Iran Revolutionary Guard Chief Assassinated; U.S. Soldiers Deployed; Retaliation Expected
THE ASSASSINATION OF General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, the elite overseas unit of the IRGC, has brought tensions in the volatile region to a breaking point.
The January 3 execution took place shortly after Soleimani arrived at Baghdad International Airport from Lebanon and met with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, second in command of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Shi’a-based militias attached to the Iraqi Armed Forces. The two men, along with a small entourage, left together. On their way to their destination, they were killed by four Hellfire missiles fired from two separate Reaper drones.
The assassination, a clear act of war, was allegedly in response to the December 31 partial occupation of the U.S. embassy complex by Iraqi Shi’as, including elements of the PMF. That, in turn, was in response to U.S. airstrikes against the Kata’ib Hizb’allah militia, a part of the PMF, in Iraq and Syria.
Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago resort retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., President Donald Trump insisted that the assassination of Soleimani was somehow an act of insuring peace. “We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump told his sycophantic audience. “We did not take action to start a war.” He continued by painting Soleimani as “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world” who was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks.” In fact, far from stopping a conflict from breaking out, Trump’s successful assassination plot has accelerated the push toward another war — possibly the prelude to a world war.
In response to the murder of Soleimani, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowed “harsh revenge” against the U.S., while the Tehran government called the assassination “state terrorism” in a letter to the United Nations. One of Germany’s newspapers of record, Die Zeit, compared the killing of Soleimani to that of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which was the spark that set off the First World War. The governments of Russia and China, along with other states, called the act a willful violation of international law.
As we go to press, it is clear that some kind of retaliation by Iran is imminent. It is likely to be a direct military action by Tehran against U.S. interests inside Iraq, either inside Baghdad’s “Green Zone” or against one of the many military bases that house U.S. soldiers. What form it takes remains to be seen.
However, regardless of what comes next, it will only be the opening salvo in a drawn-out conflict that points toward an all-out war between rival imperialist cartels. Even if the coming retaliation by Iran is the last shot fired for some time, that period can only be seen as the calm before the next tempestuous outrage.
The showdown between rival cartels has been building for some time — indeed, since the end of the Cold War. Washington’s push for control of the Middle East oil spigot, beginning with the 1991 Gulf War, was part of an overall strategy to maintain U.S. dominance through military power while its economic position was eroding. By controlling the flow of oil to Europe, Japan and China, backed by a Navy and Air Force that can reach around the globe, Wall Street saw a chance to bend these countries’ productive powers to its will.
The overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003 opened the door for Iran to rise and begin reasserting itself as a regional power. It has strengthened its ties throughout the “Shi’a Crescent,” which stretches from far-western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, as well as with the Yemeni Houthis and Islamist groups like Hamas, while improving its alliances with Moscow and Beijing.
Tehran has emerged as a strong pole of opposition to both the U.S.-backed coalition led by Sa’udi Arabia, and to Washington’s long-standing ally, Israel. However, both Iran and its Shi’a-majority neighbor, Iraq, have been gripped recently by popular protests, as well as by occasional strikes and workers’ actions, over low wages, eroding living conditions and worsening corruption. Protests in both countries were brutally crushed. In Iraq, this bloody repression was carried out by Iranian-aligned Shi’a militias; Soleimani was its architect.
As a result, Trump’s assassination of Soleimani needs to be seen in the larger context of inter-imperialist maneuvering. The attack was a signal not only to Iran but also to Russia and China that the U.S., in spite of all its talk of achieving “energy independence,” intends to continue having a dominant presence in the region. In reality, the U.S. still depends on Middle East oil, for stability in world prices, for emergency production and for keeping its Gulf Coast refineries operating. Therefore, it will not concede one inch to regional or world rivals.
The central importance of those three factors in keeping Wall Street from entering into an economic tailspin, as well as the aforementioned control of oil flow to their rivals, makes the threat of full-scale war, including a third world war, very high.
Workers — in the U.S., in Iran, anywhere — have no side in the wars of this decadent imperialist epoch. Through world capitalist production and its market, states are grouped into cartels under the dominance of one or more great powers. Even the smallest, weakest country stands somewhere on the imperialist ladder, under the protection of a master.
Even those reactionary states that posture as “anti-imperialist” or even “anti-capitalist” hold a place in the cartel system, with their rhetoric only serving to thinly mask their own appetites — propaganda for the hungry fool.
However, while we have no side, we do not stand neutral or indifferent to war. Communists fight for workers to resist the ruling classes’ drive for war through its own actions and self-organization aimed to bring about the defeat of “our own” exploiting classes through transforming imperialist war into class war.
Concretely, this means advocating and fighting for strikes, occupations and secondary boycotts (“hot cargoing”) to prevent the movement of troops and materials, as well as mass strikes and actions to shut down production and paralyze the exploiters’ ability to make war, not just in the U.S., but internationally, in all the belligerent and profiteering states.
A coordinated internationalist strategy, based on a communist program, that can draw together the nucleus of a proletarian communist international. This how the working class can begin to put an end the threat of war.