The Western governments’ hue and cry over Iran’s decision to restart nuclear research has produced mixed responses around the world. Amongst the millions that oppose, and have campaigned against, nuclear weapons there are the growing fears that the nuclear arms races is accelerating. In recent years, India and Pakistan have joined the ranks of countries admitting that they have nuclear weapons. In other countries, like Japan, there are discussions in some ruling circles about whether they should acquire a nuclear arsenal because their neighbours have them.
But the Western governments’ position is utterly hypocritical. Iran has not been proven to be breaking the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But one thing is clear; none of the ‘old’ nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - have even thought about implementing the pledge to work towards nuclear disarmament, which they made when they signed the NPT.
Currently, New Labour is planning a multi-billion pound replacement for Britain’s aging submarine-based Trident nuclear missile system. Days before last year’s election, Tony Blair said, “I think that it is best that Britain retains an independent nuclear deterrent”. New Labour apologists will argue that the difference is that Iran is not as ‘democratic’ as Britain. Socialists, of course, oppose the autocratic Iranian regime. But at least it has not yet followed Bush and Blair’s example of invading and wrecking another country on the basis of Bush and Blair’s “big lie” of supposed weapons of mass destruction held by the Saddam regime.
As far as the US government is concerned, no comment at all is made about Israel’s secret nuclear armoury. Bush’s administration agreed, last year, to co-operation on civilian nuclear research with India, even though India never signed the NPT and, in 1998, carried out a series of nuclear weapons tests. But the difference in attitude towards India and Iran is because Bush regards India as a possible key ally against China in the region.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used foreign policy statements as a way of diverting attention to the failure, thus far, of his administration to improve living standards. There seems to be little doubt that a majority of Iranians support developing nuclear weapons. They see themselves threatened by the US, with its hundreds of thousands of military personnel in the region, and they see nuclear-armed, US allies on their borders, like Pakistan, or nearby, as in the case of Israel.
The Western powers have used some of Ahmadinejad’s statements, particularly his denial of the Holocaust and threats to Israel’s existence, to hide their real motives for the recent attacks on Iran. The complete failure of the Bush and Blair plan for Iraq has resulted in Iran’s allies gaining effective control of Iraq’s south and its large oilfield, alongside a decisive say in Iraq’s future.
This is not the goal for which Bush and Blair invaded Iraq and the situation threatens pro-Western regimes throughout the Middle East. Therefore, Bush and Blair want to try at least to hem in and constrict Iran. But there are limits to what the West can do. Any action against Iran risks provoking upheavals through the Middle East and, given that Iran is the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter, to the international oil market. While a full-scale invasion is ruled out, a repeat of an attack along the lines of Israel’s 1981 strike against Iraq’s nuclear research centre at Osirak cannot be ruled out. At that time, Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan criticised Israel, but then they were supporting Saddam’s war against Iran and today things are different.
While opposing nuclear weapons, socialists give no trust whatsoever to any imperialist leaders or any actions they propose. There can be no support at all to those hypocritical liars Bush and Blair. It is unlikely that Blair will take a gamble and make another crude “45 minute” warning, but other propaganda tricks cannot be ruled out.
Socialists will explain the truth of the situation and argue for a socialist alternative. We call for an alternative based upon working people leading movements that break with imperialism and capitalism, defending the right of self-determination of nations, and for a socialist society where science and technology are developed to improve rather than destroy life.
A version of this article will also appear in this week’s ‘Socialist’, weekly paper of the Socialist Party, in England and Wales