Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 26, 2014

Must reading on Iran

Filed under: Iran — louisproyect @ 12:57 am

(The author is someone I know very well and respect highly.)


Dancing in the Dark?

The Iran-US Tango


Four steps forward, four steps back,

Right foot forward, left foot back,

Two steps sideways, one step back.

It is a remarkable feat to witness the inexplicable and sudden disappearance of the legions of leftist doom and gloom as regards the Iran-US relations. Indeed some readers may not even remember such legions at all. It is excusable to forget that for some years we were audience to regular warnings of “imminent military attacks” to be unleashed by the US against the Iranian regime. Likewise, you might not remember that some commentators made a lucrative living going around forewarning, “Imminent attacks coming! Imminent attacks coming!” Stirring up hysteria, the legalistically oriented lobbied the US Congress Quixotic style to avoid such eventuality; in leftist publications, the literarily oriented filled columns quoting previous write-ups of warnings as evidence that imminent attacks were forthcoming any time, very soon and inevitably. All the while throwing a thick cover over the internal oppressions committed against, and the rights denied, the Iranian people.

For some time now, however, those commentators have been uncharacteristically silent about imminent attacks. What happened? If the Iranian and the US governments were such enemies and if the US had been planning for years to launch a military attack, what changed then? Or is the situation still the same? Those commentators should not be so quiet. In fact, they owe everybody a detailed explanation of how it came to be that such imminent attacks never took place.

Well, as it has turned out, no such attacks were forthcoming. Everybody can now breathe a sigh of relief and thank whatever deity they are deferential to (personally I’ll be thanking JD while playing James Brown’s Say It Loud).

Some Iranian socialists were however explaining for all those same years that no such attacks would materialize. They were likewise advising to pay more attention to the miseries and injustices meted out daily to the Iranian people not just by imperialist outsiders (be it the US-imposed sanctions for example, or the Russians extracting ransom from a regime under pressure), but by the internal theocracy choking the Iranian people: a theocracy that is in fact the embodiment of imperialism inIran. The point is seldom acknowledged that this regime is actually not disliked by imperialist powers. Ask IMF. Iran gets decent grades from that international institution epitomizing finance capital, the quintessential imperialist institution of record if ever there was one.

Imperialist countries house a long list of definitely eager corporations willing to stand in line to get to do business with this regime: no regime-changes here, they agree, no thank you please! The multinationals and international finance institutions also know best how effectively Iranian state has privatized state assets, and how much more privatizing can still happen; they have observed in detail the cutting of subsidies of all kinds, which actually started with Ahmadinejad’s administration and continues under the current administration of Rouhani; they know, in other words, how willing the regime is in sticking it to the poor. Multinational corporations are as well the biggest promoters of anti-labor laws, which Iranian government is prolific at legislating. In Iran, international companies get the additional bonus of a robust legal system promoting anti-women, puritanically anti-communist, anti-dissent and just plain anti-everything-normal-human-beings-may-enjoy laws. Just for one item, Iranian authorities recently issued an order for imprisonment and lashing for a bunch of kids dancing to a song! You realize how many coups imperialists and their local cohorts have had to organize in some other countries just to get to this level of social repression written into law? So, why would the US militarily destroy such a golden goose?

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  1. Back when Wing Nut Leftists were first decrying imminent attack looming on Iran the thing that struck me most implausible, as much as I understood the inherently predatory DNA of the US Kleptocracy, was the fact that the Pentagon at that time could barely muster a single new recruit in any State to join up for service during that phase of the Iraq War, which was at it’s lowest point in popularity, despite the Pentagon raising death benefits for soldiers from $10k to $100k overnight (easy to do administratively at working people’s expense) and lowering the standards for recruits to accept everybody from convicts & the mentally impaired to functional illiterates & undocumented workers, which were almost exclusively Latino, who were virtually guaranteed citizenship at the end, if they made it past the gauntlet of IED’s, snipers & suicide bombers — never mind the daily suicides of PTSD soldierdom.

    I thought to myself — instinctively I’d love to believe the Generals running the White House want to bomb Iran like McCain sung about so ignobly but I couldn’t see how they could materially pull it off since it’s a military axiom that, short of Nukes, an air war alone does not make a military victory, especially in a country of almost 80 million, never mind that I graduated from a unique high school in Chicago that had hundreds of Iranian students circa 1980 that all loved the idea of the USA. They all seemed such lovers of modernity back then that I couldn’t imagine Uncle Sam destroying such a modern urban society with such a huge population when their army reserves were so depleted.

    Stability was what Wall Street demanded for investments — so how would bombing Iran, when gas prices were already pushing the American consumer to the brink. help the US ruling class?

    I never bought it, especially since the rational world knew that Iran has the inherent right to develop nuclear energy as it sees fit the same as every other country.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 26, 2014 @ 2:06 am

  2. Although the author’s overall analysis of the nature of the Iranian state, its place in the capitalist system and relationship with the U.S. may come as a surprise to some “anti-imperialist” crowd in the West, it does indeed reflect the understanding of many Iranians, not only socialists but those who know their history, and have lived the revolution and counter-revolution that followed. However, I have different views of two of his arguments.
    On the question of dismissing all the talk about military attacks on Iran for years, I agree that some of it was hype, but author’s valid point about the regime’s place in the capitalist order, and regime’s collaboration with Western powers would not necessary mean that military attacks on Iran could not have happened under different circumstances. The assumption that once a regime is part of the global capitalism, the country and its state are immune from a savage imperialist war is proven too often not to be the case. Incidentally, the “anti-imperialist” crowd makes a similar argument with a different conclusion claiming that such regimes are “anti-imperialist” for mere reason of being attacked by the imperialist powers. In case of Iraq, the neo-cons saw the destruction of the entire country’s infrastructure and state far more rewarding than keeping Saddam as their puppet even though he was openly begging what he needed to do to avoid his downfall. That was ultimately the reason for the war on Iraq rather than Saddam’s “ reckless mistake of disobeying” his masters when he attacked Kuwait in 1991, even though his action at first was endorsed by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. What happened in the end in Iraq, of course may not have played exactly as it was planned. For the same reasons, one could not rule out a Likud-led Israeli attack on Iran, had the neocons taken over the U.S. foreign policy in 2008. They really worked hard on that, as Ahmadinejad played into their hands, even though he himself wanted to be the guy to normalizie Iran-U.S. relationship.

    The author also refers to repressive Islamic laws and social repression as if these give more incentives to the international companies to exploit Iranians. The reality, however, is that those are the roots of widespread civil and social discontent and have always been the biggest liability of the Iranian state, and not necessary the best environment for capitalist exploitation. That is now understood even by most of Iran’s ruling class and political establishment. It has always been the dilemma of the ruling theocracy that its rule depends on enforcement of such laws, while their enforcement undermines its own existence.

    Comment by Ramin — October 27, 2014 @ 1:57 am

  3. Thank you Mr Proyect for posting this. Mutual respect!

    Also, thanks to Ramin for bringing more dimensions to the issue. I could concede on both points Ramin raises. The main reason I have not considered a military attack by the US on Iran a likely scenario for some years has more to do with military considerations as well.

    Consider the two countries the US did attack: Afghanistan and Iraq (putting aside for the moment the countries that get bombed regularly by drones, such as Yemen and Pakistan, etc.). Both Afghanistan and Iraq were attacked when they were at their weakest set of conditions to defend themselves, at their most vulnerable point. Afghanistan had already seen some twenty-some years of different phases of civil wars, and Iraq was likewise at the end point of a twelve-to-fourteen-year (since 1991 basically) experience of suffocating sanctions, tons of its infrastructure bombed away by the US; as a result of infrastructural destruction, diseases spreading and draining the health system, on and on it went. Not to mention, all of that after a hugely destructive war with Iran that had just ended in 1988, meaning a very short two-three-year period of relief for all the social structures Iraq had, before the mother of destructions was unleashed on it.

    Iran, on the other hand, has about three levels of military structures in place now (regular military inherited form the Shah’s system, plus the Revolutionary Guards, and their sub-paramilitary forces of Basij, which alone is a few-million strong). All this massive military system all intact and oiled and practiced in the battlefields of Lebanon to Syria to Iraq, training, practicing, running real-life drills . Also, unlike Saddam who was pretty much isolated and hated by just about everybody, including Assad/Syria, Iran has a regional presence, so to speak. They have influence and allies in Afghanistan, through Iraq, Syria and in Lebanon. Not to mention all the international support they get from China and Russia.

    So, it’s been a (probably simplistic) assumption for me that if the 90% peasant country of Vietnam could beat the US militarily, Iranian military capabilities along with all the hell they could unleash in the greater middle east could at least put up a massively bloody fight the US military just could not fathom having. Especially if we add to the picture, as Karl Friedrich points out in above comment, the fact that the US military was over-exerted and lacked the ability to recruit enough people, and this must have been obvious to the people at the top.

    Comment by reza f. — October 30, 2014 @ 3:26 am

  4. I always enjoy your re-posts of counterpunch articles. Reza Fiyouzat is a fine writer on the topic. I fell for many western leftists’ line when it came to Iran and regrettably refused this kind of narrative presented by Fiyouzat as bourgeois or pro-american (whatever that means). From what I understand, the Iranian establishment sees itself in a very analogous way the America founding fathers saw themselves: realizing Enlightenment values (Islamic Values) to their highest degree which broke from the old order, which is code for current Arab regimes. There’s a myth within the Iranian establishment that their political system is a coveted one by arabs. Even Hezbollah had gave up trying to institute it in the 90s in Lebanon. It’s good to see someone taking into account the insidious polity of the Mosque.

    Comment by Anas El Hawat — November 1, 2014 @ 8:37 pm

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