The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Endless U.S. Imperial War against Iran

Apr 22, 2024

For the U.S. superpower, the bloody Israeli war in Gaza was always tied to a much bigger war, a war aimed against the Iranian regime. This is why the U.S. government supported the Israeli military bombing of the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, killing 16 people, including seven senior Iranian military officials, among whom was a very high ranking general.

This brazen attack threatened to explode into a wider, regional war. The Biden administration appeared to be mildly critical of the Israeli government, saying it wanted to avoid such a war. But in reality, the Israeli government never could have carried off the original attack, nor could the Israeli military have successfully countered Iran’s launching of hundreds of cruise missiles, drones and ballistic missiles, without the deep involvement of the U.S. military at every level.

In fact, the April 1 Israeli attack on Iran was simply an extension of long-term U.S. policy, which has targeted the Iranian regime ever since a massive uprising in 1979 overthrew the Shah of Iran, who headed one of the most important U.S. client states in the Middle East.

U.S. Gains Domination of Iran

Iran, a big, oil-rich country strategically located in the heart of the Middle East, had been a prize of imperial plunder and domination for more than a century. First, the Russian Czar and British Empire competed for control. By 1921, the British empire gained sole control and propped up a king, called a “Shah,” who ruled over Iran and gave the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, a forerunner of British Petroleum, a sweetheart deal that allowed the British capitalist class to reap the lions’ share of the profits, squeezing out everyone else.

This British monopoly control was challenged in 1951, when Muhammad Mossadegh, a large landowner who was appointed prime minister, nationalized the British oil company in the interests of the Iranian capitalist class. But the British government virulently opposed this. Two years later, the British Secret Service, along with the U.S. CIA, overthrew the Mossadegh government and re-installed the rule of the Shah. But the U.S. soon took over control of Iran from the much weaker British Empire.

Over the next two decades, the U.S. government strengthened the Shah’s dictatorship over the country. The CIA was instrumental in building up the SAVAK, the much-hated secret police, which tortured and murdered those who opposed the Shah’s regime. At the same time, the U.S. helped to build up the Iranian military, turning it into one of the main pillars of U.S. domination in the Middle East, along with Israel.

A U.S. Strongman Is Overthrown

But in 1979 a vast revolution, which included huge workers strikes, as well as fights by the middle classes, overthrew the government and forced the Shah to flee. There were opposition groups of all kinds, from leftist guerrilla groups and other student radicals, along with the Tudeh (the Iranian Communist Party). But when the mullahs, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, the extreme-right wing religious fundamentalists, made a play for power, none of the leftist groups opposed them, not to speak of standing for the independent power of the working class. Without a revolutionary organization based in the working class, this left workers and ordinary people open to attack.

Once in power, the mullahs strangled the revolutionary momentum of the Iranian masses, thus serving the interests of all the dictators in the Middle East and their U.S. godfather. But to the U.S., what counted was that the mullahs had come to power at the head of a movement that overthrew the Shah of Iran who was one of the strongest pillars of the domination of the United States in the region. On top of that, the mullahs chose to support radical Iranian students who took over the American embassy and turned its 52 U.S. civilian and military personnel into hostages.

That made the mullahs the U.S. enemy. There was no way the U.S. was going to accept this. Because if the U.S. did, it would set a precedent that said it was permissible to overthrow U.S. supported strongmen and thumb their nose at the all-mighty U.S. super-power.

The U.S. Sets Out to Crush and Bleed Iran

So, the U.S. set out to destroy the rule of the mullahs. The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Iran and imposed a trade embargo. It then encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Iran. Obviously, Hussein had his own reasons for doing it: he wanted to become the new regional strongman. But in effect, the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–88 completed the work of drowning the revolution in a bloodbath.

But the Reagan administration played a double game, which the mullahs were all too ready to accept. While supplying Hussein with most of the military aid, the U.S. also secretly supplied Iran with weapons, including thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as spare parts for Iran’s fleet of American-made F-4, F-5 and F-14 warplanes, left over from the time of the Shah. This is what came out in 1986 during the Iran–Contra scandal. In reality, U.S. imperialism tried to weaken both sides. There were one million dead and both countries were left in ashes.

Collaboration and Confrontation

The U.S. has had a complicated relationship with Iran ever since. When the U.S. wasn’t trying to overthrow or crush the mullahs, it sought Iranian collaboration when their interests intersected. In 1990–91, for example, barely two years after the Iran–Iraq war ended, U.S. imperialism attacked Iraq in the first Gulf War. While the Iranian regime denounced the U.S. war, the Iranian rulers were also perfectly happy to see their old nemesis, Saddam Hussein, defeated and weakened, and they cooperated with the U.S. behind the scenes. But that didn’t stop the U.S. from imposing a suffocating trade embargo on Iran, despite the protests of big U.S. oil companies, who desperately wanted to profit from Iran’s vast oil and gas reserves.

In the period that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, U.S. and Iranian interests converged once again, and the mullahs demonstrated to the U.S. government how responsible a partner they could be. The mullahs worked closely with the U.S. imperialists, first in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and again in Iraq after the U.S. invaded and overthrew Saddam Hussein. Finally, when ISIS suddenly gained domination over Syria and Iraq in 2014–17, the United States chose to give a free hand to Iran and its military allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to fight against the jihadist organization—up to a certain point.

Iran was a valuable ally, especially since it was one of the few Middle East dictatorships that appeared to be relatively stable, not being torn apart. As a reward, the U.S. signed a nuclear agreement with Iran, which was viewed as a first step toward ending the trade embargo and ending the unofficial state of war that existed between the U.S. and Iran. But once ISIS was significantly weakened, U.S. leaders sought to prevent Iran from taking advantage of its victories to expand its influence in the region. And the U.S. once again imposed increasingly severe economic and political pressures. Trump’s election became the pretext for the change in policy that “the deep state” initiated. That policy has continued under Biden, with only a few small changes.

What the Israeli attack against the Iranian Embassy in Damascus proves is that the Israeli war in Gaza and the West Bank is not limited to the Palestinians. In the end, the U.S. is using it to reimpose its imperial domination over the entire Middle East, and that includes using Israel as a U.S. proxy to help the U.S. to batter, strangle and suffocate Iran.