Iran, flashpoint for world war?
Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 12:22PM

U.S. President Donald Trump has restored sanctions against Iran while sending four B-52 bombers and an aircraft carrier strike force to intimidate the Iranian capitalist bosses. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil traffic (Reuters, 4/26) and to attack U.S. assets in Iraq or Syria. As imperialists large and small threaten military strikes in the heart of the oil-rich Middle East, an increasingly volatile situation brings global war ever closer.
Workers have no interest in these bosses’ conflicts. We must organize for a communist revolution now to be ready to turn an inevitable inter-imperialist world war into class war for workers’ power. Then we can build an anti-racist, anti-sexist world where the working class runs all aspects of society.
Iran is contending for power in the Middle East. They are a regional imperialist competing mainly with U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian and Israeli imperialists. Now Trump has eliminated the sanction waivers that allowed eight countries, including China, to continue buying Iranian oil. The goal is to shut down Iranian oil sales, increasing the suffering of the working class to the point that the ruling Iranian regime will be destabilized. The Iranian bosses have responded by beginning to pull back from the 2015 nuclear deal that limited their ability to pursue the production of nuclear weapons.
Main-wing imperialist strategy
The nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S., and five other countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was a major achievement of the Barack Obama administration. It was part of the imperialist strategy of the dominant, finance capital wing of the U.S. ruling class, which is straining to sustain its declining empire.
The main-wing strategy will eventually lead to fighting a world war—but not yet! The 2015 nuclear agreement allowed these Wall Street imperialists to work with their European allies in NATO against not only Iran, but also their Chinese and Russian imperialist rivals. It gave them time to try to mobilize the U.S. working class to fight in the next world war. Last but not least, the main-wing U.S. bosses need time to discipline their own class to prepare for war.
Trump: an erratic tool of domestic capitalists
Trump has thrown a wrench into the main wing’s plans. While unstable and impetuous, he has mostly done the bidding of the subordinate faction of the U.S. ruling class, the domestically oriented U. S. capitalists. Trump’s plan is to devastate the Iranian economy and cripple the Iranian rulers. His unilateral sanctions have unsettled the United States’ longstanding European allies, who were already nervous after Trump’s repeated atttacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other multinational institutions. Both National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump “are dismissive of the international architecture of treaties and alliances, which was largely constructed by the United States following World War II” (New Yorker, 5/6). If war breaks out with Iran, European Union support for the U.S. will be lukewarm at best.
For the workers of Iran, as for workers throughout the world, the future under capitalism holds only more suffering. Join us in the Progressive Labor Party in the long battle to organize workers and students everywhere to fight against our true enemy: the blood-sucking capitalist bosses!
China and Russia
Imperialist powers eventually resolve their rivalries through war. We can see this today from Yemen and Syria to Ukraine and Afghanistan. Under current world conditions, rivalry among the world’s three main imperialist powers are the primary driving force of events. Iran, which has built significant ties with Russian and Chinese imperialists,  could be the flashpoint for a much bigger war, even a world war.
In Syria, Iranian militias have been fighting side by side with Russian military forces to defend the ruthless dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Russians have gained a major regional foothold in Syria, with significant troops, military equipment, and military bases. How far will they go to protect their investment and support their Iranian ally against U.S. pressure?
Iran also has a significant presence in Iraq, where its militias are an extension of Iran’s military (New York Times, 5/8). Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is about to sign a $53 billion oil deal jointly with ExxonMobil and PetroChina (Reuters, 5/7). China, the main buyer of Iranian oil, has skirted U.S. sanctions by making its purchases outside the U.S. dollar-dominated financial system. It may be no coincidence that negotiations between the U. S. and China over tariffs and trade policy have broken down.
Both China and Russia have attacked the increased U. S. sanctions. On May 8, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, met in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said: “The U.S. is to blame for the situation and it makes it difficult for both Iran to fulfill its obligations and ... for the general state of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.” Speaking for the Chinese foreign ministry, Geng Shuang said that China “resolutely opposes” the U. S. sanctions (Aljazeera, 5/8).
European Union must choose sides
The intensified U.S. sanctions to contain Iran puts added pressure on the European Union (EU), the junior partners in the U.S.-controlled, post-World War II liberal world order. U.S. dominance was already declining before Trump’s election, and now the EU is a shaky ally at best. They are trying to set their imperial ambitions independently of the U.S., which is not to the liking of the U.S. finance capitalists.
How long can the U.S. keep the EU in line as the U.S. declines as a world power? What will the EU do to prevent being bullied by the likes of Trump? The EU “cannot accept that the U.S. decided the regions with which the European companies can or cannot do business,” declared Belgian Prime Minster Charles Michel (Foreign Affairs, 10/10/2018).
The U.S. still runs the show today because the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency for global trade. But the EU has plans to establish a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a financial institution that is “technically not a bank” but will process payments between Iran and its international trading partners, thereby sidestepping the U.S. financial system.
In the calculations of any and all of these imperialists, the lives of working class people count for very little. When the bosses talk about protecting their “interests,” they mean protecting their profits, not workers’ lives. The working class has no stake in these bosses’ conflicts. Join PLP and fight for communism!

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (
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