Hands off Iran, freedom for the Kurds

- Philip Ferguson

from The Spark November 2007

On October 25, the Bush regime implemented new sanctions on Iran. The measures, the harshest imposed on Iran since 1979, affect 20 major Iranian companies and involve seizing assets held in the US and banning Americans from doing business with the companies, including three Iranian state-owned banks.

Washington is also trying to get its allies and flunkeys to implement measures against Iran. US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson stated, “We have been working closely and intensely with our international partners to prevent one of the world’s most dangerous regimes from developing the world’s most dangerous weapons. Part of that strategy involves denying supporters of Iran’s illicit conduct access to the international financial system. These actors should find no safe haven in the reputable world of finance and commerce.‘’

Leaving aside the question of since when the world of finance and commerce has ever been “reputable”, let’s look at the real problem of a dangerous regime having the world’s most dangerous weapons. The reality is that the most dangerous regime with such weapons is the United States – the only power to actually use nuclear weapons (atomic bombs) and use them on civilian populations. Since it developed these, along with many other terrible weapons, a major preoccupation of the United States has been maintaining its monopoly over them.

It is completely hypocritical for Washington, and its allies, to oppose Third World regimes developing nuclear power and the potential for nuclear weapons.

Moreover, Washington requires such a monopoly in order to impose its writ across the globe. Any country which stands up to the United States faces the danger of being attacked by the United States, with the threat of American nuclear weapons always in the background as a special menace.

Washington, however, faces serious problems in its threatening actions against Iran. For one thing, Iran is a much bigger fish than Iraq and the Iranian regime, while oppressive of workers, women and national minorities, does enjoy levels of support far greater than Saddam Hussein. Any US invasion would meet much stiffer resistance than it did in the invasion of Iraq.

Furthermore, Washington’s closest allies understand the quagmire that Iraq has turned into and are not enthusiastic about following the US into another disaster. In February Tony Blair, British prime minister at the time, declared that military action should not be taken against Iran.

The US is also stretched militarily and is unlikely to have the forces with which to mount an invasion of Iran. Lastly, much of the ruling class in the United States is not on board for what would likely turn out to be an even greater problem than Iraq. Back in February the British Sunday Times even reported, “Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.”

Meanwhile the United States has run into yet another problem as a result of its invasion and occupation of Iraq. This is the threatened invasion of Kurdish areas of Iraq by the Turkish regime. Turkey has been an important US ally for decades and Washington has helped the regime in Ankara throughout that time with its war on the Kurdish struggle for their own independent nation-state.

However, in order to break the Saddam Hussein regime (another former US ally), Washington began a new alliance with Kurdish forces in Iraq. Following the first Gulf War a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was formed in northern Iraq, under US protection. In May this year the KRG gained full military control over three northern provinces and general control over parts of other provinces, altogether making up an area in which most of Iraq’s five million Kurds live.

The process taking place in Kurdistan is quite contradictory. On the one hand in Iraq, the Kurdish government and major parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – are increasingly flunkeys of Washington; on the other hand, the autonomy of the Kurdish areas of Iraq has encouraged Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere to step up their struggles for independence.

In Turkey, the major Kurdish party is the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), an organisation with roots in Maoism. It has been able to use Kurdish areas in Iraq to assist its struggle for Kurdish freedom against the Turkish state which has waged a brutal decades-long war on the Kurds and attempted to turn them into Turks. Now the Turkish government is moving against the PKK within the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq.

Washington does not wish to break with its Turkish ally but also does not want to be seen to be denying Kurdish self-determination. Most likely, it will use its sway over the KRG to get the KRG itself to clamp down on the PKK and other groups fighting the Turkish state. In other words, the price the Americans will try to make the Iraqi Kurds pay for US-supported autonomy will be stabbing their fellow Kurds in Turkey in the back.

In the West, our demands should be clear and simple: opposition to all Western, imperialist interference in the region (Hands Off Iraq and Hands Off Iran!) and support for the right of the Kurdish people to have their own state, a basic democratic right that was denied them by the French, British and US carve-up of the Middle East after World War I. In New Zealand, we have a particular responsibility to oppose and expose our own rulers’ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the denial of the rights of the Kurds.

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