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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 72/No. 27      July 7, 2008


'Militant' July publishing schedule
The Militant will publish just three issues in the month of July due to our summer schedule. Issue number 29 will print on Monday, July 7, and be mailed out on Tuesday, July 8. We will not publish the next week. Publication will resume with issue number 30, which will be mailed out on Thursday, July 24.

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(lead article)
Tel Aviv escalates
threats against Iran
Washington, EU increase sanctions
Israeli air force carried out military exercise in early June in rehearsal of bombing attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Above: Israeli air force H64 Apache helicopter.

WASHINGTON—The Israeli air force carried out a long-range military exercise the first week in June that was demonstrably a rehearsal for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In another step to ratchet up pressure on Iran, the U.S. Coast Guard, in mid June, began searching all ships that have docked at an Iranian port within five port calls of coming to the United States. The U.S. Senate Finance Committee approved a bill June 18 to strengthen U.S. sanctions against Iran.

On June 23 the European Union (EU) imposed new sanctions on 15 individuals in Iran and 20 Iranian companies it claimed were linked to nuclear and missile programs.

Washington and its imperialist allies charge that under cover of its nuclear energy program Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charge and rejected demands that it stop enriching uranium, which can be used to fuel nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons.  
100 Israeli jets
More than 100 Israeli fighter jets participated in the exercise carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece. It included helicopters and refueling tankers that flew more than 900 miles, about the same distance from Israel to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in Iran.

Shaul Mofaz, a deputy prime minister, said in an interview published the day after the exercise ended, “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack.”

Iran has taken steps to beef up its air defenses by acquiring advanced radar systems from Russia to detect low-flying aircraft and is close to acquiring Russian SA-20 surface-to-air missiles.

In September 2007 Israeli jets bombed what Tel Aviv said was a nuclear weapons facility in Syria. In 1981 Israeli jets destroyed a nuclear reactor in Iraq.  
U.S. sanctions
The June 18 bill approved by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee would tighten sanctions on goods to and from Iran. It bars the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, and nuts. The Clinton administration lifted a ban on these items in 2000 in hopes of obtaining an opening with then Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

While squeezing Iran tighter with sanctions, Washington and the EU are looking for ways to convince the majority in Iranian ruling circles to end uranium enrichment in exchange for trade and other economic gains.

On June 14 Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, traveled to Tehran with a package of incentives. The proposed deal was backed by the governments of Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia, and China.

The proposal offers Iran support for building a light water reactor, “legally binding” guarantees for nuclear fuel supplies, support for research and development of nuclear energy, and help in managing radioactive fuel waste if it halts uranium enrichment. The deal calls for steps to normalize Iran’s world trade relations including moves toward integrating Tehran into “international structures, including the World Trade Organization,” and the possible removal of restrictions on sales of aircraft to Iran.  
Rifts in Iranian bourgeoisie
The package is designed to appeal to growing layers in the Iranian capitalist class who are concerned that they are losing out because of sanctions that restrict their trade on the world market. This was reflected in the different responses in Tehran to the deal presented by Solana.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the efforts of the United States and its allies to bully Iran had failed, adding “in our view Iran’s nuclear case is closed.”

The same day, however, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference that Iran is ready to discuss the new package of incentives.

A few days before Solana’s arrival, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s religious leader and the most powerful political figure in the country, stated that “The Iranian nation is not seeking nuclear weapons.”

“You know the Iranian nation is in principle and on religious grounds against the nuclear weapon,” Khamenei said. “Nuclear weapons only incur high costs and have no use. They do not bring power to a nation.”

Khamenei has sided with some of Ahmadinejad’s opponents in the government in the recent period. In January Ali Larijani, formerly Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, met with Egyptian president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak in Cairo as Khamenei’s representative. Iran cut diplomatic ties with Egypt when Cairo signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed Shah of Iran.

Ahmadinejad had appointed Larijani chief nuclear negotiator with the EU and the United States in 2005. Larijani resigned the position in 2007 amid increasing disagreements with statements made by the Iranian president.

In this year’s elections Larijani won a seat in parliament representing the city of Qum. He recently defeated Gholamali Haddad-Adel for speaker of the parliament. Haddad-Adel was backed by Ahmadinejad.

Larijani has sharply criticized the president, elected in large part by promises to redistribute Iran’s oil wealth to working people, for the worsening economic crisis the country faces.

Inflation has risen from 12 percent in October 2006 to 19 percent in January 2008, according to the Iranian Central Bank. Unemployment is estimated at 30 percent. Prices for fruits and vegetables have tripled while housing costs have doubled.

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