Interview with Hamid Taqvaee, leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran which aired on TV International English. Maryam Namazie: There is an escalating propaganda war between Iran and the USA reminiscent of the USA government’s propaganda campaign before the war on Iraq as a way of preparing public opinion for an attack. Hamid Taqvaee: Yes, it seems as if the US government is following in the same footsteps. But there is a big difference when you compare today’s conditions with conditions before the attack on Iraq and that is of course the experience of Iraq itself. We know that the US government is facing a quagmire in Iraq and does not know how to end it. Moreover, public opinion in the US and across the world is against any type of military attack on Iran and even the reinforcement of US troops in Iraq.
So there is a huge difference but on its own this does not mean that an attack is completely impossible. It is not. It is still possible as a last and desperate act of the Bush administration. The propaganda war is also a form of political pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran due to its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. As I have always said in the past, the main reason behind the ‘nuclear crisis’ is the Islamic regime’s interference in the region, which has been problematic for the USA. The US government wants the regime to abandon its influence and role in the region under this pressure.
Some will say that this is a role Iran has played for a while now. And there’s always been some sort of confrontation between the US and Iran. They will ask, then, why is it coming to a head at this point?
It is coming to a head because of what is taking place in Iraq. Before the US government’s attack on Iraq, the Islamic regime of Iran did not have the influence it sought; after Iraq, political Islam is on the rise. The very fact that a group like Hamas has managed to secure power in Palestine is a direct result of the situation in Iraq. As is the power of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the rise of many different Islamic groups in Iraq.
The current situation is very different from even a year ago. The US government is desperate in Iraq whilst the Islamic regime of Iran has secured influence it did not have several years ago. This is the reason why the Iraq Study Group has recommended dealing with Iran and Syria if the US government hopes to reach some form of solution in the Middle East.
Without a new balance of power in the region in favour of the US government vis-à-vis governments like the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria, the US won’t be able to find a solution acceptable to it for the Middle East. That is a real political fact. And the only way that the US can oppose Iran is by exerting pressure under the guise of a ‘nuclear crisis’. From their perspective, the ‘nuclear crisis’ is an advantageous way of promoting an aggressive policy towards the Islamic Republic.
So under the guise of a ‘nuclear crisis’ they are actually addressing the other crisis they have in the region, which is the rising power of different Islamic groups everywhere. They have to do something. And they know that one of the main sources of the Islamic movements in the region is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
So, in a sense, it sounds that given the situation in the US, it might actually be beneficial for the US government to attack Iran. And there are commentators that are saying it’s also beneficial for Ahmadinejad to have this confrontation given the fact that it would take away from the popular discontent against the Islamic regime of Iran.
The problem with the analyses that says both sides want war is that it does not take into consideration the power of people — a third camp that is neither with the US nor with the Islamic Republic – and is in fact against both of them. That force – especially in Iran and western countries — is a powerful player in the political scene. It plays a very important role.
Also, even if it might seem to be beneficial from the point of view of both governments, it will have adverse effects on both of them in the short and long term. It would not be a sound decision on the part of the US government to attack Iran. It might do so as a last resort and out of desperation but it will not solve anything for them. This is one factor. The other factor is that the people of Iran and the political situation in Iran are very different from the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iran, we have a huge secular movement against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their slogan is ‘Neither War nor Atomic Bomb’. They want neither. They are against both. That force is going to become more and more powerful.
Of course, in the short-term, in the event of an attack, the people of Iran will suffer immensely but in time the protest movement will become all the more powerful similar to those in Iraq. After the US attack on Iraq, groups opposed to the US became powerful and active. But of course they are all reactionary. In Iran we have an opposition force which is with the people, which is secular, which is civilized, and which is radical. And that force will gain power and become an ever more powerful factor in the political situation in Iran. So what they have to take into consideration is the presence of that movement in Iran which is against both of them; workers, youth and women in Iran are with that movement.
Some are saying that even though there was a mass movement against the attack on Iraq, it did not make any difference whatsoever. The attack went ahead despite the protests in the US and elsewhere. Will opposition to a war on Iran really make a difference?
As I have said, the situation is very different. At that time we did not have such widespread opposition to the war. I know we had an anti-war movement but still American public opinion was not so firmly against it and somehow the US government was able to use that to its advantage. Today, this is not possible anymore. The other issue is that you cannot compare things in this mechanical manner and say that because we had no success before, a protest movement cannot be successful at any time. That is not the way to reflect on the experiences of history.
For example, there was a huge movement against the Vietnam War and it was eventually successful in ending the Vietnam War. Also, even if a movement does not succeed, it does not make it worthless. It just means you have to do more, to organise more, mobilise more people with more radical demands on a greater scale against the war. So the very fact that we did not achieve our desired results three years ago does not at all mean that today will be more of the same.
Of course the US government, Bush, the present administration do not care about what the people are saying. But the entire ruling class, both parties in the US, have to come in terms with what to do in Iraq. Also, Russia and China have to come to some sort of agreement. And it does not seem that Russia, China and the other members of the Security Council will easily sign up to whatever the US says. They have not done so up to now and it seems very unlikely that they will do so now.
For any sort of attack, the US government will have to go it alone. This time, in the face of the opposition of even the Republicans, Congress, the Democrats, a part of the ruling class in the US itself. Three years ago when they attacked Iraq, most of those in Congress from both parties were in favour of the war. Today most of them are against the war. These are all political differences between the situation today and three years ago.
Is there also the possibility of an Israel-Iran proxy war, as we saw in Lebanon, with the US itself not getting directly involved but via Israel.
I do not think that they will do so because any form of Israeli direct action will mobilise all the Arab countries behind the Islamic Republic of Iran. That is obvious. Even the Arab countries that are traditionally US allies like Egypt, and Saudi Arabia will mobilise behind the regime if Israel attacks Iran. I think this is risky for them. It is political suicide for the Israeli government and US policies in the Middle East. I don’t see it as being very likely. I don’t think they are that desperate to do so.
A commentator in the Observer has stated that if there is an attack on Iran, the clash of civilizations that the neo-conservatives had predicted would come a step closer to dominating the 21st century.
The clash of civilizations theory is nonsense. There is no Islamic civilization. And if there was such a thing, how could the Islamic Republic of Iran be a representative of such a civilization, so to speak. It is not a clash of civilizations. This is an absurd post-modern theory. What is happening is that after the Cold War, the USA is striving to be the dominant power in the world and in the Middle East. And the US is confronted with Islamic forces that it created during the final years of the Cold War in Afghanistan, and in Iran itself by supporting Khomeini. Bush also does not represent any kind of civilization or Western so to speak civilization nor does the Islamic forces represent an Eastern civilization. That’s absurd and meaningless and it is unhelpful in real politics to discuss it in these terms.
There are reports of differences in the regime itself on how to deal with the USA.
Of course there are different factions within the Islamic regime and one of the main differences between the factions is their policy towards the US and the so to speak ‘nuclear crisis’. When Khatami was president, the approach was different but now the right-wing faction of the Islamic Republic is dominant and Ahmadinejad represents them. They are following the same line as the supreme leader Khamenei.
They are, however, faced with strong opposition inside the regime. Rafsanjani is one of those who is opposing the current policy. Of course they all want to continue with the nuclear project but they differ in the way it should done and on the region’s foreign policy and policy towards the US. Ahmadinejad has been unable to achieve any of the goals he set forth at the start of his presidency and has become weaker and weaker. And as a result, the opposition is getting more powerful. That’s the other aspect of the ‘nuclear crisis’ in Iran.
Rising prices, inflation, unemployment is worse than it ever was under Ahmadinejad. A Guardian reporter has said he may become known as the president who was brought down by the price of tomatoes.
It is obvious that with the economic sanctions, even in the restricted sense, prices will double and increase. This is already happening. It adds to the horrendous economic situation for people. On the other hand, the Islamic Republic can blame the situation on US policies and sanctions in order to excuse and defend its policies. Nonetheless, the people of Iran know this regime very well. Regionally, the Islamic regime may be a sort of hero for Islamic forces in Lebanon or in Palestine or even in Iraq, but in Iran, this is not the case.
In Iran most of the people, a huge majority of the people, are against this regime and despise it. And I do not think that any problem with the US will help the regime. So on the one hand you see heightened economic, political and social pressure on the people of Iran; on the other hand, it will, I believe, heighten, and radicalise opposition against the Islamic Republic.
The Stop the War Coalition has encouraged the political Islamic movement, to the extent that the Islamic regime of Iran’s flag is raised at anti-war demonstrations. When activists oppose the regime’s flag, they are accused of supporting US policies! This is an argument we have heard often from the pathetic grouping that considers itself left. What would you say to those who say that by opposing the Islamic regime you are promoting, helping and creating an environment which will make it easier for the US and Israel to attack Iran.
Actually I think one of the problems of the Iranian people and people everywhere is this so-called left. This type of political force thinks that when you are against the US, you must support any movement which is also against the US. We know that in today’s political situation, Islamic forces are against the US. So according to their childish logic, you must support the Islamic Republic or other Islamic forces just because you are against the US.
This logic that any group that is opposed to the US is progressive and must be supported means more than anything else that the so-called leftist groups have nothing to offer themselves. It means that they are irrelevant. They have to support somebody, anybody as they cannot call upon the public to support them. That is the problem. It firstly, reveals the weakness and irrelevance of these sort of leftist groups in real politics.
For us, for worker-communism of Iran, for our party, this is not the situation. We are calling for everybody to support us against both reactionary forces – the US’ militarism and the Islamic Republic. We don’t believe that if you are against one of them, you have to support the other. You can be against both of them. Because what matters is workers, women, people, secularism, civilization, what people really want, what is the right of people to have… That is all that matters.
And if you are representing humanity, if you are representing equality, if you are representing secularism, if you are representing freedom, then you have to be against both of them. We call on everybody to a third camp against both of these reactionary forces; we call on everybody to support the Left. The Left, if it is the real Left, if it is the real radical Left, does not have to support any other group or movement. Anybody who is for freedom, who is for equality, who is for welfare of the people, has to follow the Left and support the Left.
Maryam Namazie is the host of TV International English, is a Central Council Member of the Organisation of Women's Liberation and Director of the International Relations Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.