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The Iran-UK Face-Off
The March 23-April 4 standoff between Britain and Iran over Irans seizure of 15 British military personnel ended without a military clash, but it would be wrong to conclude that the Bush regime has abandoned its preparations for possible military strikes against Iran. Quite the contrary. The incident revealed how aggressively U.S. and British forces are acting toward Iran, the high state of tensions in the region, and the potential for any incidentwhether planned or notto escalate into a military confrontation.
The U.S. full-court press and military buildup against Iran are continuing. The U.S. and Britain used the incident to further vilify Irans Islamic Republic. No sooner were the British personnel released than Prime Minister Tony Blair accused Iran of backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq, and urged stepped-up international pressure against Tehran.
The Bush regime dismissed the notion that Irans release of the British soldiers showed the potential for diplomacy, arguing instead that it showed Iran was unwilling to work with the international community. Meanwhile the U.S. continues to hold five Iranian officials it seized in Erbil, Iraq on January 11. Right-wing publications including the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard called Irans detention an act of war and agitated for more aggressive U.S. action. Within days of the end of the standoff, U.S. military officials in Iraq were holding briefings claiming Iran was arming both Shiite and Sunni militias, and was responsible for killing Coalition soldiers.
The British Navy incident illustrates just how aggressively the U.S. and British are acting toward Iran and how quickly they can fabricate pretexts for further aggression. Take the maps the British produce as evidence to try and prove their personnel were in Iraqi waters. Even U.S. military experts admitted that neither side could prove conclusively where the confrontation happened given that it took place in a very narrow body of water with contested and, in some cases, uncharted borders.
The World to Win News Service (AWTW) pointed out (April 2), The maps the UK government trotted out to prove that its commando boats were in Iraqi waters were drawn up by the British themselves and have no legal validity. Former Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West implicitly admitted as much in a BBC interview (29 March). When asked how one could determine where the maritime border is, he answered, It is highly complex. A commission is meant [in the future] to lay down the median line between the Shatt al-Arab and agree where the various lines are. So we have the line we believe is the correct one.
Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekis- tan called the British maps a fake with no legal force, and concluded, The UK was plainly wrong to be ultra-provocative in disputed waters.
What exactly were British forces doing less than 10 miles from Irans coast? If they were inspecting boats for contraband, as claim- ed, why did they board an Indian- flagged vessel after it had dropped its load of automobiles in Iraq? The British government hasnt answered this question.
It turns out they were doing much more. Britains Sky News (April 5) reported that the captain in charge of the Interaction Patrol admitted they were gathering intelligence on Iranian activity in the area: Basically we speak to the crew [of any vessel they encounter].... If they do have any information because theyre here for days at a time, they can share it with us. Whether its about piracy or any sort of Iranian activity in the area. This report was withheld by Sky News until after the British personnel were released.
The British warship Cornwall, which dispatched the craft seized by Iran, is the flagship of an anti-submarine and minesweeping battle group that includes several other British warships. Its intelligence gathering is done in concert with the massive deployment of U.S. forces in the region, which now includes two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups comprised of dozens of heavily armed warships with attack aircraft and missiles.
As AWTW News Service notes, Under the command of the USS Stennis, all of these ships are currently carrying out war maneuvers in the Gulf.... The role of the Cornwall and other British ships would be to help protect the American strike force and prevent the Iranian government from retaliating against other countries shipping in the Gulf once Iranian-bound vessels came under attack. These so-called war games are a rehearsal for a naval embargo and possible combined naval and air attack on Iran.
Given the fact that the British knew that its forces were operating close to (or inside) Iranian waters and could be seized (as happened in 2004), its quite possible the British deliberately risked confrontation in order to either unnerve Iran and/or test its response. The Guardian reports that Iranian officials state this was the fourth such intrusion into Iranian waters in the last three months.
Both British and U.S. officials got on their high horses to denounce Irans seizure. Blair called it illegal and a violation of international law, while Bush cried inexcusable and called the British military personnel hostages. Meanwhile, the U.S. had seized Iranians inside Iraq three times this year, once with the cooperation of Iraqi government forces. All officials were in Iraq legally and all but one is still being held without formal charges or means of redress. The Iranian government is not being allowed to see its personnel and the U.S. only recently allowed a Red Cross visit.
One Iranian captiveJalal Sharafi, the second secretary at Irans embassy in Baghdad seized by Iraqi Ministry of Defense forces was let go just prior to Irans release of the British military personnel. The U.S. denied any involvement in his seizure, but the U.S. oversees the operation of the Iraqi Defense Ministry and works closely with it. When Sharafi returned to Tehran he said hed been brutally interrogated and tortured with a U.S. official present (which the U.S. denies). According to the BBC, Jalal Sharafi appeared at a Tehran news conference and gave a detailed account of beatings, including being whipped with cables and tortured with an electric drill. A Red Cross official has confirmed that he saw marks on Sharafis feet, legs, back, and nose. An Iranian psychiatrist said that Sharafi was suffering from sleep deprivation and solitary confinement.
All of this is treated by the U.S. government and media as if it is perfectly normal and routine barely worth mentionand certainly not worthy of condemnation and exposure. This is a chilling illustration of the degree to which the Bush program of illegal detentions and torture, and stripping people of legal rights, has been normalized.
The actions of the Cornwall and U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf are part of a broad campaign against Iran being orchestrated by the U.S. across the Middle East. This has included U.S. efforts to militarily encircle Iran, to provoke instability internally, and to cripple it economically. ABC News reported that since 2005, U.S. officials have secretly been encouraging and advising guerrilla fighters from the Baluchi tribe in Pakistan to launch attacks inside Iran, and their attacks have resulted in the killing or kidnapping of more than a dozen Iranian officials and soldiers. A Democracy Now! segment (March 27) exposed U.S. support for anti-government Iranian Kurdish forces. There are reports that U.S. intelligence operatives are working inside Iran to gather information in preparation for attacks on Irans nuclear sites.
The U.S. pushed through sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council in December and again in March, and is engaged in an aggressive campaign to force international corporations and financial institutions to cut off capital to Iran to cripple its oil and industrial sectors. Across the region, the U.S. is targeting groups with ties to Iran. The U.S. is also stepping up its arms shipments to allies in the region, and has dispatched another carrier group, the USS Nimitz, to the regionostensibly to relieve the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, but raising the possibility that the U.S. could soon have three carrier groups off Irans coast.
The Bush administration did not push for a military escalation in the latest standoff, but this does not mean war is off the table. The U.S. is aware of the enormous difficulties it faces in Iraq and the dangers inherent in war with Iran. But it is continuing to build an international consensus against Iran, to isolate it politically, and to prepare public opinion for whatever actions it deems necessary.
While there are divisions within the U.S. ruling class over how to deal with the Middle East, all sides are approaching this from the standpoint of protecting U.S. imperialist interests in the region. Significantly, no leading Democrat has spoken out against war with Iran and language forbidding such a war without Congressional consent was removed from the recent war appropriations bill. This is why the overall trajectorywhile many different contradictions are at play and war is not inevitableremains toward confrontation and war.
For instance, tensions are continuing to mount over Irans nuclear program. Iran recently told the UNs International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with monitoring its nuclear sites, that it would withhold information because the agency had repeatedly allowed confidential information crucial to the countrys security to be leaked and that in the current climate such information could be used to further a U.S. or Israeli military attack. Iran has also announcedin defiance of U.S. and UN demandsan acceleration of its efforts to enrich uranium. Iranian officials warn they will abandon the non-proliferation framework if international powers continue to pressure them to give up their rights under existing treaties to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
Not a week goes by without new rumors of a U.S. attack on Iran. In April the Jerusalem Post reported that Russian intelligence services were predicting a U.S. surprise attack on Good Friday (April 6). Kuwaits Arab Times reported (April 4) the U.S. was planning an attack at the end of April. Iranian officials have stated they fear an attack this summer. The website Swoop writes: Following the May 24th expiry of the deadline for Iranian compliance with UN demands, we will enter a more volatile period with increasing potential for an accident...to grow into a regional confrontation.
All this underscores the need to build mass opposition now to any attack on Iran and to step up efforts to drive out the Bush regime and repudiate its entire agenda of aggressive and unending war.
Larry Everest is author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage), a correspondent for Revolution, and a contributor to Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney (Seven Stories).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.