November 30, 2020 | revcom.us
On November 27, Iran’s top nuclear scientist was assassinated when the car he was traveling in was ambushed in northern Iran. Iranian government officials alleged that the killing of the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was the work of Israel. The Israeli government has issued no statement on the assassination. The U.S., Israel’s main imperialist backer, also has not said anything officially about it. Trump, however, re-tweeted a comment by an Israeli journalist that Fakhrizadeh’s death “is a major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”
While no one has officially taken responsibility, the widespread assumption is that Israel was behind the assassination. The New York Times, for example, noted, “Intelligence officials say there is little doubt that Israel was behind the killing—it had all the hallmarks of a precisely timed operation by Mossad, the country’s spy agency. And the Israelis have done nothing to dispel that view.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had claimed that Fakhrizadeh headed up Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons and had targeted him personally as an enemy of Israel. For decades, Israel has acted as the main enforcer for America’s imperialist interests in the Middle East.1 And in 2018, when Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the international agreement with Iran that limited Iran’s nuclear development, sharply ratcheting up the danger of U.S. war with Iran, Netanyahu was a vocal supporter of the move.
When he ripped up the international agreement, Trump blatantly lied that Iran was already a nuclear threat or soon would be. Iran is ruled by a thoroughly reactionary Islamic fundamentalist regime, which has carried out vicious crimes against its own people and has ambitions for expanding regional power.2 But let’s be clear: When it comes to the enormity of crimes committed in the past and the ability to carry out more, including in regard to nuclear weapons, the U.S. far, far outweighs the Iranian regime.3 The fact is that Iran has zero nuclear weapons, and had sharply scaled back its non-military nuclear program under the international agreement. In contrast, the U.S. nuclear arsenal is some 4,000, and it is the only country to have actually used nuclear weapons. And Israel itself is estimated to have about 90 nuclear warheads and enough plutonium to quickly make 100-200 more.
The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh comes at a time when Trump and his regime—after they clearly lost the presidential election—have been ratcheting up military threats along with murderous sanctions against Iran. There have been recent reports that Trump and close advisers decided not to launch an attack on Iran, for now—but were still looking at different options. Shortly before this, Trump had fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and made other changes in the Pentagon.
The U.S. has made some ominous military moves in the recent period. On November 21, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East) announced that the Air Force flew a B-52 bomber task force from its base in North Dakota “to deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies.” (When the U.S. accuses others of “aggression,” it’s like a Mafia godfather threatening a small-time gangster for “not knowing his place.”) And the U.S. military has deployed the aircraft carrier Nimitz to the Persian Gulf (the body of water between Iran and Saudi Arabia), supposedly to provide “combat support and air cover” for U.S. troops being withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also to take note of is the fact that Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, made an official visit to Israel on November 19—and three days later, he and Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia to secretly meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The reactionary Saudi kingdom is another close U.S. ally in the region—and bin Salman, like Netanyahu, was opposed to the nuclear agreement with Iran that Trump sabotaged.
Given that president-elect Biden has indicated he will work to put the U.S. back into the international nuclear agreement with Iran, there is speculation among international analysts that one aim of the assassination of the nuclear scientist was to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for Biden to do that.
Whoever was behind the assassination and whatever their motive, this is a volatile and unpredictable moment with potential for great danger. Any moves and countermoves by the U.S. and its allies, on one hand, and Iran, on the other, could quickly escalate. Any U.S. attack on Iran, under any pretext, would be totally illegitimate—and could lead to more devastating wars in the region and beyond. While the past four years of the fascist regime have intensified the danger of war with Iran, more fundamentally, this danger flows out of the U.S. imperialists’ needs and drives to strategically dominate the crucial Middle East region, super-exploit its peoples, and plunder its resources.This violent domination and plunder is totally unjust!
Whether or not there is an immediate military escalation, the Trump/Pence regime’s stepping up of sanctions against Iran is strangling its economy and having a catastrophic effect on the masses of people, at a time when COVID-19 pandemic infections and deaths are hitting new highs. These sanctions are a form of economic warfare. A recent CBS News report said that Iran has ramped up testing, but it is not enough: “The main hurdle for the [COVID testing] lab hasn’t been science, but politics. U.S.-led sanctions have choked off Iran’s access to foreign-made chemicals and equipment.”
The mainstream media and ruling class politicians in this country frame everything in terms of what is in “our” best interests. In reality, what they are talking about are the interests of America as an oppressive global power. These are NOT the actual interests of the people. Our real interests are not with the U.S. rulers, or the reactionary oppressors in Iran and other countries, but with the masses of people in the Middle East and humanity as a whole.
1. See revcom.us special issue Bastion of Enlightenment… Or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel. [back]
2. For more on the Iranian regime, see the sidebar “Islamic Republic of Iran: A Thoroughly Reactionary, Religious Fundamentalist Regime Ruling Despotically Over the People of Iran” in the revcom.us article “Fascist Trump/Pence Regime Threatens Attacks, Increases Deadly Sanctions Against Iran.” [back]
- “1953 CIA Coup in Iran: Torture and Repression – Made in the U.S.A.”
- “November 2004—War Crime Fallujah”
- “U.S.-UN Sanctions on Iraq—‘A Legitimized Act of Mass Slaughter’”
- “‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ 2003”
- “The 1991 Persian Gulf War – ‘Operation Desert Storm’”
- “Israel’s U.S.-Armed and -Backed Massacre in Gaza (2008-2009)”
- “U.S. Proxy War Against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, 1979-1988”
- “The Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs and the Persecution of Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks”
- “Mass Murder in the Skies Over Iran: The Shoot-Down of Passenger Flight 655… by the U.S. Navy.” [back]