Last week, the long-awaited nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers was signed. After 18 days of straight negotiations the parties announced a 100-page agreement which is to set in motion the scaling back of the Iranian nuclear agreement and the lifting of harsh sanctions on Iran. This brings to an end more than three decades of harsh economic sanctions imposed on Iran by US imperialism and marks a complete defeat of the US strategy of intimidation, blackmail and coercion of Iran.
[Read also: The nuclear deal with Iran: What does it mean?]
Thousands of people came out onto the streets of major cities in Iran to celebrate the deal. Cars were honking their horns and all major roads were blocked. Chants of “Iran, Iran, Iran” could be heard as well as “Mossadegh, Zarif, Mossadegh, Zarif, these are the heroes of Iran”. The latter chant compared the present foreign minister to Iran’s Prime Minister in the 1950s who, in a major blow to British imperialism, nationalised the oil industry, but who was later removed in a British-American coup in 1953.
This is a very accurate measure of the mood amongst many Iranians. For more than three decades they have been the hostages of brutal economic sanctions imposed by US imperialism. Since the overthrow of the Shah’s puppet regime, the US has been attacking Iran by any means necessary, spanning from diplomatic and economic sanctions to supporting the Iraqi attack against Iran in 1980 – which ended up costing more than one million lives in total. It was also clear that the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan were partially aimed at encircling Iran and clearing the path for a future attack on the country.
For decades the US has used the Middle East as its private shooting range, attacking and occupying countries at will. Up to two million people are said to have been killed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The occupation of Iraq, the destruction of its state and the whipping up of sectarianism, has also led to the rise of the most barbaric movements which are now threatening to drag down the whole region. All this also explains why Iran started building a nuclear deterrent as a defensive move against encroaching US imperialism.
Over the past period the economic sanctions had been dramatically increased, sparking off a deep slump in the Iranian economy which led to mass unemployment and very high inflation (at times more than 100%). Millions of families, especially lower middle class families, have been bankrupted and pauperised by the effect of these brutal sanctions, while millions of workers have either been laid off or have not been paid for months and even years. At the same time Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu were constantly threatening Iran with war, causing constant tension and fear amongst the masses of Iran.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been threatening to attack Iran for several years. He recently tweeted: “Iran’s increasing aggression is more dangerous than that of ISIS, and the true goal of this aggression in the end is to take over the world”. This goes to show the hypocrisy of Israeli imperialism. No matter what one might think about the Iranian regime, it has not attacked any other country for the duration of its history. Israel on the other hand has not only attacked every single nation surrounding it, but is also the only nuclear power in the Middle East. Of course no one is going to inspect Israeli nuclear installations.
The same goes for Saudi Arabia, which has been working with Israel in a coordinated campaign to counter the negotiations and not only to keep the economic sanctions in place, but also to push the US to embark on a war against Iran. The Saudi ambassador to the US said that his government would make “harsh and determined responses” if Iran uses the deal to incite turmoil. But the biggest force of reaction, sectarianism and instability in the Middle East for the past seven decades has been the Saudi ruling class, which has pumped billions of dollars into barbaric jihadi groups and attacked every single popular movement in the region.
Lately, the Saudis have also made it clear that they would acquire a nuclear bomb through Pakistan, should the US make a deal with Iran. Again, no one has called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia.
Behind all of these reactionary forces the US Republicans, as well as quite a few Democrats, have been rallying. Not only have they defended the tragic wars waged by US imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan, but during their presidential campaigns they have been outdoing one another in bringing up the most rabid reactionary slogans calling for an attack on Iran – an attack which would have consequences far worse than those of the Iraqi and Afghan wars.
A defeat for the US
The nuclear deal marks a defeat of all of these forces and a humiliation of US imperialism. On the political level, it is clear that the US has accepted Iran as one of the major players in the Middle East. They have also accepted Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah, which the US holds particular spite towards.
On the military level it is clear that it has accepted Iran as a nuclear threshold state, i.e. a formally non-nuclear power which could build a nuclear bomb quickly if it wanted to. What the 100 pages of convoluted technical terms essentially boil down to is that while the US agrees to remove all sanctions on Iran within three to four months, Iran will only slightly de-scale their nuclear infrastructure. This will mean that from the one to two months it would take today, it will take Iran up to 12 months if they decide to build a nuclear bomb.
Of course the right-wing Republicans are outraged by this, but what was the alternative? To attack Iran would not have made any difference. Firstly, an invasion is ruled out because, apart from the fact that Iranian armed forces are far stronger than those of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama would have a far lower support for carrying them out than George Bush had when he went to war. Not only are the American people tired of war, but so is the US army, which is in a deep crisis of low morale, constant humiliating scandals and deep budget cuts.
Even if the US, supported by Saudi Arabia and Israel, launched aerial attacks on Iran they would not be able – even if they managed to escape Iranian air defences – to eliminate Iranian nuclear sites which are buried deep underground.
Crisis of US imperialism
Some people have already started singing the praises of Obama and Rouhani's claims to peace, using this result as evidence that they are believers in talks rather than war. But the idea of a peace-loving Obama or a calm natured Rouhani cannot stand scrutiny. Firstly, Obama has never withdrawn the threat of war against Iran. He has repeated again and again, even after the deal was signed, that “all options are on the table”, meaning that he is ready to go to war with Iran should it fail to cooperate with the US. Thus pacifism has nothing to do with it. The whole idea that "good negotiators" are all that is needed is flawed from beginning to the end. Bourgeois diplomacy, while it can certainly have its own logic, is nothing but the final expression of the balance of forces at play, which is decided by the economic and military might of a nation and not the intelligence of its diplomats.
The fact that there is now a nuclear agreement, in which the US has made many concessions without gaining much, is an admission by the US that its mighty military capabilities have not been enough to coerce Iran into submission. In fact, the US needs Iran in order to stabilise the situation on the ground in the Middle East because it is no longer able to intervene itself.
Two lost wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the mass opposition to war internally, the political crisis in the ruling elite, the demoralisation of the army, as well as the budget crisis and the general economic crisis, severely limits the military capabilities of the US. Another ground war and long occupation of Iraq is completely ruled out after the humiliating retreat which it brought to an end just a few years ago. Only two years ago Obama and Kerry had to publicly retreat from a campaign to bomb Syria. This clearly shows the limitations of US military might which is being weakened by the general crisis of capitalism.
Due to the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s state apparatus and army by the US during the occupation of the country, the Iranian army, which is probably the strongest army in the Middle East after Israel and Turkey, is no longer held in check by the Iraqi army.
Iran was further strengthened as a result of its influence among the oppressed Shia majority and its leaders. Today it exerts its influence in Iraq through a myriad of clerics as well as several Iraqi and Iranian militias. In Syria, also, the regime has been strengthened through its close ties with the Assad regime as well as through the Hezbollah militia in neighbouring Lebanon. In Yemen as well, before the onset of the Saudi war on the country, the Iranian-aligned Houthis were amongst the most popular and consolidated forces in the country and the most effective forces in the US campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Thus, for the US Iran has become the only reliable local power with the forces on the ground to fight against the Islamic State and other Sunni fundamentalist outfits.
This is happening as the whole region is under threat from the most backward barbaric forces. In Iraq and Syria, the plague of Islamic fundamentalism, which was created and nurtured by the US itself at every stage, has now spun out of control and risks destabilising the whole region. The same situation is developing in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon where Sunni fundamentalism is a rising threat to the cohesion of the country.
More than ever the US needs Iran to stabilise the region. Acknowledging this fact, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said that the new deal is a “test” which, if passed, can lead to cooperation on other problems afflicting the region. Similar statements have been made by all of the Iranian top officials over the past few weeks. This is not just testifying the crisis of the US, but also the crisis in the relationship between it and its traditional allies. Whereas Iran is working with the US in trying to drive back ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been stepping up support for Islamist forces. Israel, too, has been tacitly supporting the Islamists of Southern Syria in their struggle against Assad and Hezbollah forces.
It is a devastating irony that what were the main allies of the US in the region have become the greatest sources of its troubles, while the former member of the “axis of evil” has become its closest collaborator. In fact, the old allies of the US have overtly been sabotaging the whole negotiation process, and for Israel’s part, there has been a public campaign against the sitting Obama administration.
A new era in the Middle East
The new deal marks the beginning of a new period in the history of the Middle East. The lifting of the sanctions will be a huge economic boost for the Iranian regime. While it will immediately get $100 billion unfrozen from Western bank accounts, its market is also set to be flooded by foreign investments which are thirsty for new markets. Germany alone has said that it would at least quadruple trade with Iran immediately after the lifting of the sanctions.
The complete opening up of the country for US companies to invest there for the first time in decades is another factor which will add to the economic growth. At the same time, the regime has announced that it will increase oil production from 2.8 million barrels per day today, to more than 5 million barrels within the next five years. This will more than triple its crude exports which are at 1.1 million barrels per day.
This economic weight will add to and strengthen the military and political position that Iran has already secured in the region. This will also strengthen its position in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq where its force, or forces supported by Iran, are fighting against Islamic fundamentalist groups.
This will also lead to the stepping up of the activities of Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel who will want to counter each one of Iran’s moves. It will elevate the arms race in the region, probably into becoming a nuclear arms race. Therefore, the tensions between the nations will increase, opening up the most turbulent period in the history of the Middle East. In the middle of these tensions US imperialism will find itself trapped between its old allies and Iran, each of which have directly opposing interests. This situation cannot continue forever and these contradictions will have to be resolved with potentially disastrous consequences.
A new era in the class struggle
The reaching of the nuclear deal has been met with an ecstatic response from the Iranian masses. The extreme economic pressures and the constant fear of war - in the case of a breakdown in negotiations - have been an unbearable burden on millions of families who have seen their living standards collapse over the past three or four years, as the Iranian economy has more or less been in free fall. Yet they feel that they have been the only force in the region which has been fighting against sectarianism and barbarism.
For them this deal is a victory against all the reactionary regimes in the region and against coercion, blackmail and imperialist aggression.
"Condolences Israel and Kayhan," was a popular chant on the streets yesterday, referring to Israel and a hardline Iranian newspaper that also railed against the negotiations of the past two years.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who led the negotiations, can easily be said to be one of the most popular people in Iran, compared by people with Mohammad Mossadegh who took a stance against imperialism when he nationalised the oil industry run by the Anglo-Iranian oil company (today known as British Petroleum). There is a sense of optimism and hope for the future.
The current president Hassan Rouhani was elected at a time when Iran was on the verge of a social explosion. He came to power promising more democratic rights as well as higher living standards. However, with the onset of the negotiations he managed to rally the nation behind the regime pushing all other matters to one side.
Now, however, those issues will come the fore again. The question of democratic rights will quickly resurface, especially amongst the youth who have no allegiance towards the Islamic Republic. For them the clerical regime is rotten, corrupt and hypocritical rule which limits their ability to express themselves while they are forced to participate in the most humbling activities. It is this layer of youth, mainly from the middle classes, which formed the bulk of the mass movements in 2009, and which again took the lead in the days leading up to the previous presidential elections.
The regime realises that it cannot continue denying democratic rights if it is to avoid the fate of Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi. However, it is also hesitates to open up completely because every opening can spark off the pent up anger beneath the surface and lead to a wider “uncontrollable” movement.
The most important factor in the next period, however, is going to be the entry onto the scene of the workers’ movement. The past period has seen the workers’ movement at a low ebb as it was affected by mass unemployment and economic crisis, forcing it onto the defensive.
In fact, all of the struggles of the past period have involved peripheral sections of the working class.The bulk of the industrial workers and other major groups have not participated in major struggles, while their wages have been eaten up by inflation and millions of them have not even not been paid for months - some for several years.
Meanwhile, the sanctions and the threat of war have served to blur the class lines, rallying “the nation” behind the regime in its struggle against US imperialism. Now that the deal has been made, however, there is no foreign threat to galvanise support for the regime anymore. This will lead to the resurfacing of divisions along class lines as it will become clear that the deal was not for the workers and the poor, but between the US and the Iranian capitalists for the exploitation of the Iranian workers.
Already a sense of impatience with the regime has started to set its imprint on the situation. Over the past year the mood amongst the workers has started to change. The accelerated attacks of the Rouhani administration against the working class have provoked several backlashes. For the first time in years several strikes with thousands of workers, have occurred. These took place in several mines, as well as a month-long nationwide movement of teachers against attacks on the minimum wage have been the first signs of the reawakening of the working class.
Once the sanctions are lifted, this process will rapidly accelerate as the workers will feel strong enough to win concessions from the bosses. First of all, seeing the booming businesses, hundreds of thousands of workers will begin to demand all of their unpaid wages to be paid and all the years of decreasing minimum wages to be made up for. The bosses, on the other hand, will resist these demands, particularly in order to promote Iran as a low-wage country fit for foreign investment. In the context of a world capitalist crisis, however, neither side would have much room for manoeuvre. This would further radicalise the class struggle.
The relative economic upswing, in these conditions rather than softening tensions between the classes, will drastically raise tensions between the bosses and the workers. Starting with economic struggles, a wave of workers’ struggles will rise to challenge Iranian capitalism. However, every attempt of the workers to win the slightest concessions will be met by conflicts with the state and security apparatus, thereby leading all economic struggles towards a struggle against the dictatorship itself.
This struggle, in turn, will be the first step of the Iranian Revolution, a revolution which would reinvigorate the Arab Revolution and completely change the situation in the whole of the Middle East.