Escalating conflict with Iran could spur disastrous war

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With 10 days of naval exercises by Iran having just been completed, including the testing of long-range ballistic missiles, the naval commander for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, has announced further activities next month. Fadavi has said that the drill in February will be "different compared to previous exercises held by the IRGC".  

The exercises, coupled with the warning that Iran could close the strait of Hormuz, the narrowest point in the Persian Gulf, through which a fifth of the world's traded oil passes, has now encouraged the United States and Israel to announce that they are to carry out extensive joint maneuvers in the region. The U.S. and UK have said they will act to keep the shipping lanes open. Philip Hammond, the British defense secretary, said during a visit to Washington: "Disruption to the flow of oil through the strait of Hormuz would threaten regional and global economic growth. Any attempt by Iran to close the strait would be illegal and unsuccessful."

The planned U.S./Israeli maneuvers will involve thousands of troops and will test multiple Israeli and U.S. air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets. Israel and the U.S. have developed the Arrow anti-ballistic system, which is designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere.

At the end of January, it is anticipated that European Union foreign ministers will agree to impose an embargo on Iranian oil imports. The action follows a report in November by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which supported western allegations that Iran had worked on nuclear weapon design.

While the U.S. and EU believe tough action is needed in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program there is nevertheless a risk of damage to the shaky economies of the developed world. Iran is an important oil producer and exports around 2.3 million barrels a day. Even though there are guarantees in place from Saudi Arabia to make up any shortfall in Iranian oil supply, this would use up virtually all of the spare capacity from the world's biggest producer. The last time that happened, in 2008, oil prices climbed to almost $150 a barrel. Prices are currently running at around $110 a barrel. A leap to $150 a barrel would, without question, lead to a deep global recession in 2012.

It is clear then that the stakes are high for all sides in the dispute. The threat of loss of supply may be enough to trigger recession in the West, while the reality of choking off the Persian Gulf certainly would result in recession.  

In Iran, parliamentary elections are scheduled for March this year with a presidential election planned for 2013. The one is in many respects a rehearsal for the other, with many observers seeing the March elections as a showdown between supporters of President Ahmadinejad on one side and conservatives close to Ayatollah Khamenei on the other. The fact is that all independent, left and progressive forces have already openly protested about the conditions in which the parliamentary elections are taking place by announcing their decision to boycott them altogether.   

Khamenei himself has acknowledged the sensitivity of the poll in March, stating that "To some extent, elections have always been a challenging issue for our country," and going on to ask people "to be careful that this challenge does not hurt the country's security".

This is clearly a coded warning to any reformist and opposition groups not to "rock the boat," especially in the face of the external threat from the U.S., EU and Israel.  Although more than 5,000 candidates have put their names forward for the parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians of the Constitution, the body of conservative clerics and lawyers in charge of vetting all candidates before elections, will publish the names of those approved by the regime. In the past, the Council has blocked many, including former MPs, from running. It was indeed announced this week that 500 of the 5,000 candidates registered for the March election have already been disqualified. This includes about 20 outspoken and independent MPs serving in the current outgoing parliament.

The election is the first significant test of the regime's ability to bring people to the polls and control the outcome in its favor since the 2009 presidential election, which saw widespread vote-rigging and the "election" for a second term of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the face of well-documented opposition claims that they had outpolled the incumbent president. In 2009 the regime responded by deploying brute force to silence the mass protest movement. Nearly 100 protesters were killed and thousands of activists were imprisoned. The opposition candidates have been detained since that time and denied any right to speak openly on any issue.

The recent announcement that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an Iranian-American born in Arizona in 1983, is to be sentenced to death for confessing to being a CIA agent will do little to improve relations between the U.S. and the regime. With U.S. Congress financial sanctions aimed at Iran's oil trade, due to come into effect in June, the stage is set for ongoing drama in the Persian Gulf and the potential for wider economic and military impact if all sides cannot be brought to the discussion table.

No one can be in any doubt that this situation, if not resolved, could lead to a major conflagration of unimaginable proportions and with consequences that will reverberate throughout the Middle East and across the world. Everything possible must be done to ensure that a military conflict is prevented, including the withdrawal of U.S. and British naval forces from the Persian Gulf.

Photo: The aiircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush passes through the Strait of Hormuz, Oct. 9, 2011. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Betsy Knapper.

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  • Dear Comrades,

    Please do not support the "green" movement in Iran which protested the election results of the 2009 presidential election. This was not a liberal or progressive movement, but rather it was very obviously a pro-capitalist movement that received heavy support (as well as exaggeration) by the global capitalist elite, who are currently trying their best to overthrow Iran's self-determined government in favor of a pro-capitalist regime that will open Iran's natural resources and working class to yet further exploitation. The green protesters did not in any way represent the Iranian masses or working class, but were rather a westernized aspiring bourgeois class who themselves wish to assert control over Iranian capital.

    We globally minded socialists are not against Iranian opposition, but we must take great care in selecting which form of opposition we support in Iran, because it cannot be denied that a great faction of Iranian opposition is thoroughly capitalist in outlook and nature and seeks to undermine our common class struggle of global communism. We must support a broad-based and democratic secularization of the Iranian regime without sacrificing Iran's integrity, a sacrifice which would damn the country to hopeless digression under the control of the US regime and global capital. Such a result is clearly harmful to our goals and ideology.

    Iran's government may have pronounced deviations and flaws, but it cannot be denied that within said government is also expressed the rule of the people of Iran in its most primitive and imperfect form, free from foreign meddling and domination. We have to step forward from this position and not take steps backward. To balance our priorities, our first goal should be to support the Iranian regime, which you will find is very socialist in character, and our secondary role should then be to provide constructive criticism and promote progress in Iran. Few are the countries today who continue to stand up against global capital, and Iran holds the honor of being the first among them.

    I speak as someone who has much more intimate knowledge of Iranian culture, history, and contemporary affairs than the current individuals guiding the policies and positions of the CPUSA. It is my sincere hope that you will take my suggestions to heart.

    Fraternally,

    Refigh Amiri

    Posted by Refigh Amiri, 01/15/2012 8:45pm (3 years ago)

  • Its named PERSIAN Gulf, not American Gulf... Iran does what every other country does, patrolling their own waters. And in this case when you have you enemy who has harassing you in more than 30 years it become natural for Iranian Navy to patrolling american vessels more than often...

    Posted by Joel, 01/14/2012 10:18am (3 years ago)

  • Why is our tax payers money being wasted on harassing countries in the middle-east to begin with? What on earth are the U.S. and Britain doing in the Persian Gulf to begin with?

    How do you think the US or Britain would react if Iranian ships were in the Gulf of Mexico or near Britain's shores? Exactly! It wouldn't be accepted and seen as a threat. In the same way these US and British warships in the Persian Gulf are seen as a threat by the local countries.

    Get our troops back, we don't want another war in the middle-east!

    Posted by Michael Dan, 01/14/2012 8:17am (3 years ago)

  • Americans are starving and being foreclosed, what is the US navy doing there in the first place? Protecting those dictatorship Arab regimes that are in freefall? Didn't the US government threaten to obliterate Iran with nuclear attacks? Iran hasn't attacked a country for over 100 years, these vessels patrol Persian Gulf waters longer then America has even existed. This website shouldn't of published this story, since we know the Pentagon requested it to be published, it makes People'sworld seem like a propaganda platform.

    Posted by Hank of the Hill, 01/14/2012 7:23am (3 years ago)

  • I have a difficult time understanding the problem. Iran is wrong for attempting to build nuclear weapons, yet I could build a a gun type assembly in my room if given the materials. I think the issue should be to restrict the use of any materials that could be used for nuclear weapons, like any type of explosive or steel.

    Posted by joe, 01/13/2012 1:51pm (3 years ago)

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