May 14, 2018
On May 8th, Trump announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal that Obama had signed in 2015. The news media made the whole story about Trump. Depending on who you listened to, he is either crazily threatening world peace, or he is a brilliant negotiator meeting a campaign promise. In fact, U.S. imperialism’s interests in maintaining control over the entire Middle East region is behind both the original deal and this pullout.
The whole question of Iranian nuclear weapons is an excuse, used to justify the twists and turns of U.S. policy. Relations with Iran touch some of the fundamental interests of U.S. imperialism – particularly, domination of the Middle East and its oil. But in its relations with Iran, the U.S. has multiple interests and faces contradictory pressures.
After WWII, Iran was a loyal ally of the U.S., until a powerful popular revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator in 1979. During the revolution, all the imperialist countries and their Iranian allies tried to find a way for the Ayatollah Khomeini and his mullahs to take the situation in hand. And the imperialist powers got their wish: after the revolution, a new dictatorship took control. But then imperialism had to deal with the new Islamic fundamentalist government.
Iran has huge oil and gas reserves, an interesting market for the capitalists of the whole world; and it is a country where, according to one French boss, “the workers are well-trained and they cost much less than in Eastern Europe.” But above all, the dictatorship of the mullahs seems like a pole of stability in a region ravaged by civil wars.
This is why Obama pushed to reintegrate Iran into the imperialist camp, which led to the 2015 deal. Iran accepted control of its nuclear installations, guaranteed that it would not try to make nuclear bombs, and promised to promote peace – the peace of the graveyard – throughout the region. In exchange, the U.S. lifted the embargo on trade and investment in Iran.
But the U.S. has other allies seeking to play the role of regional policeman. Israel and Saudi Arabia, for different reasons, tried to block Iran from coming back on the scene. Obama attempted to play both sides, but for now, Trump has sided with Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran.
Because the U.S. has no major commercial relations with Iran, it can effectively block all commerce in dollars with this country. In this way, the most powerful imperialist country, the United States, can make the capitalists of the small countries pay a big price if they have the nerve to go against its orders. For instance, the U.S. embargo could cost the big French bank BNP eight billion dollars.
Behind Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s spy-novel declarations, French president Macron’s diplomatic bows, and Trump’s noxious tweets, hide the interests of the big powers and U.S. imperialism’s will to perpetuate its domination of this whole region.