1992. Placed on web October 2001.
THE GULF WAR
- THE USA IMPERIALISTS BID TO RECAPTURE WORLD SUPREMACY.
This article was originally produced in
1992, as the Gulf War took place. It condemned both the Imperialist war
and Hussein's barbaric anti-working class actions.
It contains material, that
in our view, is highly pertinent to today's situation. We therefore reproduce
It contains an analysis
from both Alliance, and from the group Communist League (UK), that depicts
the politics of Iran, Iraq, Oil, the Suez War and the build-up towards
todays war of imperialist aggression against the Afghan people.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Continue down this page for the following items:
1) Uneven and Fluctuating Imperialist World Dominations;
2) Middle Eastern Struggles and the anti-Colonial Movement;
3) Anti-colonial Struggles in Colonial Countries;
4) Attempts of the Weak National Bourgeoisies of the Middle East
to Find other Strategies to Fight Imperialism
5) Tactic Number One: Wahda and Nasserism - Pan-Arabism - A Political
Combination of Weak National Bourgeosie
6) Tactic Number Two: Playing on Contradictions Between the Imperialists;
7) The Specific Case of Egypt;
8) Tactic Number 3: Economic Combination- OPEC a Weak Bourgeoisie
attempts to Fight Back;
9) The Pseudo-Oil "Crisis" of the 1970's
10) The Iran-Iraq War- "War By Proxy" reprinted from Communist League;
The "Islamic Revolution" In Iran
11) Aims of the US Led Coalition in the Gulf War;
12) "The Invasion of Kuwait"; Reprint of Communist League number
88a; August 1990; GO TO: INVASION
13) "The Setting Up of Iraq"; Reprint of Communist League number
80; October 1990; GO TO: SETTING
UP OF IRAQ
14) "Imperialism Launches its' War"; Reprint of Communist League
number 83; February 1991; GO TO IMPERIALISM
LAUNCHES ITS WAR
OFF LIBYA!""HANDS OFF IRAQ!"
Most progressives demanded an end to the war in the Gulf.
We were not blind to the vicious reactionary nature of President
Saddam Hussein. Moreover we did not support his brutal invasion of Kuwait.
However the important question in our view, was whether this unequal
war would result in a resurgent American imperialist domination of the
world and the Middle East. This was, and remains the aim of the USA led
coalition. This now directed at Libya.
A military victory for the USA in the Gulf War was from
the start very likely. Its’ political effect was to delay further the emancipation
of the workers and peasants of the whole world. In particular those of
the Middle East, including the Iraqis and Palestinians. The current sabre
rattling that is taking place over Libya and the continued indifference
to the starvation of Iraqis, reminds us that "Desert Storm" has
not ended. In the author's opinion, the events of the Middle East in the
20th Century cannot make sense without insights gained from the Marxist-Leninist
theory of revolution in colonial and semi-colonial countries.
In this article the background of the attempts of
the revolutionary bourgeoisie to steer a path between inciting the masses
towards socialism, and yet being able to harness their strength to fight
imperialism is presented. This led to the Iran-Iraq war. Also shown is
the way in which the OPEC combination was hijacked by American imperialism.
All these events are portrayed in the context of the current world economic
trend to a new re-division of the world. One where US imperialism is struggling
against currently economically stronger forces in Europe and Japan. This
trend will culminate in a New World war.
HANDS OFF LIBYA!
In a subsequent issue we will analyse Libya in some detail. In the meantime,
The clear illegal manoeuvres of the American imperialists against
Libya must be resisted by broad front coalitions.
1) UNEVEN AND FLUCTUATING
IMPERIALIST WORLD DOMINATION.
Over the last 10 years, there have occurred significant world
events that form the background for this war. These concern the identity
of the leader amongst the world imperialists. This position changes in
the constant fight between imperialists for world domination. Lenin described
this process as follows:
"The characteristic feature of this period is the final partition of
the globe - not in the sense that a new partitions impossible- on the contrary
new partitions are possible and inevitable.. in the future only redivision
is possible; territories pass from " one " owner to another. The more capitalism
is developed, the more the need for raw materials is felt, the more bitter
competition becomes, and the more feverishly the hunt for raw materials
proceeds throughout the whole world, the more desperate becomes the struggle
for the acquisition of colonies.."
In the last years there has been an increase in the
competition for world markets. The tremendous crisis of over-production
over the last 10-15 years has accentuated this and tends towards a re-division
of world markets. Lenin asked:
"Is there under capitalism any means of removing the disparity between
the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on
the one side, and the division of colonies and " spheres of influence "
for finance capital (i.e. imperialism-Ed) on the other side -other than
by resorting to war?" p.98.Ibid.
The main events precipitating the Gulf War
can be summarised as well:
Lenin Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism. A popular outline.
New York, 1970 edition; p.76, 82.
i) The final disintegration
of the pseudo-socialist Soviet Union empire in Eastern Europe. This led
to a number of these countries re-entering the sphere of influence of Western
capital. There has been intense competition for the markets represented
by these countries. In this competition, the E.E.C. imperialists, in particular
the Germans, seem to be favourably placed.
ii) Following W.W.II , the
dominant capitalist imperialist nation was for a long period the USA, having
displaced British imperialism. However there has been a steady decline
of the US industrial base. This has resulted in a relative decline of its
world significance as an imperialist power. The huge deficit finance of
the USA reflects this. In addition to the failure of adequate re-investment
of profits into the capital base, has been the enormous drain on reserves
by its' American military hegemony . The necessity of using force to maintain
its empire, has resulted in a further diversion of resources away from
(See table 1 below).
TABLE 1. Military spending as a % public spending in the major
industrialised countries. 1961-80.
(B.Bellon and J.Niosi : "The decline of the American economy" Montreal.
1988. From UN Statistical Year book.)
iii) The surge in the fortunes
of the German and with them the other European nations. German capital
was able to capture this leading position for 2 primary reasons. Firstly
after the massive destruction of its' industrial base following WW II,
it had to re-tool. But this led to a competitive advantage as it did this
along the latest technological lines. To accomplish this it initially used
Marshall Aid, from the USA, who was interested in creating
a market for its' goods. Since the last 30 years Germany has also poured
relatively more capital into modernising its' plants. This stands in contrast
to British and US capital. The second reason for its advance has been the
constitutional and Allied insistence on not having a large standing highly
equipped armed forces. More capital was therefore available for its' industrial
However recently German imperialism faces major
difficulties. Despite the attraction of the markets of the Eastern European
countries, emerging from USSR imperialist domination, there are some disadvantages.
These entail a major need for capital investment, and to "re-educate "
the workers in the normal brutal practices of capitalism.
As David Marsh headlines his article in the Financial Times, "The locomotive
"2 years of powerful economic expansion provided the financial thrust
for reunification turning the country into a growth motor for the rest
of Europe. Now with the outlook darkened by war, recession in the important
export markets of the US and Britain, and soaring deficit at home, the
German locomotive is risking derailment ..massive Bonn government transfers
to shore up incomes and support investment in East Germany ( which makes
up 90 % of the united country's GNP ) - an estimated DM150 bn for 1990
and 1991 - have been quickly flowing back across the Elbe to fill companies
order books in the West ..politicians have warned that east German states
are close to financial collapse."
Financial Times 4th Feb 1991
Marsh also points out that the German deficit as a proportion
of GNP higher this year in Germany than in the USA.
See Graph 1 below.
iv) The emerging strength
of the Japanese imperialists. The same reasons that favour German capital,
have operated on behalf of the Japanese capitalist class. The amazing speed
of recovery of Japan and Germany in the fight for industrial production
is shown below, in table 2.
TABLE 2. Share of world manufacturing
value added selected industrialised countries. 1948-81. (%)
( Bellon and Niosis : Ibid , p.29. Source UN Industrial development
organisation and Handbook of industrial statistics; 1984.)
v) Complicating matters
has been a new phenomenon of previously colonial countries beginning to
exert some presence on the world market. The Newly Industrialised Countries
(N.I.C.) such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Portugal - have further eroded the potential markets
of the world. In many of these countries "their" productive capacity is
really owned by Multi-national companies. This then really represents superpower
productive capacity. However some of these nations really own their own
productive capacity. But the extent to which they can challenge the super
imperialists is limited. This is because imperialist agencies such as the
IMF and GATT restrict their capital and access to world markets in order
to favour the super imperialists.
vi) The temporary world failure
of socialism, as represented by the recent victory of the revisionists
in Albania. Foreign capital is now pouring into Albania, with the assistance
of the IMF. As well as representing a new market for the imperialists,
it also finally removes from potential inspiration for the working classes
of the world a model of socialism. The recent media distortions and lies
concerning Albania demonstrate how vital this denigration was for the imperialists.
There has been a more intense fevered competition amongst
the super power imperialists. Their current strategy involves combination
into super-trading blocs. Thus the European Economic Community attempts
to group the smaller European countries to fight the larger USA by combination.
In response the USA has begun the creation of a vast Free Trade Zone that
already embraces Canada and the USA and very shortly Mexico. Their next
move will be to enroll the NIC's of South America. All this has sharpened
the antagonisms regarding markets.
This underlies the recent pointed debates about markets.
It is pertinent to recall here that the last round of GATT ended in a dismal
failure for the USA. The US had attempted to enforce its' will against
the Europeans on US agricultural products entering Europe. The export penetration
of the Japanese has been fought by the USA and Europeans ineffective restriction
of markets. Added to this has been the relative invulnerability of the
Japanese home markets- a source of much irritation to the other superpowers.
In this trade conflagration, the relative dependency
of the Europeans and Japanese on Middle Eastern oil will not have
been unnoticed by the USA.
"Only 23 % of the total energy requirements of the USA are met by
oil imports, whereas this percentage is 92% for Japan and 67% for West
(The Economist , July 8th, 1978). Magdoff H and Sweezy P.M. New York
1981. " The Deepening Crisis of US capitalism. p. 96.
2) MIDDLE EASTERN STRUGGLES
- AND THE ANTI-COLONIAL MOVEMENT.
One main contradiction has dogged the Middle East
since the end of WW II. This is between the working classes and the developing
capitalist class of the Middle Eastern nations. Linked has been a second
contradiction - that between imperialists and the developing capitalists.
Finally, over this were further contradictions between the imperialists
themselves. After WW II there were explicit deals between the British and
US in the area regarding future developments:
"In response to Winston Churchill's questions about
America's interests in Iranian oil, Franklin Roosevelt wrote
in March 19434 that:
"I am having the oil studied by the Department of State and my oil
experts, but please do accept my assurances that I am not making sheep's
eyes at your oil fields in Iraq or Iran."
"Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheep's eyes at
our oil fields in Iran and Iraq. Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest
assurances that we have not thought of trying to horn in upon your interests
or property in Saudi Arabia."
James A. Bill: "The Eagle and the Lion - The tragedy of Iranian-American
Relations". New York , 1988. p.29
Nonetheless, British Imperialism was past its' zenith
and US imperialism was waxing strong. Conflict between them was bound to
become meshed with the anti-colonial movement.
3) ANTI - COLONIAL STRUGGLES
IN COLONIAL COUNTRIES.
When imperialism settled into its' colonies it used
local indigenous rulers and leading individuals as their surrogates. This
tactic became especially important when the revolutionary movements in
the colonies appeared to be successful in fighting off the imperialists.
These indigenous agents were usually buyers and traders whose livelihood
depended upon the Imperialists. Often landed feudal gentry were also allied
to imperialism. They were termed comprador
"In China, a native servant employed as head of the native staff,
and as agent, by European houses."
Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Oxford 1988."
Inevitably some indigenous capitalists wished to displace
imperialism and its' compradors; in order to retain all the colony's profits
for itself. They were termed national bourgeoisie.
Usually very weak they had to enlist the aid of the
masses i.e. working classes and peasantry. The national bourgeoisie of
the Middle East initially struggled against British and French; then USA
But as articulated by Lenin
and Stalin, these bourgeoisie flinch from the final step
towards national emancipation. They cannot contemplate the full unleashing
of mass movements for fear of arousing socialist movements. Though class
coalitions of national bourgeoisie with working class organizations were
created, these were only temporary. Worse they were prone to sabotage by
the national bourgeoisie. For the working class organisations it was imperative
to remain independent, even in a United Front.
Organisations claiming to represent the working
class took part in coalitions heedless of this, and led the working classes
into massacres. The ultimate failure of the working class to organise along
correct lines meant that the anti-imperialist struggle in the Middle East
was never taken towards completion. After World War II therefore,
the weak national bourgeoisie of the Middle East attempted to overcome
their weaknesses by several tactics - all unsuccessful.
These are detailed below; and culminated in a movement of cartelisation
for oil selling - OPEC. All these attempts were ultimately unsuccessful.
4) ATTEMPTS OF THE WEAK NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE
OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO FIND OTHER STRATEGIES TO FIGHT IMPERIALISM.
5) TACTIC NUMBER ONE: WAHDA
and NASSERISM, PAN-ARABISM; A POLITICAL COMBINATION OF WEAK NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE
Given the fear of rousing the working class movement
too far, only a vacillating movement against imperialism was possible for
the national bourgeoisie. Ultimately the national bourgeoisie capitulated
in the face of social revolution. This allowed the imperialist powers to
retard the development of the states concerned. Even where these states
nationalised the major resource in the area (oil) the imperialist
consortiums were able to dictate their demands (See below for the case
Despite these failures, the nascent bourgeoisie of
the area continued to harbour resentment against imperialism. To compensate
for their unwillingness to fully enroll the working classes, they attempted
to unite across national borders. This entailed a mystical Pan-Arabism
which initially took the form of Nasserism. Starting in the
context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, it struck a renewed hope
for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle
As a strategy to contain the mass movement it emphasised
notions of an "Arab peoples" - denying any class content. Revisionism in
the ex-Communist Parties of the area had effectively deprived the working
class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself
because the Egyptian workers party was under the influence of revisionist
The Nasserite movement aimed at WAHDA
(An Arabic term for union). Wahda called for the unity of several different
struggling national bourgeoisie against imperialism. It avoided the social
revolution by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class
coalition was created consisting of different national bourgeoisie.
Ultimately Pan-Arabism failed as there
was a dominant national bourgeoisie, which tried to create "comprador"
relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national
bourgeoisie was Egyptian, and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for
a time, as evidenced by the short-lived creation of the United Arab
Republic- consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian
bourgeoisie could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition.
The experiment thus failed.
6) TACTIC NUMBER TWO: PLAYING
ON CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN THE IMPERIALISTS,
The imperialists had for long squabbled amongst themselves as to how
to divide up the Middle East. French and British supremacy in the Middle
East was surreptitiously attacked by USA imperialism. After the death of
Stalin the hegemony of revisionism in the USSR was rapidly completed. With
the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union, the relations between the
Soviet Union and dependent nations became imperialist. This was exemplified
by the relations within the Warsaw Pact nations. In the semi-colonial and
colonial nations, the USSR attempted to act as a brake on Western imperialism.
This resulted in a struggle between US and Soviet social imperialism for
control of these areas, including the Middle East.
In this context, frequently the various timorous struggling national
bourgeoisie would switch "temporary masters".
Being ultimately interested in control of "their
own" profit, the national bourgeoisie were correctly viewed as unreliable
by the imperial super-powers. Nonetheless they were used as pawns by the
super powers in order to control the area. This allowed the national bourgeoisie
some limited bargaining power. Ultimately this strategy was also doomed
to failure in effecting the national revolution.
American policy recognised the strength of the anti-colonial
movements. Their plan was to disrupt the movement by using the compradors.
To further blunt the movement they used the veneer of neutrality offered
by the United Nations. John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of
State, said just prior to the Suez War :
"The USA cannot be expected to identify itself 100 % either with the
Colonial powers or the powers uniquely concerned with the problem of getting
independence as rapidly and as fully as possible-any areas encroaching
in some form or another on the problem of so called colonialism find the
US playing a somewhat independent role (ED ..of UK and France). The shift
from colonialism to independence will be going on for another 50 years,
and I believe that the task of the United Nations is to try to see that
this process moves forward in a constructive, evolutionary way, and does
not come to a halt or go forward through violent revolutionary processes
which would be destructive of much good."
After the Suez War, the USA and the USSR were the chief
powers contending in the area. Each super power developed its' primary
sphere of influence. Since neither power was able to totally control the
area, they were for long periods at a time, quite content for an armed
stalemate. This characterised that infamous war by proxy between Iraq and
Iran. It also characterised the internecine wars that tore apart Lebanon.
Cited Carlton. "Antony Eden"; London 1981; p.426
The major states in the area that were spheres of
influence for the Soviet Union were Iraq, Syria, Egypt
[at least until Nasser's death], Yemen and Libya. These countries
often had a mask of "socialism ".
The main countries supporting the USA
were Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and under Sadat
Examples of a national bourgeoisie
that tried to play one imperialist off against another include Egypt
under Nasser, Iraq [under Hussein] and Syria [under Assad].
Due to the serious demise of the fortunes of the
Soviet imperialists in the late 1980's, the USA was able to exert a far
more dominant role than previously, and for the first time saw an opportunity
to be unopposed. It tested the waters for an exertion of its' direct military
presence in the Arab world by bombing Libya.
7) The specific case of Egypt
The case of Egypt illustrates how a balancing act did
win short-term gains for the nationalist bourgeoisie. But ultimately it
could not succeed.
In Egypt the nationalist faction was represented
by the Free Officer Movement, to which Nasser belonged. This
movement, was supported initially by the USA, as a weapon against the British
"The Free Officer movement originated within the regular army; its
leaders were then preparing to oust the appointed military chiefs, seize
all the command posts and present their program for national renovation
to the entire army. They also tried to make sure that should they be successful,
the US ambassador would not be hostile and would exert pressure on the
British ambassador .."
The aims of the Free Officer movement were to allow
a degree of modernisation and development; and to get rid of the British
military occupation of Egypt. Even the first goal was unacceptable to either
the British, or to those who took their place, the USA. But the USA did
help the Free Officers in forcing the British to evacuate their 70,000
strong troops. However Eisenhower ensured a clause in the
Anglo-Egyptian Agreement that entitled Britain to reoccupy
the Suez zone with "Egypt's agreement", in the case of an attack on Egypt
by any outside power." Hiro Ibid p.298.
Mahmoud Hussein . " Class Conflict in Egypt 1945-1970. London , 1977.
"The US hoped to capitalize on the situation to become the new protector
of Egypt and force it to accept a military alliance which would officially
recognize the need for national sovereignty.."
M.Hussein , Ibid. p.96.
"According to Miles Copeland, an American CIA official
posted in the Middle East in the 1950's - the CIA knew as early as March
1952 that a 'secret military society' was plotting a coup.' Before the
coup the CIA's Cairo station, headed by Kermit Roosevelt,
had three meetings with some of the officers of the group. "the large area
of agreement reached by Roosevelt and this (Egyptian ) officer, speaking
for Nasser himself, is noteworthy, " writes Copeland.
Dilip Hiro " Inside the Middle East " London. 1982. p. 297.
Nasser from then on used both the US and UK imperialists
for financing. But to retain his independence and to get the "best deal"
Nasser also asked for financing from the revisionist Soviets. Even the
provision of Soviet arms via Czechoslovakia did not deter the West
"Not wishing to alienate the charismatic leader of Egypt, a most strategic
country in the region, Washington and London continued discussions with
Cairo on financing the Aswan Dam- with the International Bank for Reconstruction
and Development (known as the World Bank) offering credits for $ 200 million
and America and Britain together another $70 million in hard currencies-
matching $900 million to be provided by Egypt in local services and goods.
An agreement was signed in February."
The Western imperialists feared that Egypt was becoming
drawn into the USSR sphere of influence. This was a more urgent fear for
the weaker British than for the USA. Marked pressure on the USA to tangibly
support this policy, came from Antony Eden (then Conservative
Prime Minister of Britain). Winston Aldrich, the US ambassador
to London said:
Hiro Ibid p.298.
"Eden.. asked me to see him on a matter of the greatest importance
and urgency. Eden told me that the emergency has arisen in connection with
the Egyptian proposal, namely that the Russians had offered to finance
the dam. Eden feared that this would give the Egyptians a dangerous foothold
in an area vital to the interests of Great Britain.. He asked me to take
up at once with Washington the question of whether the US would underwrite
the obligations which Great Britain would assume in making such a guarantee
(of financing the dam)".
Eisenhower, as his diary showed had already recognised
that this was a doomed policy. He concluded that Egypt was moving away
from the likely control of the USA, and that the Saudis should be firmly
lassoed into the USA sphere:
Cited David Carlton "Antony Eden" London 1981 p.391.
"We have reached the point where it looks as if Egypt, under Nasser
is going to make no move.. the Arabs (i.e. Egypt -ED ) absorbing major
consignments of arms from the Soviets are daily growing more arrogant and
disregarding the interests of Western Europe and the US.. It would appear
that our efforts should be directed towards separating the Saudi Arabians
from the Egyptians and concentrating, for the moment.. in making the former
see that their best interests lie with us, and not with the Egyptians and
with the Russians.."
Nasser finally overstepped the lines by recognising
the People's Republic of China in May. By the 20th July,
both the USA and the British rescinded their offers of aid. Now Nasser
retaliated by nationalising the Suez Canal. This provoked
uproar from the French owners (Universal Suez Maritime Canal Company)
and the British and Israelis. These powers planned an attack upon Gaza
aiming at taking the Suez Canal (Hiro Ibid. p.64). These moves were not
supported by the USA, who according to Eden himself were verbally offering
D. Eisenhower, Diary, Cited by David Carlton; lbid p. 404.
"Moral support and sympathy", and "did not want to know the details
of the Anglo-French plans."
But Eden was deliberately misleading the USA about his
full aggressive intentions. Eisenhower had written to Eden that:
Cited Carlton , Ibid . p. 412.
"The use of military force against Egypt under present circumstances
might have consequences even more serious than causing the Arabs to support
Nasser. It might cause a serious misunderstanding between our two countries
.. the most significant public opinion is that ... the United Nations was
formed to prevent this very thing ... I assure you that we are not blind
to the fact that eventually there may be no escape for the use of force."
The war was launched and went - from the military perspective
- as expected. But the USSR strongly condemned the war of aggression launched
by Britain, France and Israel. The USA at the United Nations, also strongly
condemned the invasion and called for a cease-fire. Behind closed doors
they prompted speculation against sterling by U.S. Federal Reserve Bank
selling and refused IMF and USA financial aid. Further, the USSR threatened
to enter the war:
Carlton Ibid. p.419-20.
"We are fully determined to use force to crush the aggressors and to
restore peace in the Middle East."
These moves ensured the withdrawal of the Three-Nation intervention.
p.332. V.Trukhanovsky;" Antony Eden " Moscow, 1974.
This fiasco for British and French imperialism signaled
their retreat from the Middle East as imperialists independent
of the USA. America then was able to fill what Eisenhower described as
a "vacuum" in the Middle East. Eisenhower's Doctrine promised
to aid any Middle Eastern state seeking protection against "overt armed
aggression from any nation controlled by international communism", (cited
This explicit threat effectively blocked any regional
Wahda-Unity attempts. It was sufficiently elastic to interpretation to
be acceptable, yet threatening enough to deter Egypt in particular. The
"Was applied 3 times: to solve the internal crisis of Jordan in April
1957, to pressure the nationalists - leftist regime of Syria.. and to provide
troops to Lebanon in July 1958.. In the case of Jordan and Lebanon, the
American move was made to check the rise of the Nasserite forces there.."
As the circumstances became clear to the nationalist
bourgeoisie of Nasserite Egypt, they were forced to become dependant again
– this time upon the USSR.
Hiro, Ibid p. 299.
Despite the early hopes of the Nasser forces
in Egypt, they had now become compradors for the USSR.
The economic relations of exchange of raw goods (cotton)
for finished products (military) and economic "aid" - dictated a colonial
type relationship with the USSR. (Hussein. Ibid. p.286).
To counter the threat of a growing and "excess" USSR influence,
the USA then unleashed war.
The USA moving through their client states wished
also to check the national bourgeoisie. The USA heavily endorsed the Israelis
as a lynch pin in the area. The USSR acted as a countervail in the cases
of Syria and Egypt. The USA and Britain now heavily armed Israel. Egypt
and Syria signed a joint defence treaty fearing an Israeli attack. They
were quite right. When King Hussein of Jordan joined the Egyptian - Syrian
defence Pact on 30 May, Dean Rusk then American Secretary
of State clearly signaled war, saying:
"I don't think it's our business to restrain anybody.."
The USA knew the likely outcome of such a war. As President
Johnson put it to an aide:
Cited Hiro, p.301.
"Israel is going to hit them (the Arabs).." whilst (he was) publicly
responding positively to a Soviet appeal the next day for restraint."
The Israelis launched a pre-emptive strike
on the eve of a peace mission to Washington by Vice-President Zakaria Mohieddin.
Cited by Hiro p.300.
Nasser's forces were crushed.
This sealed the future role as a key agent of the
USA in the area of Israel.
8) TACTIC NUMBER THREE:
The creation of OPEC in 1960 was another attempt by
the weak indecisive national bourgeois to find a third way. One that did
not rely on either the active involvement of the masses, nor a path of
total capitulation to the imperialists.
ECONOMIC COMBINATION, OPEC.
A WEAK BOURGEOISIE ATTEMPTS TO FIGHT BACK.
OPEC attempted to bargain, or to horse trade; by
forming a combination, or a cartel. This was designed to deal with the
cartel of the major Oil companies- the Seven Sisters. These
simply had to refuse to buy oil from any producer country that tried to
challenge the price offered. The price "posted" was agreed to by all Seven
But in retaliation, the imperialists recognized that
even nationalisation could not help if the producer country could not market
the oil. This tactic was used viciously against Iran.
The oil producing nations varied in the intensity
with which they fought the Seven Sisters and the imperialist nations. In
1960 one of the weakest was Iran, ruled by the Shah Pahvlavi
whose compliance to the USA was assured following CIA intervention in 1951.
This had been necessary to prevent the nationalist
Muhammed Mussadiq effecting nationalisation of Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company (AICO) later the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
Musaddiq believed that:
"The Iranian must administer his own house."
But in fact, Mussadiq clearly was not a fully committed
nationalist. The mass movement was compelling him to go further than he
perhaps would have otherwise. As John Foster Dulles said
in February 1953 :
Cited J.A.Bill " The Eagle and the Lion - the tragedy of Iranian -American
relations" . New York 1988 p.56.
"Musaddiq could not afford to reach any agreement with the British
lest it cost him his political life..."
When he became Prime Minister of the Majlis (the Iranian
Parliament) in April 1951, he inherited a Bill that nationalised AICO.
Refusing to rescind it, he was held to ransom by AICO which refused to
allow Iran to sell its oil on the international market:
J.A.Bill, Ibid p.78.
"This boycott was effective. Iran's oil export income dropped from
more than $400 million in 1950 to less than $2 million in the 2 year period
from July 1951 to August 1953.. Musaddiq faced a deteriorating economic
and political situation in 1953.. and was forced to rely on the radical
left and the communist (revisionist - Editor) Tudeh party..
on May 28th Musaddiq wrote to President Eisenhower requesting economic
aid.. the answer was negative..".
The British then persuaded the USA to participate in
a putsch, termed Operation Boot by the British and Ajax by
the US. The Chief British operative, Major C.M.Woodhouse
was conscious of difficulties in getting the US to take part :
J.A.Bill ibid P.66-7.
"Not wishing to be accused of trying to use the Americans to pull British
chestnuts out of the fire, I decided to emphasis the Communist threat to
Iran rather than to need to recover control of the off industry. I argued
that even if a settlement of the oil dispute could be negotiated with Musaddiq,
which was doubtful, he was still incapable of resisting a coup by the Tudeh
party, if it were backed by Soviet support. Therefore he must be removed."
Fully involved in the putsch was General Norman
Schwarzkopf, former US adviser to the Iranian Gendarmerie ( J.
A. Bill. Ibid, p. 90). He was the father of the US General of the same
name, in the 1991 Gulf War of aggression.
J. A. Bill, Cited, Ibid. p.86.
The 1953 anti- Musaddiq coup resulted in the Shah
of Iran being bought back to Iran. He understood fully who had
placed him on the Peacock Throne, and remained thereafter much indebted
to US imperialism. Musaddiq was treated with relative leniency - he was
not killed, but after 3 years in jail, was allowed to return to his home
village Ahmadabad under house arrest (J.A.Bill Ibid p. 101).
This episode was to influence tactics in the Middle
East for some years. The national bourgeoisie had been warned that nationalisation
was not adequate to ensure marketing of the oil from the producer nations
without the cooperation of the Seven Sisters.
An alternative was needed.
The cartel strategy was first proposed by the
national bourgeoisie of Venezuela, in 1959,
after they regained power following the earlier successful military pro-USA
comprador coup of 1948.
The military coup in favour of the USA, had been
precipitated 12 days following an act promulgated by the national bourgeoisie
of the Venezuelan state, which had imposed a 50-50 split of the profits
from oil, between Venezuela and the oil companies.
The military coup was staged by elements in favour
of a comprador relationship with the USA. After the coup, the new dictatorship
favoured the interests of the US imperialists and dispensed new major oil
concessions to the oil companies.
Despite this failure of the Venezuelan national bourgeoisie,
the "50-50 rule" became standard in dealings with oil-exporting
nations. For instance Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company
) used this formula in Saudi Arabia in 1950. (J.A.Bill, op cit, p. 61).
However this still left considerable super-profits for the Seven Sisters.
The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela recognised
that a key factor in their defeat during prolonged negotiations had been
the erosion of Venezuela's selling power by Middle East oil. Oil companies
when faced with demands for a fairer distribution of profit had simply
expanded production from the Middle East. The leader of the "horse trading"
strategy, Perez Alfonzo had:
"Only envisaged an 'entente' and 'arrangement' between a few producing
countries to establish, links of solidarity between them, reduce the oil
companies ‘capacity for maneuvering and prevent them from playing one country
off against another."
After the national bourgeoisie of Venezuela returned
to power in 1959, they again took up the cause of combination.
(Statement in Petroleum Weekly, New York May 1 1959 p. 19. Cited by
Pierre Terzian "OPEC: The inside story"; London 1985.)
Now they had support in the Middle East, from the
Director of the Permanent Oil Bureau, Mohammed Salman of Iraq.
This had been set up by the Arab League in 1953.
A secret agreement known as the Maadi Pact
was concluded at the first Oil Arab Congress in Cairo on 16th April 1959.
The reaction to the open Congress session was skeptical by the oil business:
"Venezuelan delegates arrived with high hopes of lining up Middle East
producing states in a front to limit production and prevent further decline
in prices, but were finally resigned to the fact that Arabs were more interested
in other problems now and that all Venezuelans were supposed to do was
However the secret Maadi Agreement between the UAR,
Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia included the following:
Platts Oilgram News, New York. Cited by P.Terzian, Ibid, p.25.
"Agreement was reached ... on
The most energetic member of this group, Perez Alfonso
arranged that the USSR would support the OPEC move. This was important
because the Oil companies were constantly citing the USSR's tariff policy
as a pretext to justify their own decision to cut prices. (P.Terzian, Ibid
1. Improvement of the oil producing countries participation on a reasonable
and equitable basis. The consensus of opinion was that said government
should tend to at least a 60-40 formula to be on a par with the recent
Venezuelan attitude.. and with other countries ..the price structure should
be maintained - any change in prices should be discussed with precedent
in time and be approved by all parties concerned.
2. Convenience of arriving at an integration of the oil industry-to
ensure stable markets to the producer countries avoiding transfers of gains
from one phase of the operations to another, affecting the oil revenue
of the governments.........
4. Establishment of National Oil Companies that would operate side
by side with the existing private companies.. "
P.Terzian. Ibid , p.27-8.
After an initial disbelief, the major oil companies,
led by Shell, tested resistance by announcing cuts in the
posted prices of oil that they were prepared to pay. The vigorous resistance
they met, along with announcements of a meeting of producer nations at
Baghdad in September, 1960, induced them to withdraw their
price cuts. The Financial Times concluded:
"In effect Shell is.. paying a premium to the Governments of the producing
states. What the countries particularly objected to was the fact that they
were not consulted."
However efforts to involve the Middle East nations in effective combative
combination were doomed to failure. Since combination had to involve countries
ruled by comprador bourgeoisie (e.g. Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as countries
ruled by national bourgeoisie (e.g. Iraq).
Cited, Terzian. Ibid. p.53.
The Baghdad Meeting in September 10th
1960 started off tense. The Venezuelan nationalists were in the midst of
fending off a coup at home. Even more dramatic was the fact that the Iraqi
nationalist President Kassem was also besieged by a coup.
He arrived for an honourary dinner, wearing 2 revolvers in his belt! But
tension rose as it was clear that Iran was blocking agreement on going
further than the agreement reached at Maadi. The Irani representative Fuad
Ruhani had been given:
"Very precise instructions from my Government.."
Suddenly on 14 th September the Shah sent new instructions.
This agreed to the creation of a permanent organisation.
Moreover, the Shah even had a name for it - The
Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC ).
Terzani , Ibid. p.41.
This about face indicated a new tack on the part
of the Oil Companies. That was to accept the inevitability of the cartel,
but to emasculate it from within. OPEC was hijacked-
As Perez Alfonso found when he met the directors
of the Seven Sisters:
"My impression is that the main companies recognise that the Baghdad
Agreement was necessary, or at least inevitable.."
Theoretically the OPEC countries were in a very strong
position controlling 82 % of world crude exports. But The Times accurately
saw the situation:
"The strength of these producing countries is not as great as might
appear-offering two reasons-the surplus of supply over demand in the world
oil market and the divergent interests of the 5 countries concerned, some
of who wanted to increase production whilst other sought a reduction.."
In addition the oil imperialist companies and
their nations had the marketing and distribution monopoly, and in addition
began to exploit other sources of oil. The comprador states were key to
the strategy of the oil companies. Saudi Arabia was and is a reactionary
state with elements of mystic Muslim feudalism. It is a key state representing
USA interests in the Middle East.
The Times 15 September, 1960. Cited by Terzian p.44.
As the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources commented:
"The US, by virtue of its commercial oil interests 'long standing monopoly
over the disposition of Saudi crude, now reinforced by the 1974 conclusion
of a "special relationship" embracing economic and military agreements,
is very widely regarded amongst its allies and by Arab and Iranians as
having secured preferential and near-exclusive access to Saudi oil. Given
the extraordinary importance of Saudi oil production to the world generally,
the US relationship is considered key to supply security." Musaddiq
At critical times the Saudis have refused to allow the
OPEC to raise prices in accordance with the demand of the more nationalistic
of the OPEC countries such as Iraq and Libya. Saudi Crown Prince
Fahd has pretentiously revealed his unwillingness to be an effective
member of the cartel :
(U.S. Senate: "Access to oil - the USA relationships with Saudi Arabia
and Iran." Washington D.C. U.S. Government Printing office, Publication
No. 95-70. 1977 (p. xi). Cited by Peter Nore and Terisa Turner in: "Oil
and the class struggle"; London; 1980).
"My country which possesses the largest oil reserves in the world will
not be the cause of a weakening in the capacity of humanity to live in
stability and prosperity. In view of this lofty aim, commercial considerations
cease to exist and consequently the methods which are used to increase
or lower prices will likewise disappear.."
Nor is it surprising that given the membership of nations
like Saudi Arabia in OPEC, that OPEC could not reflect the
interests of the oil producing national bourgeoisie. As Henry Kissinger
Frankfurter Rundschau. I April 1975. Cited by Mohssen Massarrat. The
Energy Crisis p.67. in Oil and the class struggle" Ed. P.Nore and T.Turner.
It is not surprising that:
"Saudi foreign policy consists largely of support for Washington in
the Middle East";
(Sunday Times, - 5th August 1990. p. 12)
"OPEC was not perceived as a serious cartel..."
In fact as, the manufactured oil crisis of the 1970's
shows, OPEC was transformed into an agency that performed objectively in
the interests of the USA imperialists.
Jack Anderson and James Boyd. "Fiasco. The real story behind the disastrous
worldwide energy crisis- Richard Nixon's "Oilgate". 1983. Toronto. p. 163.
9) THE PSEUDO OIL "
CRISIS " OF THE 1970'S.
It is widely believed that it was the pressure of the
OPEC countries that led to a dramatic price rise and so called " oil crisis
'in the 1970's. Certainly determined nationalist countries like Libya and
Algeria increased the pressure inside OPEC for a price rise. The rise in
prices can be seen in Graph 2 below :
Though the oil exploring countries had a definite
interest in a price rise, their effectiveness as a cartel has already been
shown to be limited, due to the inclusion of "weak" member state such a
Saudi Arabia. In reality, the manipulation of oil prices has followed the
various requirements of the Seven Sisters, the minor oil companies and
the USA monopoly capitalists.
"For the oil companies an increase in the general price of oil was
also of great importance, not least because they had seen their distributional
share steadily diminish over time - as a result of higher level of taxation
by the oil-exporting countries.. which was difficult to pass on to the
consumer in a situation characterised by a global excess supply .."
The problems of the Major Seven Sisters, were compounded
by the competition they now faced:
Petter Nore and Terisa. Turner, Editors ." Oil and the class struggle
London 1980, p.72.
"due to a three fold challenge - the rise of the independents following
the U.S. import quota system in 1958; the emergence of important state
oil companies in Europe like Italy's E.N.I. which tried to outbid the concessions
offered by the majors; and the increase in Soviet oil exports to the West
- resulting in a drop in the profit per barrel for the Majors. The reduction
was only partly overcome by a sharp increase in total production. Profit
rates for US direct foreign investment in the petroleum industry dropped
from a 30 % return in 1955 to 14.7 % in 1963 and an all time low of 11.
1 % in 1969.."
Added to this was the high cost of extraction from areas
such as Alaska and the North Sea. This posed a problem for the major Oil
companies. The oil crisis was therefore "manufactured", to raise the available
oil profits to a point where it would become economically viable to begin
extraction from the oil shales of the USA. This entailed
the profit interests of both the major oil companies and their smaller
rivals who were not in the cartel known as the Seven Sisters.
Nore; p.72; Ibid.
At this time despite the apparent oil shortage, the
oil companies had stocked up supplies, in many tankers that lay outside
New Jersey in the midst of the so-called shortage as prices were driven
up by the companies.
This tactic was portrayed as the work of the OPEC
cartel. But the general line was clearly supported by the oil companies:
"Though the oil companies created the appearances of fighting OPEC
tooth and nail - they recognised that their best hopes of future profitability..
depended upon successful cooperation-thus OPEC/oil companies cooperation
became a fact of life.. with the positive encouragement of the USA.. "
But the USA Government representing the combined monopoly
capital had its' own reasons for seeing a price rise:
P. R. Odell. "Oil and World power"; London, 1980; p.215.
"From 1970 onwards the US clearly pressed for an increase in the general
price of crude oil." Nore, Ibid, p.73.
The USA interests in the raising the price of oil revolved around
three main issues,
Firstly, Both the leading sections of American capital
had major profit interests tied up in raising the price of oil. The big
Northern "Yankee" financiers were involved with the oil Major Seven
Sisters companies. The "Cowboys" who represented newer capital reliant
on oil and arms, formed the smaller independent oil companies.
As Odell points out:
Secondly, the USA wanted to ensure a renewed attempt at
peace - on their terms of an acceptable status quo to them - in the Middle
"The USA.. sought to provide stability – as a basis for a renewed effort
to find a political solution to the Middle East conflict, and argued that
higher revenues and a greater degree of economic certainty for the Arab
oil-producing nations would, make it easier for them, to accept a compromise
in the their dispute with Israel".
Odell, Ibid , p. 215.
But, Thirdly, this manoeuvre was also aimed at the competitors
of American imperialism as recognised by the Economist:
"The Economist 7th July, 1973; under the title "The Phoney oil crisis",
voiced the suspicion that the US had capitulated only to readily to the
OPEC demands for an increase in oil prices because such an increase would
slow down the Japanese economy. Japanese exports were out-competing American
demands at the time and its economy was more vulnerable to rises in the
price of off than any other nation."
Cited by Peter Nore p.86 "Oil and the Class struggle"; London, 1980.
"The USA was fed up with a situation in which the rest of the industrialised
world had access to cheap energy. It deliberately initiated a foreign policy
which aimed at getting oil-producing nations' revenues moving strongly
up by talking incessantly to the producers about their low oil prices and
by showing them the favourable impact of much higher prices. It was of
course assured that these cost increases, plus further increases designed
to ensure higher profit levels for the companies, were passed on to the
European and Japanese energy consumers, so eliminating their energy cost
advantage over their competitors in the USA. The actual timing.. coincided
with unusual circumstances.. namely a strong demand for most oil products
in most markets in a period of general economic advance, a shortage of
oil refinery capacity in Europe and Japan and a temporary scarcity of tankers.."
German industry had already caused problems for the Major oil companies
by flirting with the Russians. USA Government pressure had been required
to prevent further erosion of the European markets:
Odell p. 215-216.
"In 1969 only the intervention of the Federal West German Government
under severe pressure from the USA, thwarted an agreement between the Soviet
Union and the Bavarian state government. Had this agreement gone through,
the Soviet Union would have been in a very strong position to put in branch
pipelines to the other countries.. of Western Europe.. Soviet oil exports
to Western Europe.. steadily increased from only 3 million ton in 1955
to over 40 million ton in 1969..Under 1978 conditions the amount of oil
in Western Europe is supply rather than demand constrained.."
In this context it is of significant aid to the USA imperialists
that the USSR is unable to exploit its' oil
reserves owing to the enormous dislocation in the state.
Odell, Ibid; p.58-60.
"Production from Siberian oil fields is dropping so rapidly that the
Soviet Union, the world's largest petroleum producer may begin to import
expensive world price crude within 2 years Kremlin officials say..."we
are talking catastrophic failure here," one Western diplomatic observer
said.. oil exports have been the Soviet Unions' primary source of hard
currency income, and the only bright spot.. in trade,.. the troubles appear
to be related to a decaying infra-structure, including an inefficient distribution
system vulnerable to sabotage. Production from the giant Tyumen oil field
of Western Siberia, winch supplies about half of the country's oil for
export has dropped 10% since 1988, Pravda said .. former allies in Central
and Eastern Europe are being hit the hardest with cuts of 30-50 %. The
cuts, coupled with the significantly higher prices Moscow began charging
Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia on January Ist are hobbling economic
reforms in these countries.."
The USA Senate recognised the oil demand in Europe and
Japan as a vital issue for the general policy to be followed by the USA
in the Middle East:
Jeff Sallot, from Moscow; In "Globe and Mail", Toronto. Business Report.
Feb 12th 1991.
"One can argue that while the oil benefit is nowhere near so great
to the US as it is to the European and Japanese importers for which to
is vital, the US relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia serves the collective
security interests of its allies in helping assure a continuous and adequate
flow of oil.. But.. will the US government come to affect the destination
of these 7 million barrels per day, exercising its influence through the
Americans oil companies? Or will the companies be able to continue to supply,
unhampered by considerations other than the meeting of their contractual
Towards the close of the war, the US Government took
a markedly pro-Iraqi stance despite a so-called "official neutrality".
So much so that:
U.S. Senate Cited by P.Noore and T. Turner, Ibid p. 9.
Cartoon Number 1
10) The Iran-Iraq ' war.
REPRINT FROM COMMUNIST LEAGUE;
"The Reagan administration's gradual tilt toward Iraq is beginning
to look like a full fledged embrace. The USA deplored the use of chemical
weapons against the Iranians and the Kurds.. but declined to take up the
issue of chemical weapons as a violation of the Geneva Convention rules
of war at the UN."
To follow the twists of the Iraq-Iran war, with the
complexity introduced by the internal struggle in Iran, we reprint here
an analysis that has been found helpful. It was first printed in October
1980 by the Communist League (UK) and is quite informative.
New York Times 24.04.88.
WAR BY PROXY
Compass Journal of Communist League, UK, October
AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER 1980 THE CONTINUING FRONTIER INCIDENTS BETWEEN
THE NEIGHBOURING STATES OF IRAQ AND IRAN, BLAZED UP INTO A FULL-SCALE UNDECLARED
WAR, WHEN IRAQI FORCES INVADED IRAN.
The Iraqi-Iranian War
The Iraqi government declared its war aims
1) To establish Iraqi sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab waterway,
leading into the Gulf and forming Iraq's only outlet to the sea; and
In these days of imperialism in decay, it is rare for
a local war between two under-developed states to occur unless it serves
the interests of one or other of the big imperialist powers.
2) To establish Arab (i.e., not necessarily Iraqi) sovereignty over
the three strategic islands of Greater and Lesser Tumbs and Abu Musa-in-the
Strait of Hormuz (occupied by Iran in 1971).
Viewed as a "war by proxy", 'the war between Iraq
and Iran might seem at first glance to be one between a Soviet-backed
Iraq and an American-backed Iran, since Iraq has a Treaty of Friendship
with the Soviet Union and most of its arms are of Soviet origin, while
most of Iran’s arms are of US origin.
Such a conclusion would, however, be erroneous.
Since the arming of these states by the respective
superpowers, each has changed its' international orientation.
Iraq has moved out of the Soviet neo-imperialism
into that of US imperialism, while the regime in Iran has adopted a stance,
which appears to be anti-American. Although the United States has declared
its "neutrality" in the war, the Iraqi invasion of Iran is in fact, openly
supported by certain Arab states which are dependent upon US imperialism:
"The countries publicly supporting Iraq Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait
and Egypt -- are all moderate and pro-West";
On September 30th., after the war was well-under way,
the US government agreed to send four Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft
(AWAC’s) to Saudi Arabia, which was publicly supporting Iraq, while:
("Sunday Times", September 28th, 1980; p.13)."
"the Carter Administration is going through with plans to supply Jordan
with 100 tanks. . .This follows strong Jordanian backing for Iraq".
On the other hand,
("Financial Times , October 9th., 1980; p. 44).
"Iran claims to have turned down an offer of military assistance from
the Soviet Union in its war with...Iraq. . . The offer of assistance was
said to have been made by Mr. Vladimir Vinogradov, the Soviet Ambassador
to Iran, to Mr. Mohammed Ali Rajai, the Prime Minister".
However, the Soviet Union's satellite Arab states of
Syria and Libya are reported to be secretly sending arms by air to Iran
secretly because the strength of Arab nationalism is such that they consider
it inexpedient to be seen supporting a Persian against an Arab nation.
("Financial Times" October 6th., 1980; p.1.)
THE "ISLAMIC REVOLUTION" IN IRAN
By the end of 1978 -- above all when the working class
moved into action in the oilfields -- it had become clear that mass opposition
had grown beyond the power of the brutal pro-American regime headed by
the Shah to control. The more far-sighted representatives of the ruling
landlord and comprador bourgeois classes saw that there was a real danger
of their wealth and power being swept away in a national-democratic revolution
led by the national bourgeoisie.
In order to save themselves, therefore, the representatives
of these ruling classes strove to take over the leadership of the revolutionary
movement so as to divert it into the channels of what was called an "Islamic
Revolution", one which would be limited in scope to the replacement of
imperial regime by (at least in the initial period) a dictatorship of the
reactionary Moslem clergy.
In the month following the departure of the Shah
in January 1979, therefore, an "Islamic Republic" was established which
took the form of a dual power. One facet of the apparatus
of power was in the hands of the mullahs and ayatollahs, headed by Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini, controlling the government, the parliament,
the judicial system, and the para-military "Revolutionary Guards". The
other facet of the apparatus of power was in the hands of the national
bourgeoisie, headed by Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, controlling
the Presidency and the regular armed forces. The mood of the masses was
such that the clergy, to retain their influence were compelled to mouth
Despite its "anti-Americanism", the new regime in
Iran was acceptable to Washington as a short-term measure, since it enabled
the landlords, and comprador bourgeois to save themselves from the wrath
of the Iranian people, and it was upon these classes that any future neo-colonial
regime dependent upon the USA must be based.
In the long-term, however, the requirements of Washington
in relation to Iran could only be met by a new military dictatorship
which could resume open dependence upon the USA.
However, a successful military coup required that
the Iranian masses should become dissatisfied with the existing regime.
The Khomeini regime introduced a series of measures
of the most reactionary character: women were forced to wear the chador
(the full-length black veil), polygamy was legalised for men, the right
of divorce was removed from women, the minimum age for the marriage of
girls was reduced from 18 to 13.
But such mediaeval measures were not enough. The
US imperialists needed some pretext to exert maximum pressure upon Iran
if discontent was to reach the point where a military coup would be likely
to be successful.
On October 22nd, 1979 the US government provocatively
admitted the hated ex-Shah to the United States, and on November 4th, "in
reprisal" the US Embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran was occupied
by "students" loyal to Khomeini and a number of its diplomats detained
as "hostages", allegedly for the return of the ex-Shah and
his wealth to Iran.
The principle of the inviolability of diplomats and
diplomatic buildings is a cardinal principle of relations between civilised
states and this terrorist action was quickly opposed by President
Bani-Sadr on behalf of the Iranian national bourgeoisie, as:
"A move which further reduced the government's prestige both in Iran
and abroad". ("Keesing's Contemporary Archives", Volume 26; P. 30,150).
Like all acts of terrorism, the taking of the hostages
assisted the forces against which it was said to be directed. It enabled
the Carter Administration to build up an aggressive nationalist hysteria
at home, to mobilise international opinion against Iran, to freeze Iranian
assets in the US, to launch a military "rescue" operation against Iran,
and to blockade the country.
"The incarceration of the 52 American hostages is largely to blame for
Iran's failure to win any effective friends in its struggle against Iraq,
according to a senior aide to President Bani-Sadr. President Bani-Sadr,
according to sources close to him, would like to send the hostages home
immediately thus erasing what he regards as the biggest single blot on
the record of Islamic Iran. But, as in so much else, the President cannot
impose his will, and the real extremists, who include Prime Minister Mohammad
Ali Rajai, hold sway".
("Daily Telegraph"; 6 October l4th 1980; p.4).
The blockade placed Iran in the position where it
was unable to obtain spare parts for its’ predominantly American military
equipment so that, in the event of war it could (in the opinion of the
Pentagon’s "military experts") offer only short-term military resistance
to an invader. Then, so went the plan - in the circumstances of ignominious
defeat and the reactionary character of the Khomeini regime, the climate
would become highly favourable for a military coup by "patriotic" and "progressive"
IRAQ MOVES "WEST"
In July 1968 a military coup established in Iraq a military
dictatorship headed by Major-General Ahmed Hassan.al-Bakr,
representing primarily the Iraqi national bourgeoisie. The al-Bakr regime
moved the country out of its former orbit of dependence to US imperialism,
but internal and international pressures compelled it to seek dependence
in doing so on the principal rival of the USA, Soviet neo-imperialism,
which became Iraq's main source of "aid" and arms.
But during the early 1970s the US imperialists undertook
a radical reorientation of their foreign policy in the Middle East. As
the Communist League (then the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of
Britain) pointed out during the Middle East war of October 1973:
"By the summer of 1970 it had become clear to the most influential
section of the United States imperialists that it would be essential for
the USA to import large quantities of oil in the next few
years from the Arab States in the Middle East. This meant that full
support of Israel against the Arab states was no longer in the best interests
of the US imperialists.
This reorientation of policy on the part of the US imperialists
had repercussions throughout the Middle East. It led in Iraq, as in Egypt
to a split in the ruling Arab capitalist class, but by the spring of 1975
the pro-US wing had emerged victorious. In March 1975 an agreement was
signed between Iraq and Iran by which the front between the two states
in the Shatt-al-Arab was moved from the eastern bank to mid-channel. In
return the Iranian government ceased its support for the Kurdish national
liberation movement within Iraq, and enabled the Iraqi government forces
to wage a successful offensive against the Kurdish liberation forces.
From this time on the US imperialists made their position clear to
the Arab Middle East governments. They would endeavour to persuade the
Israeli government to withdraw ‘voluntarily’ to the boundaries existing
before the war of 1967. And if those attempts failed they would hold back
(without discontinuing entirely) their military aid to Israel and would
tacitly approve an all-out war on the part of the Arab states against
Israel provided, 1) the Palestine national liberation movement was effectively
2) the representatives of Soviet imperialism were expelled from
the Arab states.
In 1970 and 1971 the US government pressed its 'peace plan' through
visits to the Middle-East by Secretary of the State, William Rogers,
Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco and diplomats Donald
Bergus and Michael Sterner.
Meanwhile, using as a pretext the hijacking of several airliners by
Palestinian commandos, in September 1970, King Hussein of Jordan launched
a large-scale offensive against the Palestinian national liberation
forces within Jordan; this offensive was resumed in July1971, after
which Hussein announced that the resistance forces within Jordan had been
In April 1973 the government of Lebanon, using as pretext the Israeli
commando raid against Palestinian guerillas near Beirut in February, launched
an offensive against the Palestinian national liberation forces within
Lebanon. The attack ended in May after the guerillas had suffered heavy
casualties. Meanwhile the Egyptian government took action against the representatives
of Soviet neo-imperialism".
("The War in the Middle East in: "Class against Class". October,1973;
In May 1975 Egyptian President Anwar Sadat,
who had now brought Egypt into relations of dependence upon US imperialism,
visited Iraq and was granted loans of $115 million.
From this time Iraq moved into ever closer dependence
upon US imperialism and unleashed its war against Iran in September 1980
as a proxy for the American imperialists.
The principal aims of the United States imperialists
in its proxy war against Iran are as follows:
With regard to the second of these US war aims, "The
Times" notes, that Princess Ashraf, sister of the late Shah,
and Shapour Bakhtiar, the last Prime Minister appointed by
the Shah, have in recent months made a number of trips to Baghdad, the
Iraqi capital, and that on October 2nd.; Bakhtiar left Paris by a special
Iraqi Airways plane for a secret destination.
Firstly: to bring about the transfer of the control of
the strategic oil routes in the Gulf area (and if possible some of the
oilfields at present in Iran) from the now "unreliable" "state of Iran
to the now "reliable" (i.e., pro-American) state of Iraq;
Secondly, to bring about the overthrow of the present
"unstable" regime in Iran by a military dictatorship, basing itself on
the Iranian landlord and comprador bourgeois classes, which would restore
Iran to the position of dependence upon US imperialism which it "enjoyed"
under the Shah. The "Economist" expresses the first of these war aims succinctly:
'The State Department expects Iraq to continue to occupy Iranian territory..
. . Once the fighting scales down, as diminishing Iranian spares and fuel
may compel it to. America’s short term aim …………… [??gap-Editor??] acceptance
('The Economist", October 4th., 1980; p. 36).
("The Times", October 3rd., 1980; p. 8).
The newspaper further reports that a committee of
former Iranian generals, headed by Field-Marshal Aryana,
Chief of Staff under the Shah, has been set up in London to plan a military
regime for Iran, since:
". . the generals are confidently predicting the Khomeini regime in
Tehran will be toppled in a military coup".
And the "Financial Times" agrees with this analysis:
("The Times", September 26th., 1980).
"Sadam Hussein's (Hussein succeeded al-Bakr as President
of Iraq in July 1979 -- Ed.) private hope must be that by striking a blow
of this order deep into the heart of Iran he will instantly expose the
pretensions of the quarrelling mullahs, the Islamic clergymen, to be actually
running the country, and that their system will collapse in favour of a
military or neo-military regime more moderate in its domestic and international
as does Egypt's pro-American President:
"Financial Times", September 23rd., 1980; p. 4).
"President Anwar Sadat has forecast an Iranian army coup against Ayatollah
Khomeini . . . The Egyptian leader hinted that the US had already been
touch with several senior officers of the old regime".
But to date, the US war aims have not been achieved.
The hard pressed Iranian forces have fought back doggedly to resist every
inch of the Iraqi advance:
("Financial Times", September 26th., 1980; p. 4).
"The big surprise for Western military observers has been the performance
of the Iranian forces".
As always, the imperialists underestimated the importance
in war of the spirit of men who believe they are fighting for the independence
of their country against a foreign invader.
("The Times", September 2?th., 1980; P. 5).
Furthermore, the American backed Iraqi invasion has
had one effect opposite to that intended: it has strengthened the position
of the Iranian national bourgeoisie relative to that of the reactionary
"Within the space of two or three weeks the President, who has assumed
command of the Iranian armed forces, has become a national hero. This surge
in popularity appears to rankle with the President's opponents, the Islamic
This change in the balance of power within Iran has
brought, about conditions where negotiations are proceeding between the
Iranian and United States governments on the release of the American "hostages".
With the American Presidential election only a few days away, the Carter
administration has declared its willingness to make concessions demanded
by Iran short of giving significant military assistance to that state.
("The Times", October 9th., 1980; p. 8).
The war continues at the time of writing".
END COMMUNIST LEAGUE ARTICLE
11) The Aims of the US led coalition In the Gulf War
There have been several proffered reasons for the Gulf war breaking
out at the time it did.
1) The UN wished to prevent dictatorship.
This cannot be accepted. There have been numerous similar
predations by powerful nations. The most recent of course being the USA
actions in Panama and Grenada. Leaving these aside, a whole
host of actions in the past have been ignored. The Financial Times summarise
these well in a recent article entitled: "Dogged by double standards".
- Financial Times. Feb 2, Feb 3, 1991.
2) The defence of democracy.
This ignores the nature of the reactionary semi-feudal
state of Kuwait. Moreover it does not explain why it was that the USA lured
Iraq into invading (see below).
3) The threat of nuclear and chemical warheads being used by
Iraq necessitated war,
This cannot be correct since:
i) The information had been available to the Pentagon and the UN for
some time. Indeed many of the nation states making up the Allied forces
who fight under the leadership of the USA, in particular France and Britain,
had been participating in arms sales.
These need to take into account
the fact that the USA enticed Iraq into this belligerence and lured Iraq
into a trap:
ii) It is untrue to say that the Iraqis had nuclear weapon capability.
Thus Professor Norman Dombey, Professor of theoretical physics at Sussex
writes in the Financial Times:
"As I pointed out in making sense of Iraq’s nuclear plans - on December
6th - Iraq has two small nuclear reactors at its Nuclear Research Center
near Baghdad. The larger reactor has a 5MW reactor supplied by the USSR;
the smaller is a 500 K W reactor supplied by France. Both reactors were
inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency and no evidence of
misuse was found. The reactors cannot be said to have an military purpose;
they pose no threat to all armed forces nor do they support Iraq's occupation
Letter to Financial Times 25 January, 1991.
Other explanations have to be sought.
"US Assistant Secretary of state for Near Eastern and South-East Asian
affairs John Kelly came under attack before the House Foreign affairs committee
for the lack of any clear signal to Iraq prior to Aug 2 that the US would
not tolerate any invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi government had released
the transcript of a July 25 meeting between Saddam Hussein and the US ambassador
to Iraq, April Glasbie, in which she told him the US:
Even the pro- war New York Times admitted in an editorial:
"Oil certainly lies at the heart of the gulf crisis." 27.01.91.
"Has no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement
Keesing's Record of World Events. p.37696. Sep, 1990.
Financial analysts agreed with this notion. Thus
Mr. Tracey Herrick of Jefferies and Co, brokers in Wall Street:
" It is the dawn of the American empire-the US empire spanning Canada,
Mexico, Venezuela, the Caribbean and the Middle East would control half
the world's oil output."
President Bush himself pointed out in his address before
a joint session of Congress Sep 11th:
From Barrons Business News, The Globe and Mail Business January 1991.
"Vital economic interest are at risk as well. Iraq itself controls
some 10% of the world's proven oil reserves. Iraq plus Kuwait controls
Because of the extraordinary dependency of Japan, it
is particularly vulnerable in its economic performance Middle Eastern oil.
THE ENSUING WAR EVENTS ARE WELL KNOWN.
Facts on File, 1990. p.672.
ALLIANCE REPRINTS BELOW A MARXIST-LENINIST SUMMARY OF EVENT AS PRINTED
DURING THE UNFOLDING OF EVENTS. THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE IN PRINTING THIS ANALYSIS
ADDRESSED ITSELF TO THE TASKS OF MARXIST-LENINISTS IN TIMES OF WAR, AND
LENIN’S ANALYSIS OF JUST AND UNJUST WARS.
12) "The Invasion of Kuwait"; Reprint of Communist League number
88a; August 1990; GO TO:Kuwait
13) "The Setting Up of Iraq"; Reprint of Communist League number
80; October 1990; GO TO: Iraq
14) "Imperialism Launches its' War"; Reprint of Communist League
number 83; February 1991; GO TO Gulf
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