On 2 January 2020, the United States assassinated in Baghdad the Iranian general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qassim Suleimani, who, having fought against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, was one of the most powerful leaders in his country, next only to the Ayatollah Khamenei. As the Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi revealed, Suleimani went to Iraq’s capital as a diplomatic envoy to present the Iranian government’s reply to a proposition for the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East put forward by Saudi Arabia, the irreconcilable enemy of Iran and Shia Muslims, allegedly on Trump’s request.
Revolutionaries shed no tears for the bourgeois butcher Suleimani who, while fighting ISIS in Syria (to shore up Iran’s ally, the brutal Assad regime) and Iraq and preventing it from entering Iran (because of the Sunni-Shia divide in Islam), was also the leader of the notorious Quds forces. The Quds forces terrorizes pro-democracy, women’s rights and human rights activists in Iran, and helped set up Shiite militias in Iraq that organized pogroms against the Sunnis. However, his assassination is an act of imperialist aggression and a provocation aimed at forcing Iran to retaliate and start another war in the region.
Officially, the murder of Suleimani was a retribution for the death of a civil worker of the US Army in Iraq killed at the end of last year, and for the Iraqi manifestations in front of the American embassy in Baghdad against the continued U.S. military presence in the country, which ended in an attack by the protesters. But it is clear that one of the reasons that made U.S. President Donald Trump do this was the incoming Presidential elections, and the impeachment procedure started by his opponents in the Democratic Party. Trump figured this would turn the tables on them, who accused him of being a “Russian agent” and of “betraying the U.S. interests” (by not pursuing an aggressive enough policy) over Ukraine.
Trump has made threats to bomb “52 Iranian sites” in retaliation for 52 hostages murdered at the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, including sites of cultural heritage. This and the killing of Suleimani are another in a series of provocations against Iran, such as withdrawal from the “nuclear deal”, the renewed imposition of economic sanctions, the anti-Iran conference in January 2019 in Warsaw (which aim, according to Israeli PM Netanyahu was to “prepare for war against Iran”), the deployment of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Qatar in May and airstrikes aimed at Shia militias in Iraq just before the fateful day.
Both Republicans and Democrats have for decades been set on exercising the U.S. dominion over the oil-rich Middle East, and committed to the perennial American alliances with the apartheid state of Israel and Wahabi theocracy of Saudi Arabia, both sworn enemies of Iran. While Barrack Obama is praised for his 2015 agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program, in reality this amounted to blackmail against this semi-colonial nation while the U.S. imperialism and Israel retain formidable nuclear arsenal, and are the ones ready to use it first.
While revolutionaries have no sympathy for the Iranian theocracy, it is clear that it is not Tehran which is the one destabilizing the region. It is U.S. imperialism and its allies which have wrought havoc in Middle East and Central Asia, having invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 (which left over a million dead) and refusing to leave to this day, bombed Libya and Syria, and supported Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen. The real “axis of evil” (which according to the former American President and notorious war criminal G. W. Bush is led by Iran) is actually around Washington, London, Warsaw, Riyadh and Tel-Aviv.
Washington’s latest actions could intensify rivalries with its imperialist once-allies. Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has postponed his visit to the Middle East. Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission has called on both sides of the conflict to “at once cease” the use of arms, which should “give place to dialogue”. German foreign minister Heiko Maas, while condemning Iran’s missile counterstrike on American bases in Iraq on the night between 7 and 8 January, has avoided the unilateral declaration of support to the U.S. and NATO. (German companies, contrary to the American ones, have been doing a lot of business in Iran.)
Marxists are for the expulsion of all imperialist troops from the Middle East; if necessary, by force. In a confrontation between the United States with its allies and Iran (or any neo-colonial country), class-conscious workers have a side with the latter, and defend its right to neutralize and attack U.S. military targets (as Iran has just done). American military victory would bring Iran into ruins – like Libya and Syria, where any working-class struggle seems impossible now – and institute a regime more pliant to the dictates of imperialism, imposing greater exploitation on the Iranian working masses, as well as shore up the reactionary Trump administration at home, facilitating further attacks on the American proletariat.
However, it does not mean any support to the murderous theocratic regime of the ayatollahs, which communists should view with hatred, nor imbuing it with any sort of “anti-imperialist” credentials – which would be a lie, given how the Iran-aligned forces coordinated with murderous U.S. airstrikes during the siege of Mosul or how Tehran has obediently enforced austerity “reforms” of the International Monetary Fund, which has sparked protest that have rocked Iran throughout the last year.
We think that the masses of the Middle East, led by the working class and its revolutionary communist parties in alliance with the proletariat of the imperialist metropoles, should overthrow all the bourgeois regimes in the region – whether it is the autocratic regime of Erdogan in Turkey, the Baathist regime of Assad in Syria, the military junta in Egypt, racist & militarist Zionists in Israel, the theocratic monarchy in Saudi Arabia, or Shia theocracy in Iran – drive out the imperialists, and organize a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. In the United States and whatever countries that could join the bloodbath on its side, such as its faithful Polish, Australian or Brazilian lackeys, we call for workers’ strikes against the war, which must be linked to a struggle to build a Leninist-Trotskyist revolutionary workers’ party devoted to the overthrow of the bloodthirsty capitalist and imperialist system.
“I will take the most simple and obvious example. In Brazil there now reigns a semi-fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!”
— Leon Trotsky, Anti-Imperialist Struggle Is Key to Liberation (an interview with Mateo Fossa), September 1938