By Howie Hawkins
The escalation of conflict between the US and Iran is at a fever pitch. It is time for the United States to recognize that war with Iran would be a multi-trillion dollar disaster that would lead to chaos and destruction in the region, would isolate the United States from the world diplomatic community even further, and would be another major foreign policy disaster.
The way to a peaceful and positive relationship between the US and Iran requires the United States to reverse mistaken decisions and long history of imperialism against Iran.
The United States must rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The US violated the JCPOA, informally known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement, unilaterally withdrawing from it and escalating sanctions. These actions were a unilateral escalation of conflict with Iran by the United States. If the US had lived up to the agreement and removed previous sanctions as was required, then the United States and Iran would be able to address their differences and regional and global problem issues by diplomacy instead of war. The JPCOA was working to stop nuclear proliferation as all parties, including the US State Department, agreed at the time Trump pulled out on his own.
The United States must also end the illegal unilateral coercive measures (known as sanctions) that have existed against Iran since the Carter administration and have escalated under every president, including President Trump. The sanctions hurt the people of Iran most of all. The massive miscalculation of this policy has the unintended consequence of uniting the people of Iran around their government, which is not what the United States intended. They are a failed policy that needs to be reversed.
By taking these two measures the United States will be taking steps to abide by international law rather than behaving like a rogue state. These steps will set a basis for renewed negotiations between the US and Iran on other issues. The US wants Iran to stop supporting militias in the region, but the US has no credibility on these issues when it has troops and military bases throughout the Middle East and provides military aid and arms sales in the region to countries as well as non-state actors that are antagonists toward Iran, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Turkey.
Decades of threats against Iran by the US have been counterproductive. Iran has been preparing to defend itself against a US military attack for years. Iran’s military is large and technologically sophisticated. Iran showed it had an effective missile defense system when it shot down a US drone last week with an Iranian-produced Surface-to-Air Missile. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that Iran has the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East. Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz and the US does not have the military power to prevent it. Twenty percent of the world’s oil passes through the strait.
Military Times reports that if there were a war against Iran, the US would be facing serious challenges, writing that “Iranian coastal defenses would likely render the entire Persian Gulf off-limits to U.S. Navy warships. Iran’s advanced surface-to-air missile defenses would be a significant threat to U.S. pilots. And Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles put U.S military installations across the U.S. Central Command region at risk. The cost in U.S. casualties could be high.”
The US would very likely be fighting a multi-front war in the Middle East. Iran has allies as well as its own troops throughout the region including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan. They are ready for joint operations in response to a US war against Iran.
The US lacks international support for a military attack on Iran. Russia, China, Japan, the European Union, the United Nations, and other major powers have called for de-escalation. If the US proceeds toward war, the immense majority of the world will be opposed to this action.
The path of war the Trump administration is on is a dangerous and expensive one that would be the culmination of failed US policy against Iran and in the Middle East. The advice Trump is receiving from National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the United States into a quagmire that will do irreversible damage to the United States and the region.
Congress should step up now and exercise its constitutional war powers to stop the warpath the Trump administration is on. The Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act has languished in Congress since last September with only 10 Senate co-sponsors and 71 House co-sponsors.
The US has more than sixty years of consistent aggression toward Iran, starting with the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, which the United States now admits it did with the UK in order to get their oil companies profits from Iran’s oil industry that Mossadegh had nationalized. The US and UK led coup against Mossadegh ended Iran’s brief experience with secular democracy and led to the brutal rule of the Shah of Iran, a US puppet who ruled Iran until the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
After the Revolution, President Jimmy Carter issued the Carter Doctrine in his January 23, 1980 State of the Union where he proclaimed that the United States would use military force to defend its national interest in the Persian Gulf. In other words, the US would fight for Middle East oil. The Carter Doctrine has been the justification for US wars for oil and regime change operations in the Middle East ever since. It is time for the US government to repudiate the Carter Doctrine. The Middle East did not belong to the US or global oil companies. It would have been much cheaper to buy oil on the world market than conduct wars for oil, regime change, and occupations. In this era of the climate crisis, wars for oil are counterproductive as we must end our dependency on fossil fuels.
The US has spent more than $7 trillion dollars on wars in the Middle East since 9/11. These wars have brought chaos, destruction, and death to the region as well as mass migrations, which have destabilized not only the region but has fueled the rise of the xenophobic right in the European Union. It is time to end US wars for oil in this era of climate chaos. It is time for the US to get out of the Middle East.
As part of its ecosocialist Green New Deal, the Hawkins campaign advocates 75 percent cuts to the US military budget. These cuts will pay for a Global Green New Deal. US aid should support war refugees, help build clean renewable energy systems, and help develop diverse and sustainable economies that are no longer dependent on oil exports or dirty nuclear power, in Iran and throughout the Middle East. The United States must transform itself from the global military empire to the global humanitarian superpower that lifts up people around the world and protects the planet.
The US must also recommit to the other nuclear arms treaties it has withdrawn from, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile and Intermediate Nuclear Force treaties. It should draw back from nuclear annihilation by taking its nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, pledging no first use, and unilaterally reducing its nuclear force to the minimum credible deterrent. It should follow up these initiatives with vigorous negotiations with all nuclear powers for complete nuclear disarmament and for scaling back the world’s militaries to strictly defensive forces. The Hawkins campaign opposes US military intervention for regime change and will speak up for human rights wherever they are violated.
We will never have a secure peace as long as capitalism’s competitive economic structure generates international conflicts and wars. Nuclear-armed capitalist states—including the US, Russia, and China—compete for resources, markets, cheap labor, and geopolitical military positioning. If we don’t replace capitalism’s nationalistic competition with socialism’s international cooperation, sooner or later these conflicts will end in nuclear annihilation.