US Plots Attacks on Iran before Trump Leaves Office

Photo cover credit Abir Sultan, EPA

By Mike Talavera

Despite opposition from senior advisers, Donald Trump is pushing his administration to produce options for attacking Iran in the final weeks of his time in office. The immediate goal is to disrupt the country’s nuclear program, but any aggression would factor into US imperialism’s long-term strategy as the sole hegemonic superpower to undermine the influence of social-imperialist China and Russian imperialism in the Middle East.

The threats of escalation bookend a year that began with the US drone-strike assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. This month, Trump has mainly been interested in sabotaging one of Iran’s main nuclear facilities in Natanz, where United Nations inspectors had reported an increased amount of enriched nuclear material earlier in November.

According to ruling class news outlets, Trump is considering everything from cyber attacks to direct military strikes, possibly through US imperialism’s main ally in the region, Israel.

The Trump administration has antagonized Iran throughout its tenure. Since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear treaty, the US has pursued a campaign of ‘maximum pressure’ and imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran, including its oil, banking, and arms industries. For the people of Iran, prices of basic necessities like food and medicine have skyrocketed.

This week, the US placed new sanctions on several Chinese and Russian firms, alleging that they are supporting Iran’s nuclear capabilities. At the end of 2018, the Chief Financial Officer of Chinese telecommunication corporation Huawei was arrested on a US warrant in part because of the business activities of its subsidiary in Iran.

In a speech this week, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that his government has no interest in renegotiating the 2015 deal, despite President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement that his team hopes to reopen talks. In contrast to Trump’s bombast, Biden has framed his foreign policy strategy towards Iran as being more even-keel and peaceful, harkening back to the policy of the Obama administration. But Obama, like Trump, used multiple tactics including sanctions to force Iran to stop developing its nuclear program and, more importantly, to politically dominate the country and region.

In fact, one of the most widespread cyber attacks on Iran through the Stuxnet malware was carried out during Obama’s term, which provoked an accident at the Natanz facility that could have triggered a Chernobyl-like catastrophe. The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad is widely believed to be the creator of the malicious computer worm.

Trump, Obama, and many presidents before them all have done their best to squash the nuclear ambitions of Iran, but in the 1950s, the US assisted Iran in starting its nuclear program, giving the country its first nuclear reactor. Former monarch Mohammad Reza Shah also paid millions to US university Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to train Iranian scientists in nuclear physics.

The difference between then and now is Iran is no longer ruled by the Shah (whose power was consolidated with the help of a CIA- and MI6-backed coup) who obediently served the interests of US imperialism. The 1979 hostage crisis showed that the new post-revolution Islamic government would not seek the same subservient relationship as the Shah had, and in response US imperialism has taken a more belligerent approach. The current leaders of Iran are reactionaries presiding over a semi-feudal country, but prove to oppose US interests.

Whatever comes from Trump’s plotting this month will only unite the people of Iran more against US imperialism.

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