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UN nuclear agency aids U.S. anti-Iran campaign
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 22June 30, 2003

lead article
UN nuclear agency aids
U.S. anti-Iran campaign
Washington tries to use student
protests in drive to oust regime
Iranian students rally at Amir Kabir University in Tehran June 16. Demonstrations began a week ago in opposition to proposals by government officials to privatize some schools. Washington has tried to use protests to push for “regime change” in Iran.

United Nations officials, faithfully serving the interests of Washington and the other imperialist powers, have begun a weeklong meeting on Iran’s nuclear program by demanding the right to organize more inspections of the Natanz nuclear power plant, still under construction 200 miles south of Tehran. “I call on Iran to permit us to take environmental samples at the particular location where allegations about enrichment activities exist,” said Mohamed ElBaradei.

As the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN agency, ElBaradei made this statement at the opening of the group’s board of governors meeting in Vienna June 16. ElBaradei said that Iran should sign an Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that would grant IAEA “inspectors” wider access and the right to carry out more intrusive, short-notice inspections. U.S. officials have wielded a fuller report by the agency, released June 16, as a propaganda club against the Iranian government. Washington’s IAEA representative Kenneth Brill described the document as “a very serious and sobering report and we have to deal with it.”

U.S. president George Bush has also tried to rhetorically co-opt protests against Tehran, declaring support for student-led demonstrations that have come under attack by police and vigilante forces.

These developments are marked by the aggressive probes and threats of the U.S. rulers, whose military forces now flank Iran on both its Afghani and Iraqi borders, and the fearful response of the Iranian regime, which is bending over backwards to emphasize its willingness to cooperate. Washington is seeking to reverse the gains of the 1979 Iranian revolution.

U.S. officials have named Iran and north Korea as targets of a new campaign to intercept ships and planes alleged to be carrying proscribed armaments and technology.

Under an agreement now being put together, the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the workers state of Poland, will work together to interdict ships and planes claimed to be carrying such cargo. Washington is pressing Beijing, Moscow, and Seoul to join the pact.

According to the June 15 New York Times, the aim is "a coalition of nations that would allow ships to be boarded and aircraft to be forced down the moment they slipped into any cooperative country's waters or airspace."

In a move that immediately undermined this show of unity among the imperialist powers, 1,300 French cops stormed the Paris offices of the People’s Mujahedeen, a political and military organization that is sworn to the overthrow of the Iranian government. The cops arrested 165 people and confiscated $1.3 million in U.S. currency in the June 17 raid.

Although Washington has confiscated the heavy arms of the Mujahedeen’s Iraq-based units, it has long fostered the group as an ally in its drive against Iran.

Tehran has maintained that its atomic program is designed to help supply the country’s electricity needs. The Iranian government has also signaled that it will allow further inspections of its nuclear facilities, and is prepared to make other concessions to Washington’s demands. The latter include the call by both the U.S. and Israeli governments for Tehran to cut all aid to fighters in Hezbollah in south Lebanon and Hamas or other Palestinian groups in occupied Palestine.

On June 15 Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s nuclear program, said that his government had failed to report importing from China a small quantity of uranium 12 years ago. He urged the IAEA to publish its report widely, saying that it did not back up U.S. charges that Iran had violated international protocols. The document contains “no mention of the word ‘violation,’” Aghazadeh said. “The report only mentions ‘failure,’ which is still a legal debate between us. And these are normal differences.”

Other Iranian government officials called on Washington to reenter state-to-state negotiations, recently suspended by the U.S. government.

Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani adopted that line in remarks on June 16. “If Americans are smart,” he said, “they should negotiate with those who can work with them to put an end to mischief and calm the region. You cannot do this with boisterous threats. But unfortunately the White House has chosen this road, which is fatal to it and is causing us trouble.”

Rafsanjani implied that the U.S. government was behind the current student-led actions. Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, who carries the title of “supreme leader,” has also accused Washington of orchestrating the unrest, pointing in particular to the role of California-based pro-monarchy TV channels, broadcasting in Farsi, that have called for increased participation.  
Bush tries to co-opt protests
Four days after the protests broke out, President Bush declared that they represented “the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran.” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer opposed the crackdown by Tehran, professing “great concern [at] the use of violence against Iranian students peacefully expressing their political views.”

Richard Perle, an adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said June 16, “Young Iranians will find better uses for their limited resources than building nuclear power in a country so rich in oil. We can already see signs that Iranians…would like to see regime change. They should be encouraged.” Iran’s foreign ministry protested the “blatant interference” of U.S. government officials in the country’s internal affairs.

“This is a student movement, not an American movement,” chanted some 500 students outside their dormitories in Tehran in answer to charges that they were tools of Washington, according to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA). Reporters for the U.S. big-business media also noted that most of protesting students were angered by Bush’s meddling, and that only a small minority had expressed support for U.S. intervention. “We want no shah, we want no supreme leader,” went another chant.

The politically diverse actions began June 10 after word got out that the government was considering privatization of at least some education services. Many students acted to defend the improvements in the schooling system that were a gain of the 1979 revolution. Following the shah’s overthrow, the government constructed schools and libraries in many villages, and substantially expanded access to tertiary level education.

More than once the regime has been forced to retreat from this kind of frontal attack on jealously guarded conquests of popular struggle. While the revolutionary momentum of 1979 no longer exists, working people, including women and the oppressed nationalities, still engage the rulers in a periodic tug-of-war as they try to take away hard-won gains.

Following the first couple of days of protests, government officials hurried to assure working people that the proposal would not be enforced. The section of the government usually dubbed conservative also used the issue in their factional disputes with the administration of President Mohammed Khatami. Demonstrations denouncing the privatization proposal were organized out of weekly prayer meetings in Tehran June 13.  
Demonstrations pick up momentum
In spite of the official disavowal of the privatization proposal, the protests picked up momentum, expressing broader opposition to the clericalist, reactionary stamp of the Islamic Republic and frustration with the self-styled “reformers” led by Khatami. The Iranian president has issued no statement during the recent events.

According to an ISNA report, Habibi, the secretary of the Islamic Students Association at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, told a June 16 campus rally that the “reform” movement associated with Khatami has failed, and that “our society now needs a new dialogue.” The rally demanded the release of all political prisoners.

Meanwhile, middle-class opposition forces that orient to Washington have tried to increase their political foothold during the protests.

Organizers have said they will continue mobilizing until early July, when they will mark the anniversary of massive 1999 protests that were met with brutal force by extralegal vigilantes and police. At that time pro-regime goons broke into student dormitories in Tehran, beating students indiscriminately and setting their rooms on fire.

Each year, students have honored the memory of Ezzat Ibrahim-Nejad, a conscript soldier and protester who was murdered while visiting a friend at his dormitory, and have continued to demand that his killers be brought to justice.

The protests four years ago drew support from wide layers of working people. This year’s actions have so far remained relatively narrow.

As in 1999 the students have faced attacks from both the police and knife-, club-, and gun-wielding vigilantes. At the height of the protests the government was forced to take unprecedented action in reigning in the activities of the vigilantes, arresting some and issuing arrest warrants for their leaders. By the fifth night of demonstrations the actions of the repressive forces had helped limit the size of the protests. Police began cracking down harder, singling out leaders of the protests for arrests and also detaining some members of the bourgeois opposition.

Ma’mud Shirvani contributed to this article.

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