's look at the two countries 
in the region that the U.S. chose to attack. Afghanistan is one of the 
poorest countries on earth, and it was attacked after some thirty years 
of other wars the country had gone through. Attacking a country that has 
already been ravaged by about thirty years of civil wars and imperialist 
interventions is not really a 'show of strength'. It is the most 
cowardly act against a most vulnerable people. It stands as a point of 
shame, and is just cause for a call for massive reparations. But, a show 
of military might it is not. In any event, the U.S. has not been able to 
pacify even this highly impoverished nation, and some eventual 
'agreement' with the Taliban also is only a matter of time.

The other country the U.S. chose to attack was Iraq, a richer and more 
resourceful country, granted. However ... Likewise it was attacked 
through a land invasion only after a long decade of absolute embargo 
imposed on the country, coupled with actual constant bombardments and 
destruction of the country's military and civilian infrastructure, 
spreading diseases previously contained or eradicated, while maintaining 
the strictest of embargos on the country, all the way to measures 
designed to deny the Iraqi people the medicines they needed to fight the 
spread of diseases the Americans were causing, in the process causing 
the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and going so as far to 
even prosecuting American citizens who attempted to deliver medicines or 
school supplies to the Iraqi people.

By the time the Americans attacked on-land, enough Iraqi people were 
ready to be delivered from all that misery by any means necessary, and 
likewise to be delivered from the hellish stranglehold of Saddam 
Hussain's regime, enough so as to render his mostly conscripted army 
sufficiently demoralized to disband and take flight at the earliest 
possible opportunity. The Iraqi resistance to the occupation that 
followed later was a natural reaction that any society would launch 
after being invaded, but the initial toppling of the hated Saddam was in 
fact very welcome and popular, especially among the majority Shiite 

The case of Iran is entirely different. Iran is equipped with two sets 
of fully functional and ready-to-go armies, one set of which was created 
under the previous regime of the Shah Mohammad Reza, and was kept 
entirely intact by the new regime. The other set of armed forces, the 
Revolutionary Guards, with their own intelligence services and a huge 
stake in the Iranian economy, including the telecom and military 
industries, is the ideological military created after the revolution to 
specifically defend the newly created theocracy.

The Revolutionary Guards also include, as one of their sub-compartments, 
the Bassij forces, which alone are officially numbered at a couple of 
million at least. These are the volunteer or the plainclothes security 
forces that break up demonstrations, beat people up, and do the sort of 
paramilitary services required by the regime as a whole. Iran also has 
its own military industries, launches satellites, has a well-developed 
missile technology, and even produces military drones. Further, and in 
terms of the regional geo-strategic calculations, Iran has very strong 
influence, if you will, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and 
can probably pull some strings in some former Soviet states like 
Armenia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. You get the picture. Iran is a 
regional power. And as a regional power, Iran can cause the U.S. a hell 
of lot of pain in that very strategically important part of the world, 
if it is forced to do so. In short, Iran is no pushover.

There are limits to any nation's powers, and the U.S. did not receive 
some unbeknown to all, divine exemption from the laws of social 
organizations. In fact, a very pertinent case in point going on right 
now is the case of Syrian civil war. The U.S. policymakers have been 
carefully observing Assad's forces buttressed by Iranian and the 
Lebanese Hezbollah military forces, and they have been watching how 
parts of the Revolutionary Guards forces have been fighting in various 
battlefields in Syria, training the Syrian forces even, assisting in 
intelligence gathering operations, and the westerners are observing 
daily how the rebels funded by imperialists and their local allies have 
been losing ground, as the Syrian civil war has taken on the 
characteristics of a long war of attrition. If only a small portion of 
Iran's military capabilities is contributing enough of a share to 
sustain Assad in power, the combined forces of all of Iran-allied forces 
could cause serious and long lasting damage for the western powers.

So, the military option has been out.

The only other option left has been the economic sanctions. And they 
seem to have worked, in the sense that they reduced the maneuver space 
for Iranian regime. The imperialist powers know that the Iranian regime 
is a regime of a minority and therefore an illegitimate regime in the 
eyes of the majority. Just to leave no room for ambivalent conclusions, 
it must stated outright that in the opinion of this writer, imperialist 
powers always prefer and desire illegitimate regimes above all others. 
Truly democratic regimes must obey their people and look after the needs 
of their people (otherwise they would not stay in power), and as a 
result would not sell their national resources for cheap. It is only 
from illegitimate regimes that imperialist powers can extract the really 
good deals.

However, illegitimate regimes require a lot of cash flow since such 
regimes have a huge need to retain the services of large numbers of 
functionaries like unofficial spokespersons, media hacks, vast security 
forces, torturers, assassins, corrupt officials, cheap academics dying 
to attend any conference with a good spread and a luxury suite; they 
need lots of security personnel to keep an eye on other security 
personnel, informants, etc. For all those things, you need cash. So, if 
you want to make life difficult for such a regime, plug up the channels 
of cash flow they need to keep themselves in power, and soon they will 
have to relinquish their maximalist plans and come to the table to 
negotiate. That's what the Americans succeeded in doing.

This however indicates that the U.S. policy was never really aimed at a 
'regime change' in Iran. It has always been a policy of forcing a regime 
change of behavior. In any case, the U.S. simply does not have the 
capability to do so, even if it wanted to do so. A change of regime in 
Iran, by a foreign power, can only be brought about militarily, which is 
definitely out, as explained above. A good section of the Iranian 
socialists and Marxists however have observed for some time that the 
U.S. has never intended to do any such thing, in the first place. As one 
(among many others) evidence for this conclusion, they point to the U.S. 
and Iran's secret diplomacy of not just this past year, which 
negotiations were carefully hidden even from U.S.'s close allies. The 
more important historical factor is that such secret diplomatic 
meetings, let's not forget, go all the way back to the Reagan 
administration, and have been conducted under all American presidents 
for the past 34 years.

If however some still believe that the Americans are bent on regime 
change in Iran, they must be reminded of the confluence of interests 
that brought the two states together over two of the most strategically 
important projects of the U.S. imperialists in our region: Afghanistan 
and Iraq invasions. In both cases, Iran lent a helping hand since the 
Iranian regime had a shared interest in the outcomes that were achieved. 
In the case of Afghanistan, Iran's help is well documented and has been 
acknowledged openly and officially by various U.S. government 
representatives. In the case of Iraq, people may have to be reminded 
that the Iraqi Badr Brigades (Shiite military forces opposed to Saddam), 
who participated from the very initial stages in the land invasion, were 
housed, fed, and received extensive training in Iran for years. So, Iran 
had to directly coordinate the logistics of the invasion plans with the 
U.S. military. The fact that Iran now wields significant influence in 
the U.S.-installed government in Iraq is, I am sure, not a coincidence 
and should be no shock to anybody.  So, any talk of fundamental and 
total antagonism between the U.S. and other imperialist powers and the 
Iranian regime, or any pretence that the Iranian regime is 
anti-imperialist, must be taken as either ignorant pontification or 
deliberate deception.

The ongoing nuclear negotiations therefore are really about the terms of 
what kind of arrangement the U.S. and the Iranian regime can reach in 
terms of their relationship in the greater Middle East, the terms of 
which are yet to be explicitly spelled out. This is an implicit 
acceptance of the Iranian regime's role in the region by the U.S. This 
in turn is exactly why the negotiations' initial outcomes have so 
angered the Saudi and the Israeli governments alike. They are both 
regional powers in their own right, and any explicit enunciation of the 
terms of agreements between the U.S. and Iran by necessity would reduce 
Saudi and Israeli's relative strategic sway in the region. Naturally, 
they would benefit from endless conflict between the U.S. and Iran, for 
then they would get to influence to a greater extent the policies 
adopted by the U.S. in the region.

It would behoove superficial anti-imperialists, who have not paid enough 
attention to more pertinent essentials, to digest the fact that Iran has 
been receiving respectable rating from the International Monetary Fund. 
For example, after the Iranian government, led at the time by Mahmoud 
Ahmadinejad, implemented the eradication of price subsidies in 2011, the 
IMF issued a report praising the Iranian government's efforts at what 
they characterized positively as desired reforms that slashed energy and 
food subsidies. That is better criteria for gauging how well liked a 
government is by the official institutions of international finance, a 
truer embodiment of imperialism than most other institutions. 
International financiers therefore have known for some time that the 
Iranian regime is a game player well versed in the rules of the game, 
and they clearly seem to trust the Iranian government to impose 
crippling austerity standards on their working poor and the unemployed 
by eradicating subsidies, to create more unemployment by privatizing key 
sectors of the economy, and otherwise streamlining government help to 
the poor and the needy in order to maintain an acceptable level of 
poverty (acceptable for IMF, that is). That is the kind of regime that 
imperialists work hard to maintain in power, not change.

In short, everybody, you need not fret any more and can relax. There are 
no wars and regime changes anywhere on the horizon for Iran. Instead, 
western socialists and radical democrats, more importantly, can now 
perhaps restart paying more attention to the atrocious systemic crimes 
being committed against the working classes in Iran through the theft of 
their collective resources, as well as their most basic rights, by both 
the Iranian rulers and international capital.

Amir Samin is the pen name of an exiled Iranian socialist. He can be 
reached at: AmirSamin2u at gmail.com

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