There is a growing belief amongst many on the left that the American assassination of Qasem Soleimani is entirely about Donald Trump diverting public attention from his impeachment and an attempt to ride a nationalist wave back into the White House after the forthcoming American presidential election.
This belief is both wrong and dangerous.
While there can be no doubt that Trump and his team believe taking a “strong” stance against Iran and America’s so-called enemies will appeal to his far-right nationalist base, Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons in the Republican Party alike, believing that this alone is behind America’s outrageous belligerence whitewashes over 50 years of American imperial aggression.
Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has engaged in 39 separate wars and interventions around the globe. From Korea and Vietnam to Libya and Syria, the U.S. has been in a state of perpetual war almost since its birth. Such is the United States’ commitment to war that it has only been at peace for 21 years since its independence in 1776. The U.S. has never gone a full decade without war and the only time the country has seen five years of peace (1935-40) was during isolationism of the Great Depression.
The American Empire cannot countenance dissent. The greatest affront to the United States, worse than any of the criminality and human rights abuses that we see from Washington’s allies, is defiance. From the socialist states of Venezuela and Cuba to the likes of Iraq and Libya, the U.S. will ensure that anyone who questions or defies their diktats will be met with sanctions, plots and war. Independence is not an option.
This crushing of dissent not only ensures the advance of American world hegemony, the installation of bases around the globe, the kowtowing of governments to their every whim but ensures that American capitalism is spread to every corner of the globe.
The Almighty Dollar
Iran is a proud and independent nation with ideas that the U.S. consider to be above their station.
It was just last month that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani won plaudits and support for his calls for the Islamic nations to abandon the dollar, calling for the Muslim world to create its own cryptocurrency to fight American economic domination.
“The Muslim world should be designing measures to save themselves from the domination of the United States dollar and the American financial regime”Hassan Rouhani, 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit
Speaking at the December Kuala Lumpur Summit in Malaysia, Rouhani urged Muslim nations to put aside sectarian differences to set up a system to encourage trading in local currencies.
“The reality is that Islamic countries, economically speaking, are capable of completing each other and can create a specific mechanism for bank and financial cooperation between each other… The interconnectedness of international economic, commercial and financial systems with the American economic regime and dollarisation of national and global economies have provided the US with the possibility of advancing its hegemony under the threat of sanctions and economic terrorismHassan Rouhani, 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit
Before his 2011 overthrow, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi had been planning to ditch selling Libyan oil in the U.S. dollar, intending instead to demand payment instead in a new African or Islamic dinar backed by gold.
Speaking to Russia Today regarding Gaddafi, Anthony Wile, editor of the Daily Bell, said that such moves to abandon the dollar would “not be welcomed by the power elite”.
“Any move such as that would certainly not be welcomed by the power elite today, who are responsible for controlling the world’s central banks… So yes, that would certainly be something that would cause his immediate dismissal and the need for other reasons to be brought forward [for] removing him from power.”Anthony Wile, Russia Today
The Arab world ditching the dollar would have devastating financial consequences for the debt-laden United States and severely weaken its position in international trade and the ability to impose sanctions on “enemy” regimes. More powerful nations such as Saudi Arabia have ensured that the threat remains as leverage with the Americans, the Saudis threatening to ditch the dollar just last April if Washington passed a bill exposing OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits.
Keeping The Oil
The fact that the United States has agitated for war and regime change in Venezuela and failed before the resumption in hostilities with Iran is no coincidence.
Venezuela holds the largest oil deposits in the world, with 300,878 million barrels of proven reserves. The failure of the coup against Nicolas Maduro means that American eyes have turned toward Iran.
American doesn’t even make a secret of the fact that it’s out to seize Middle Eastern oil anymore, Donald Trump very publicly admitting the seizure of Syrian oil last year, an admission which is unquestionably a war crime.
Iran holds an estimated 158,400 million barrels of oil placing it fourth in the world in terms of proven reserves. In reality, Iran lays behind only Venezuela and Saudi Arabia given extraction difficulties in Canada. Iranian oil is found in around 150 hydrocarbon fields, many containing both petroleum crude oil and natural gas.
The number of barrels held by Iran only increased last November when an additional 53 billion barrels worth of oil was discovered in Iran. The field, in the south-western province of Khuzestan, covers a 926 sq mile area. Iran’s oil revenue will increase by $32bn if the extraction rate from the oil field increases only a mere 1%.
Legacy of Betrayal
Iran has been one of the primary targets for American “regime change” ever since the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and in particular since the Islamic revolution of 1979 that brought Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power.
During the Reagan years, the U.S. first ensured that both Iraq and Iran were supplied with arms and intelligence, seeking to ensure “a stalemate”, or rather the destruction of both states. As the Iran-Iraq War dragged on, the U.S. began to favour Saddam Hussein and placed sanctions on Iran.
The U.S. under Reagan and Bush sold poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses to Iraq for use against Iran.
Middle Eastern states were a tool for manipulation and abuse by the Americans throughout the Cold War as the likes of Iran and Iraq found themselves in the middle of the stalemate between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Reagan both informed Iran of communist elements working inside Tehran and sold arms to the country to fund the far-right Contra movement in Nicaragua, the region being of secondary interest compared to the war against the Soviets and communism.
Despite these “overtures”, the U.S. would attack Iran during 1988s Operation Praying Mantis, coordinated attacks crippling the Sassan and Sirri oil platforms. The International Court of Justice condemned the United States, stating that “the actions of the United States of America… cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect [their] essential security interests.”
That same year, the American navy shot down Iranian commercial Flight 655, killing 290 civilians over the Strait of Hormuz. Those who served on the USS Vincennes, the ship responsible for the atrocity, were all awarded Combat Action Ribbons. The U.S. has never apologised for the attack, nor has anyone been charged in connection with the killings.
“I will never apologise for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologise-for-America kind of guy.”George HW Bush
This legacy of betrayal would become an ever-recurring theme as successive U.S. governments made promises and deals with Iran that they would then break.
For example, in 1989 George HW Bush urged Iran to work toward convincing Lebanon’s Hezbollah to release the final prisoners being held as part of the Lebanon Hostage crisis, the U.S. promising that the releases would result in Iran being taken off the terrorist list and a reduction in economic sanctions. Despite all the hostages being released, these promises were never met.
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. and Iran cooperated to overthrow the Taliban, Quds forces fighting alongside the Americans to quell the 2001 uprising in Herat. The Iranian commander who stood with General Tommy Franks and the Americans that day in Afghanistan was Qassem Soleimani.
Despite aiding the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iran was quickly named as part of George Bush’s “axis of evil” alongside North Korea and Iraq and after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there have been numerous incursions into Iranian territory. These illegal abuses of Iranian sovereignty include drone surveillance, physical reconnaissance, espionage and the funding and support of terrorist groups inside Iran.
Fears that Iran would be next on the U.S. list for “regime change” have led Iran to constantly offer concessions to the U.S. and make overtures toward diplomacy.
In 2003, Iran offered to push for a two-state solution in Palestine and the disarming of Hezbollah, offering to work with the IAEA to ensure there would be no development of WMDs and even offering to ensure the stability of Iraq. The immense offer in return for the U.S ending its efforts to overthrow the government in Iran, abolishing all sanctions and ceasing their funding of terrorist groups inside the Islamic Republic was undermined and rejected out of hand by American neo-cons.
Likewise, in 2006 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered to work with the Americans to find “new ways” to end Iran’s nuclear dispute. In 2007, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that Iran was “ready to talk”. Both offers were rejected.
The most staggering betrayal, however, came under Donald Trump.
After a huge international effort, including all members of the UN security council, Germany, the European Union and Iran, the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015. Despite increasingly belligerent rhetoric and sanctions by the following Trump regime, Iran fully complied with its end of the deal. Despite Iran’s compliance, in May of 2018, the United States announced they were withdrawing from the deal. Only the apartheid state of Israel supported Trump’s withdrawal, with the rest of the world united in condemnation.
Painting the American assassination of Qassem Soleimani as the singular action of a rogue President whitewashes this legacy of belligerence, imperialism and betrayal. This whitewashing stems from a continued belief from Democrats and neoliberals that American exceptionalism has merely been brought low by Donald Trump, not that the American ideology itself is at fault. While Trump is undoubtedly swayed by the prospect of a nationalist surge before the elections, it is America itself that is ultimately responsible for creating the circumstances which have allowed the dangerous and illegal situation in Iraq and Iran to happen. These circumstances will not be changed by merely removing Donald Trump from office, nor replacing him with the likes of Joe Biden. Only a complete change in American politics and society will “make America great again” and even then, in the eyes of the world, it will take generations to even begin to erase the toxic legacy of the American empire.