US President Trump would not certify the Iran nuclear deal against the backdrop of domestic political crisis and accelerating rivalry in the Middle East
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 16.10.2017, www.thecommunists.net
In a militaristic speech on 13 October, US President Donald Trump announced his refusal to certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to Congress. This deal which basically led to the end of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Teheran not building a nuclear bomb, was signed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama as well as by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.
The US President threatened to terminate the deal if Congress and US allies fail to amend the agreement in significant ways. (1) He claimed that Iran was not living up to the spirit of the accord, despite the UN nuclear watchdog repeatedly confirming that the country was complying with its obligations. His decision does not immediately pull the US out of the deal but pushes action to the Republican-controlled US Congress. Legislators now have a non-binding 60-day period to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran which were lifted under the pact.
The President said he wanted Congress to toughen US policy towards Iran, but added that if "we are not able to reach a solution ... then the agreement will be terminated". (2)
Condemnation by many and support by very few
Trump’s decision was nearly unanimously denounced not only by domestic opponents but also by the main imperialist rivals of the US – Russia, China and the European Union. It also met criticism from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as well as Yukiya Amano, chief of the UN atomic watchdog. (3)
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that Trump’s move could lead to nuclear armament of Iran which “Israel would not tolerate” and “then we will be back where we were 10, 12 years ago with the danger of war relatively close to Europe”. (4) Berlin tries now to create an alliance against Trump’s policy on Iran. (5)
The White House’s decision also united the different factions of Iran’s ruling class in unanimously condemning the US President’s militaristic turn. (6) In the longer run, it is however likely that Trump’s move will weaken the position of the so-called “moderate” President Rouhani and strengthen the so-called “hardliners” around former President Ahmadinejad and the “Revolutionary Guards”. (7)
Trump’s new threats against Iran have met with approval only by arch-reactionary regimes in the region – Israel and Saudi Arabia. (8) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the move and repeated his long-time sermon: “We cannot allow this rogue regime 30 times the size of North Korea’s economy to have a nuclear arsenal.” (9) Israel Katz, the country’s intelligence minister, said to Israel’s Channel 2 TV, when asked whether he saw a risk of war after Trump’s speech: “Absolutely, yes. I think that the speech was very significant. (...) Iran is the new North Korea. We see where things are goings.” (10)
While it is not clear at the moment what the US Congress will decide in the coming 60 days, it is obvious that this move will accelerate regional and global tensions. It will not only lead to a deterioration of relations between Iran and the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It will also worsen the tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing. Likewise it will also become a major issue between the US and the EU.
Domestic political crisis and decline of global hegemony
The background for Trump’s foreign-policy shift has to be located in the domestic crisis of US politics as well as in the continuing decline of Washington’s global hegemony.
The fragility of the Trump Administration has not been minimized, despite numerous personal changes in recent months like the resignation of the alt-right ideologist Steve Bannon and the ascent of the various ex-Generals (like Mattis, McMaster and Kelly) into the inner circle of the President. At this point, we can not dwell into a closer analysis of the present state of the political situation of the US. (11) However, it is sufficient to state that the Trump Administration remains a, highly fragile and divided, government with the support of only a minority faction of the ruling class as well as a segment of the most reactionary sectors of the middle class while being increasingly hated and despised by the majority of the bourgeoisie as well as the popular classes. In fact, the signs are increasing that a significant sector of the US ruling class is considering measures to force Trump into (voluntary or involuntary) early resignation.
To this, one needs to add the continuation of Washington’s decline of its hegemonic role in global politics and the parallel rise of new imperialist powers – China as well as Russia. The new global relations of power have become visible in the course of various regional crises like Syria, Korea, the Chinese Sea and the Ukraine. (12)
Warmongering as a way for Trump’s political survival
In this situation, the Trump Administration sees only one way out: the rapid escalation of an utter chauvinist and militarist agenda – domestically (against migrants and “terrorist threats”) as well as globally. Such a policy, which the Italians called “strategia della tensione” (“strategy of tensions”) is designed to deflect public attention from the fragility, inner division and outright ignorance of the most incompetent government the country ever had in modern history. This is why Trump is, and can only be, an addicted warmonger.
Trump’ policy, motivated by a desperate desire for political survival, meets the strategic necessity for US imperialism to resist its decline as a global hegemonic power. Iran is a well-chosen subject for such an aggressive imperialist policy. It plays an important role in the Syrian civil war as a key ally of Assad and its main backer Russia. Likewise, it is a crucial country for the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, the strategic economic international project of Chinese imperialism.
Trump can hope to hit the US’s imperialist rivals by attacking Iran. Furthermore, beating the war drums against Teheran meets wholeheartedly approval of Teheran’s regional arch-enemies – Israel and Saudi Arabia – which are also amongst Washington’s most loyal allies. These countries will support every move of Washington which promises to weaken the Persian rival.
The result is an insane US foreign policy, often formulated in bizarre accusations, which threatens other countries like North Korea, Iran or Venezuela with military intervention and even “annihilation”. (13)
As a side note, we remark that such rivalry does not stop regional and imperialist powers to make business deals and to cooperate on geopolitical issues. For example the US imperialists support the reactionary Astana deal to end the Syrian Revolution despite the fact that it is run under the patronage of its Russian rival. (14) Likewise, the Israeli government has looked for closer collaboration with Moscow in recent years. And Saudi King Salman recently visited Putin in order to expand their business deals in the oil sector as well as to jointly advance the counterrevolutionary political order in the Middle East, i.e. the complete liquidation of the Arab Revolution. (15)
In short, the regional and global powers are inevitable enmeshed in conflicts and rivalry but they have also a joint interest in smashing all democratic and social uprising of the workers and oppressed.
What is the position of the communists?
To avoid any misunderstanding: our denunciation of Trump’s aggressive foreign policy against Iran (or any other country) is not motivated by any political sympathy with the regime in Teheran. Quite the opposite, the RCIT has always sharply opposed this reactionary capitalist regime and called for its overthrow by a revolutionary uprising of the working class and the oppressed in Iran. (16) We did, and continue to do so, engage in solidarity campaigns with the Syrian Revolution for which the Iranian regime is one of the key enemies. Likewise, we support the national liberation struggle of the Arab minority in Iran which faces appalling persecution by the regime. (17)
But neither do we forget that if the Teheran regime is a disgusting criminal which deserves no mercy by the working class and the oppressed, Washington represents the god-father which is chiefly responsible for the imperialist world order which makes the workers and oppressed around the world suffer for so long.
Hence, as communists we will continue to support the Syrian Revolution as well as the struggle of the workers and oppressed people in Iran against the Teheran regime. But against US imperialism and Israel, the RCIT will also continue to defend Iran, even when it is led by such criminals like Rouhani and Khamenei.
(1) See on this e.g. Steve Holland, Yara Bayoumy: Trump strikes blow at Iran nuclear deal in major U.S. policy shift, Reuters, October 13, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-usa/trump-strikes-blow-at-iran-nuclear-deal-in-major-u-s-policy-shift-idUSKBN1CI24I; The Guardian: Trump threatens to rip up Iran nuclear deal unless US and allies fix 'serious flaws', 13 October 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/13/trump-iran-nuclear-deal-congress
(2) Al-Jazeera: Iran nuclear deal: Donald Trump 'decertifies' 2015 pact, 2017-10-14, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/iran-nuclear-deal-donald-trump-decertifies-2015-pact-171012101055479.html
(3) See e.g. Al-Jazeera: World leaders react to Donald Trump's speech on Iran, 2017-10-14, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/world-leaders-react-donald-trump-speech-iran-171013183124584.html
(4) Reuters: Danger of war, Germany warns after Trump's move on Iran nuclear deal, October 14, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-germany/danger-of-war-germany-warns-after-trumps-move-on-iran-nuclear-deal-idUSKBN1CJ0A9
(5) See e.g. German-Foreign-Policy.COM: Die Anti-Trump-Allianz, 16.10.2017, http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/de/fulltext/59696
(6) Parisa Hafezi: Iranians fear economic hardship, but united against Trump, Reuters, October 14, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-iranians/iranians-fear-economic-hardship-but-united-against-trump-idUSKBN1CJ0FN
(7) See e.g. Parisa Hafezi: Trump hostility set to deepen Iran power struggles, Reuters, October 15, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-politics-analysis/trump-hostility-set-to-deepen-iran-power-struggles-idUSKBN1CK0RQ
(8) See e.g. the joyful article of Salman Al-dossary, the former editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat: Blowing up the Nuclear Agreement, 2017-10-15, https://english.aawsat.com/salman-aldossary/opinion/blowing-nuclear-agreement
(9) Richard Cowan, David Morgan: U.S. officials try to ease concerns Trump may quit Iran deal, Reuters, October 15, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-usa/u-s-officials-try-to-ease-concerns-trump-may-quit-iran-deal-idUSKBN1CK0KX
(10) Reuters: Israeli minister says Trump speech may start war with Iran, October 13, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-israel-katz/israeli-minister-says-trump-speech-may-start-war-with-iran-idUSKBN1CI2J1
(11) See on this various documents of the RCIT which we list at the end of this article.
(12) See on this e.g. RCIT: World Perspectives 2017: The Struggle against the Reactionary Offensive in the Era of Trumpism, 18 December 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2017/
(13) See on this e.g. the following statements of the RCIT: Afghanistan: Drive the US Occupants Out! US President Trump escalates the imperialist crusade against the Afghan people! Support the resistance against the occupiers and their stooges! 23.08.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/us-occupants-out-of-afghanistan/; North Korea: Stop the American Warmongers! Defend North Korea against the Madman of US Imperialism! Down with the imperialist sanctions against North Korea! No political support for the Stalinist Kim Regime! 11 August 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/stop-us-madman-threatening-north-korea/; US Sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea are an Economic Declaration of War. Down with the sanctions! Defend Iran and North Korea against any Imperialist Aggression! Oppose U.S. as well as Russian Imperialism, 30 July 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/us-sanctions-vs-russia-iran-north-korea/; Syria: No to Trump's Missiles Strike! Drive all Great Powers out of Syria! Victory to the Syrian Revolution! 7 April 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/us-air-strike-in-syria/; North Korea: Stop the War Mongering of US Imperialism! Down with the imperialist sanctions against North Korea! No political support for the Stalinist Kim Regime! 4 April 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/us-aggression-vs-north-korea/
(14) On the RCIT’s analysis of the Astana deal and the latest developments of the Syrian Revolution see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Syria: A Very Instructive Episode. Counterrevolutionary ISIS/Daesh collaborates with Assad’s Army (as well as Erdoğan and Putin) in Attacking the Syrian Liberation Fighters in Idlib, 10.10.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/a-very-instructive-episode-in-syria/; Michael Pröbsting: Syrian Revolution: The Moment of Truth is Approaching! Rally to defend the Syrian Revolution against the Imperialist conspiracy called the "Astana Deal"! 20.09.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-moment-of-truth-approaching/; RCIT: Syria: Defend Idlib against the Great Powers! Down with the reactionary Astana Deal! Defend the Revolution against the butcher Assad, against Russian and US Imperialism and the local Allies! Victory to the Struggle of the Workers and Oppressed! 04.08.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/defend-idlib-against-great-powers/; Michael Pröbsting: Syria: The Astana-Deal Struggle Intensifies. Some Notes on Recent Developments in the Syrian Civil War and the Dangers for the Liberation Struggle, 28 July 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syrian-revolution-28-7-2017/; RCIT: Syria: Condemn the Reactionary Astana Deal! The so-called "De-Escalation Zones" are a First Step towards the Partition of Syria and a Conspiracy by the Great Powers to Defeat the Revolution, 7 May 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/astana-deal/
(15) See on this e.g. Al Jazeera: Saudi king, Putin agree deals on historic Russia trip. Russia and Saudi Arabia announce large investment agreements and joint ventures to further cement relations, 2017-10-06, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/saudi-king-putin-sign-deals-historic-russia-trip-171005102100641.html; Bryan MacDonald: Saudi King Salman’s Moscow visit could create new Middle East dynamic, Russia Today, October 6, 2017, https://www.rt.com/op-edge/405777-saudi-king-salman-moscow-putin/; Stephen Kalin, Andrew Osborn: Saudi king heads to Russia, with oil, investment and Syria on agenda, Reuters, October 3, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-russia-diplomacy/saudi-king-heads-to-russia-with-oil-investment-and-syria-on-agenda-idUSKCN1C82AC; Mansur Mirovalev: Saudi's king in Moscow: An unexpected rapprochement. Old foes Saudi and Russia disagree on Syria, but a historic visit by the Gulf monarch may reset relations, Al Jazeera, 2017-10-04, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/171002112456811.html;
(16) See on this the numerous documents which the RCIT has published on the Syrian Revolution and which can be read at https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/.
(17) See on this e.g. RCIT Representatives Attend International Symposium for the Ahvaz People. Freedom, Equality and Peace for Ahvaz! Report (with Pictures and Video) from the RKO BEFREIUNG (Austrian Section of the RCIT), 13th February 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/ahvaz-conference/
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For our analysis of the Trump Administration and the crisis of US imperialism we refer readers to various documents:
RCIT: World Perspectives 2017: The Struggle against the Reactionary Offensive in the Era of Trumpism. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, 18 December 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2017/
Michael Pröbsting: The Meaning, Consequences and Lessons of Trump‘s Victory. On the Lessons of the US Presidential Election Outcome and the Perspectives for the Domestic and International Class Struggle, 24.November 2016, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/meaning-of-trump/
RCIT: On the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of World War I: The Struggle against Imperialism and War. The Marxist Understanding of Modern Imperialism and the Revolutionary Program in Light of the Increasing Rivalry between the Great Powers, Revolutionary Uprisings, and Counterrevolutionary Setbacks, 25.6.2014, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/struggle-vs-imperialism-war/
See also our past statements on Iran:
RCIT: US Sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea are an Economic Declaration of War. Down with the sanctions! Defend Iran and North Korea against any Imperialist Aggression! Oppose U.S. as well as Russian Imperialism, 30 July 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/us-sanctions-vs-russia-iran-north-korea/
RCIT: For the Iranian Revolution! Down with the capitalist Mullah dictatorship! Down with Imperialism! For a working class revolution in Iran! February 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/iran-platform/
Yossi Schwartz: Nuclear Agreement Signed: Will Iran Become the Policeman of Imperialism in the Region? 23.7.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/us-iran-nuclear-deal/
RKOB: Defend Iran against the U.S., EU and Israel warmongers! 9.11.2011, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/iran-no-war/
On the acceleration of the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers, you can find numerous documents here:
Our latest assessment of the Great Powers rivalry can be read viewed in:
RCIT: World Perspectives 2017: The Struggle against the Reactionary Offensive in the Era of Trumpism, 18 December 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2017/