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Labor’s Stake in the Decision on the Iran Agreement

Is the agreement over Iran‘s nuclear program recently negotiated in Vienna something that should concern the labor movement and our allies? We in the Labor Fightback Network answer the question with an emphatic YES.

What is at stake is a choice: either accepting a negotiated settlement between six countries or, if the U.S. Congress votes against the settlement in September, the potential use of military force to prevent the unlikely possibility that someday Iran could produce nuclear weapons. Simply put, it is a matter of a peaceful resolution of the dispute vs. the massive bombing and death of untold numbers of people, which the United States is continuing to threaten if Iran violates the terms of the “deal.”

Israel’s Role

The Israeli leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hell-bent on defeating the agreement and is pulling out all the stops to pressure Congress to vote no. Its goal is to prevent Iran from having any kind of nuclear program. Let’s look at Israel’s situation as compared to Iran’s:

The Hawks’ Number One Weapon: Fear-Mongering

The campaign is already well underway to frighten the American people into opposing the agreement. Such fear was the same weapon used to get Congress to go to war against Iraq. The attempt to whip up hysteria against Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction paid off when Congress—with a bipartisan vote—authorized Bush to commence the war. We all know the disastrous results that followed.

Iran’s Position

Iran has made major concessions to forestall the “military option,” which was always on the table, as President Barack Obama made clear repeatedly. It would have been within Iran’s right to reject the demands heaped upon it which violate its sovereignty and self-determination—the same rights Israel has always claimed for itself—but it chose not to, while insisting at every turn in the negotiations that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Indeed, Obama said in mid-March, 2015 that “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.”

Other administration officials—including Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes—have previously referred to the ayatollah’s reported fatwa in the context of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. In fact, it is a serious crime in Iran for anyone to urge that Iran build nuclear weapons.

The Iranian People Need Workers Solidarity

Sanctions constitute economic war. We have been witnessing the collective punishment of millions of innocent people. There is no question that the sanctions imposed on Iran have had devastating consequences for its people.

In return for slashing its nuclear program, under the agreement Iran will get significant relief from the sanctions. That is why the Iranian people so jubilantly welcomed the announcement of the agreement. It is why their government agreed to it.

The fight to end all of the sanctions is going forward. As a basic exercise of solidarity, workers’ and organized labor movements throughout the world should demand the repeal of all sanctions against Iran. This is certainly in the interest of Iranian workers and those living in poverty. The UN Security Council voted unanimously to end its sanctions in 90 days; China and Russia have made it clear that they will no longer apply the sanctions against Iran if Congress turns down the agreement. Probably others of the “big six plus one” will follow suit. The U.S. government could find itself marginalized and isolated if, along with its partner Israel, it chooses to go it alone.

The Nature of the Iranian Regime Not the Issue

We have no love for repressive theocratic regimes, including the one that rules Iran. We support the struggle of democratic forces within Iran for fundamental change. That said, it is important to note that the U.S. government supports virtually every other repressive regime in the Middle East, starting with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. and these regimes are tied together through their militarization and trade policies, and they are united against the region’s anti-imperialist movements.

Regardless of the outcome of the Congressional vote on the agreement, Iran and the U.S. will continue to have other major differences. The Vienna agreement did not purport to deal with these. But at the moment, the greatest danger is that another war in the Middle East will break out over the nuclear issue. How to prevent such a war needs to be the focus of the discussion and debate in the coming months.

Why Defeat of the Agreement Would Greatly Increase the Odds of Full-Blown War

The Obama administration is claiming that a congressional rejection of the agreement would leave Iran free to develop a nuclear weapon within a year-and-a-half instead of the 10 years that the unprecedented inspection measures agreed upon under the accord would prevent. [The claim that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon anytime in the future—strongly denied by Iran—is asserted without a shred of proof.] The administration also warns that without the agreement Iran would double the pace of its uranium enrichment, proceed full speed ahead with a heavy-water reactor, and install new and more efficient centrifuges—all precluded under the agreement because of concessions Iran felt bludgeoned to concede.

But where would it all lead? Without this agreement, the right-wing forces anxious for a military showdown with Iran would take its hysteria and fear campaign to a whole new level, greatly increasing the danger of all-out imminent war.

Conclusion

Today the U.S. corporate political class is split over what to do about Iran. What is urgently needed is the intervention of a broad, independent mass movement—hopefully with labor as a key component—mobilizing to prevent yet another war and to demand an immediate end to the sanctions. At this time, opposing a “no” vote in Congress is a necessary and immediate step in this direction. Despite all the ranting by opponents, they have nothing to offer other than escalating the tensions and laying the basis for military action. We’ve had enough of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so let’s stop the hawks here before they add Iran to their list.

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