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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 20June 16, 2003

(front page)
G-8 Summit backs U.S. campaign against Iran
Washington also pressures Tehran to dismantle Hezbollah
Thousands wave Hezbollah flags in Baalbek, Lebanon, May 25, marking third anniversary of Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon after 18 years of occupation.

Washington took new steps to ratchet up its threats and pressure against Iran. At the June 2-3 annual summit in Évian-les-Bains, France, of the “Group of 8,” U.S. president George Bush succeeded in getting unanimous agreement for a statement condemning Iran and north Korea for attempting to develop nuclear weapons, and threatening to use a variety of means to stop these governments from doing so. These measures include intrusive inspections of nuclear power plants and related facilities, economic sanctions, and if necessary down the road, military strikes against the nuclear plants.

Washington is also demanding that Tehran act as a cop against those the U.S. rulers target as "terrorists"—especially Hezbollah, a Lebanese group with ties to the Iranian government.

In face of this pressure, Iranian government officials have been largely in denial that they may face an attack by Washington. At the same time, they have jailed people who they say are members of the Al Qaeda group and have extradited a number of them, while continuing some of their anti-imperialist rhetoric.

Washington has maintained a hostile policy toward Iran since the 1979 revolution, when workers and farmers overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of the shah, bringing down one of the key pillars of imperialist domination in the region. While the government that replaced the shah is a capitalist regime, it has often remained at odds with U.S. imperialism and has not been able to roll back all the political and social gains that working people made through their struggles, nor has it crushed their aspirations and anti-imperialist sentiments.  
Concessions over ‘terrorist’ groups
When U.S. officials first accused Tehran of "harboring" members of Al Qaeda who supposedly organized several bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Iranian government denied knowing of any Al Qaeda forces inside Iran. A few days later, on May 26, Hamid Reza Asefi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said that several people had been detained but they included "no senior members of the group."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer responded by declaring that the arrests were "insufficient." On May 29, Asefi said that those who were arrested were being questioned and might include such "senior members."

Tehran has said from the beginning that it agrees with Washington's stated aim of "fighting terrorism." The government says it has extradited about 150 members of Al Qaeda, including to Saudi Arabia, since Sept. 11, 2001.

Asefi accused the U.S. government of not being "serious about fighting terrorism" because the U.S. occupation force in Iraq is not cracking down hard on the People’s Mujahadeen, an opposition group that has carried out an armed campaign against Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

More than the demands over Al Qaeda, a major target of the U.S. campaign against Tehran over "terrorism" is the Lebanese group Hezbollah. During his trip to Syria and Lebanon in early May, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell made a point of demanding a crackdown against this organization, which has carried out a 20-year struggle against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.

Soon after Powell's trip to the region, Iranian president Mohammed Khatami visited Lebanon, where he spoke at a rally alongside leaders of Hezbollah and pledged continued support to the group.

Continuing the propaganda drive against Iran and Hezbollah, a U.S. federal judge ruled May 30 that the Iranian government was culpable in the 1983 bombing by Hezbollah of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Judge Royce Lambreth proclaimed, "The court finds that it is beyond question that Hezbollah and its agents received massive material and technical support from the Iranian government." He ruled that Tehran should pay damages to the families of those killed in the attack.

Washington has also accused Tehran of interfering in the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq. "We have seen a rather steady increase in Iranian activity here, which is troubling," warned Paul Bremer, the U.S. proconsul of occupied Iraq. He compared this to the "formula which was used by Hezbollah in Lebanon."  
Threats around Iran’s nuclear program
The U.S. rulers' other central aim in its campaign against Iran is to destroy the possibility of Tehran developing nuclear weapons, including by military action if need be. There is no indication, however, that they are preparing an invasion of Iran, which they recognize would meet with more resistance than their assault on Iraq.

Instead, Washington is pushing to have the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declare Tehran to be in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty when it issues a report on Iran June 16.

The Iranian government has openly said it is building a nuclear power plant at Bushehr and uranium fuel facilities at Arak and Natanz, but insists they are for meeting the country’s rising energy needs, not for military purposes.

Following inspections of these facilities in February, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei called for the Iranian government to sign an "additional protocol" giving IAEA agents greater access to the country's nuclear facilities and territory, including with no prior notice. Such an agreement would also require providing "early notification" about the design of a facility.

On May 29 Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi stressed his government's cooperation with the IAEA, and said it would sign the additional protocol on condition of "lifting all the restrictions imposed on Iran's access to nuclear technology." Iranian officials have noted that the governments of the United States and many members of the European Union do not accept such inspections of their own facilities.

The Bush administration accuses the governments of China, Russia, and north Korea of assisting Tehran in acquiring nuclear weapons materials and ballistic missiles. In May the U.S. State Department issued a directive banning imports to the United States from North China Industries, a state-owned Chinese company that it claims has sold missile technology to Iran. Under pressure from Washington, Russian deputy foreign minister Georgy Mamedov said May 27 that there were "serious, unresolved questions in connection with Iran's nuclear research." The next day, however, Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow would continue its collaboration in completing the Bushehr power plant.

Despite the unmistakable character of Washington’s threats against Tehran, Iranian officials appear to be in a state of denial, downplaying the likelihood of a U.S. military assault. “Unlike Iraq under Saddam we are not a dictatorship, but a democracy,” said Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel released May 31. In response to statements by U.S. officials condemning the Iranian government for its support to Hezbollah, Kharrazi said, “All policy in the United States is designed to make us the scapegoat. But we will not do them that favor. We are determined to play a positive role.”  
Paris and Berlin back pressure on Iran
Unlike the invasion of Iraq, where U.S. and French imperialist interests openly clashed, the French government and other imperialist powers such as Germany have generally expressed support for cranking up pressure against Iran. A French foreign ministry spokesman, commenting in April on talks between Paris and Tehran on the nonproliferation treaty, said, "We insisted on strict observance of commitments and emphasized the importance of signing on to the enhanced IAEA safeguard agreements…. We support the idea of a nuclear-weapons-free area in the region."

The heads of state at the summit of the G-8—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia—signed onto a declaration denouncing alleged nuclear weapons programs in Iran and north Korea unanimously.

“We will not ignore the implications of Iran’s advanced nuclear program,” the G-8 statement said. “We stress the importance of Iran’s full compliance with its obligation under the nonproliferation treaty. We urge Iran to sign and implement an I.A.E.A Additional Protocol without delay or conditions. We offer our strongest support to comprehensive I.A.E.A. examination of this country’s nuclear program.”

Calling proliferation of such weapons, along with “the spread of international terrorism,” the “pre-eminent threat to international security,” the G-8 heads of state said they would use many means at their disposal against these so-called threats. In a reference to force, they said they could employ, “if necessary, other means in accordance with international law.”

The U.S. pressure has intensified divisions within the ruling class in Iran. In a speech to the majlis (parliament) May 28, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the top cleric in the Iranian government, denounced the imperial arrogance of the U.S. demands. "We have to do this and that so they will remove us from the axis of evil," he said, striking an anti-imperialist stance. "What kind of talk is this? Who do they think they are?"

At the same time, press reports in Tehran claimed that Mohsen Rezaei, an associate of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was probing the possibility to restore relations with Washington.
Related article:
U.S. Hands off Iran!

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