Forty years on from New Cross, the need to build a mass anti-racist, anti-imperialist movement is still paramount. No justice, no peace!
Recently, tensions have been rising further in the Persian Gulf between Britain and Iran, after British marines seized an Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria in the Strait of Gibraltar on the 4th of July. Iran responded to this imperialist seizure of its assets by trying to impede the movement of a British oil tanker in the Gulf on the 10th of July. In addition, over the past few months it has been reported that Syrian oil pipelines have been sabotaged and that US forces blew up three Syrian oil tankers.
This is the latest of a series of incidents in the region, after the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement of 2015 (the so-called Iran nuclear deal) and imposed new crippling sanctions on Iran. Iran continued to honour the agreement, hoping that the deal would survive. However, amid the worsening sanctions taking a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, Iran has recently started to stockpile enriched uranium beyond the agreed limit of the JCPOA, in the hope of putting pressure on the European Union to bring the US back to the agreement. Pressure has also been applied to induce the EU to operationalise and expand the special instrument for trade with Iran, known as INSTEX, designed to facilitate trade and avoid US sanctions, and which finally went operational at the end of June.
A particularly disturbing escalation in tensions occurred when the US came close to carrying out air strikes against Iran on the 22nd of June, in response to Iran shooting down a US drone which was violating its airspace. Such a consequence would have inevitably resulted in the loss of innocent Iranian lives and sparked a devastating war. Britain has, after the latest incident on the 10th of July, stepped up its military presence in the region by sending the destroyer HMS Duncan to the Gulf to be stationed alongside Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, already present in the area. The British government has also said that it would begin talks with the US to increase the number of transatlantic forces in the region in response to the heightened tensions.
This is a gross act of aggression and intimidation by Britain and the US against the government of Iran. While Iran abided by the JCPOA agreement with a look towards reducing tensions in the region, it was the imperialist US government that withdrew from the agreement and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. This is not surprising, as peace agreements between imperialist states and states targeted by imperialism are always temporary and subject to the whims of the imperialists.
Britain and the US have no right to interfere in the affairs of the region, especially in Iran. We must remember that Britain and the US have a long and bloody history of violating Iran’s sovereignty and right to self-determination in order to exploit its resources. In 1953, they orchestrated a coup to thwart the democratically-elected government of Muhammad Mosaddiq when it attempted to restore Iranian sovereignty. Mosaddiq came into power on the back of a mounting Communist-led workers’ movement in the oil fields, protesting imperialist encroachment and the British-imposed racial labour régime. British officials used racist language to justify the coup, calling Mosaddiq a “crazed”, “wily Oriental”1. Winston Churchill, then in control of the Foreign Office, sanctioned the joint CIA-MI6 coup which entailed arming ex-Nazi collaborators in Tehran2.
America and Britain then proceeded to prop up the brutal régime of the shah until it was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Since the Revolution, the US has endeavoured to destabilise the region. For instance, it helped prevent a resolution of the Iran-Iraq War (1980−8) by supporting Iraq while covertly facilitating a steady flow of arms to Iran via Israel3.
Furthermore, it is clear that the pretext of this latest incident was to enforce sanctions on the Syrian Government. Syria is currently undergoing a fuel crisis, and its oil fields lie mainly in the north east of the country, which is under the occupation of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Britain is complicit in this occupation, and has forces active in north east of Syria, working closely with the SDF. The effects of this occupation, alongside numerous sanctions against trade and the sabotaging of Syrian oil infrastructure are part of a policy of destabilisation and régime change. By enforcing sanctions on the Syrian state, the US and its allies wish to create the conditions that will create widespread misery and instability in Syria and make régime change more likely. As is their policy elsewhere, they hope that immiserating the lives of the people of Syria will lead to the rise of opposition towards the current anti-imperialist government. This is a policy of the US and its allies that can be seen in many other states such as the DPRK, Cuba, and Venezuela. It is standard practice towards states who dare to oppose US global domination.
This is highly hypocritical, as the British government continues to finance and arm the Israeli apartheid state’s oppression of the Palestinian people and aid the Saudi government, the other major Gulf power, in carrying out its brutal war against Yemen. Iran and Syria are among the few states in the world that support Palestinian liberation from the Israeli apartheid settler state. Therefore, it is needless to say that the rogue British imperialist state has no moral authority to preach about human rights to other states when it has a vast history of gross human rights violations.
As anti-imperialists, it is our duty to vehemently oppose British, Israeli, US and Saudi aggression against Iran and other nations suffering under imperialism. Hands off Iran and Syria!
1 – Ervand Abrahamian, ‘The 1953 Coup in Iran’, Science and Society, 65:2 (2001), p. 193
2 – Nikki R. Keddie, Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution (Yale University Press, 2006), p. 129
3 – Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (Verso, 2011), pp. 215–16