Superficially, it seems that the recent targeted assassination of Iran’s Qassem Suleimani, authorised by the American President, is just another example of Donalds’ schizophrenic type mentality. However, his role in this act of killing as well as his presence in office is a symptom of a much larger crisis. One which reaches deep into the history of the capitalist mode of production. It is a history that orbits around oil precisely because capitalisms cycle of production, distribution and consumption completely depends upon it. The Iranian missiles fired in retaliation and the one bringing down a civilian aircraft demonstrate how quickly tensions can escalate.
But it should not be forgotten that interference by the elites of dominant capitalist countries in the affairs of oil-rich countries has been continuous since industrialised production and transport switched from coal and steam to oil and electricity. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that for almost a century, rival blocs of capitalist elites have continued manipulation and rivalry in countries such as; Iraq, Saudi, Iran, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Congo, Venezuela etc. In the process using, abusing and even killing, those who stand in the way of ensuring reliable oil supplies.
This history is crucially important to understand. In particular, the people of Iran have an extremely negative experience of UK and USA interference in their countries. During the early 20th century, Iran and it’s oil was controlled by Britain and British Petroleum (BP) whose shareholders became mega rich whilst most Iranians remained desperately poor. Attempts by Iran to gain control of their own resources were constantly thwarted. A regime headed by a Shah was eventually put in charge via a UK and USA manipulated coup.
However, that CIA/MI5 preferred regime, did not sufficiently benefit the masses. Eventually a rebellion deposed him. Iran became dominated by Islamic fundamentalists, headed by Ayattola Khomeini. Religious ideology replaced secular ideology and most secular-minded people were physically eliminated as agents of western capitalism or soviet communism. Iranians were told (and many believed) that Islamic law would create better governance than any Soviet or US backed examples could offer.
Western capitalist systems elites – mainly those in the UK and USA – remained livid at loosing control of the huge and highly profitable oil reserves in Iran. Ever since, Iranian and USA/UK elites have been involved in a hot and cold war with each other. Tragically, hostilities may now be heading toward a new intensity. Further resentment by Iranian people (and other Arab people’s) to the West’s interference in the Middle East, is with regard to the role played by Britain and the USA, in the establishment and maintenance of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, towns and villages since the 1940’s.
Furthermore, when America, Britain and France supported Iraq’s Saddam Hussain with arms and resources in the Iraq/Iran war, this was seen as the West using Iraq to achieve regime change in Iran. But there is an interesting double irony. The reasons many Shia Iranians chose an Islamised state – all those decades ago – was because the secular examples promoted in the region by the West were so consistently bad. However, when Sunni Islam created it’s own alternative version of fundamentalism, via the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (1928) as interpreted by Hasan al Banna, later by Savyid Qutb and redefined by the Islamic State of ISIL/IS IS, this development was vigorously opposed by the Iranian regime.
Part of the irony is that the leading Iranian organiser of successful opposition to ISIS and it’s geographical Caliphate was none other than – Qassem Suleimani – the General assassinated on the authority of Donald Trump! Having allowed the Turkish version of patriarchal Islam, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to disperse and kill the northern Syrian Kurdish fighters against ISIS, the US president has had another fighter against ISIS bumped off in Iraq.
Given that ISIS type Islamism is supposed to be the USA’s main target for eradication this may seem strange. However, it is not elite male killing of rivals and female oppression in general, or Islamic versions of these two inhuman practices, that the West’s own male-dominated elites object to. How could they since they clearly indulge in versions of these patriarchal practices themselves? What they really object to is any threat to the control of what they see as ‘their’ (sic) sources of wealth and profit.
Incidentally, the young people in Iran only six months ago were demonstrating against Shia fundamentalist rule in Iran and by implication also against Sunni fundamentalist rule. This was a welcome groundswell. Youth and women struggling against poverty and patriarchy in the middle-east, undoubtedly saw that their oppression comes from the western elites as well as their own Arabic religious elites.
Yet it is a well established lesson from history that when the population of a country feels sufficiently threatened by the armed forces of another country, they suspend internal divisions for the duration of the threat. In addition, many expect retaliation for acts perpetrated against their own side. This was the case in the two-world wars of the 20th century, where deep divisions in the UK and the USA were suspended between 1939 and 1945. Almost everyone rallied to support their respective Allied governments. The same occurred in Germany and Italy on the Axis side of that war for control of markets and resources.
So it will not be surprising if many of the dissatisfied Iranian women and youth now feel duty bound – not only to object to the American assassination of their (sic) Iranian general – but call for retaliatory action. And not just for this latest act: but also for the poverty and suffering caused by years of USA orchestrated trade embargo against them. Just which sides elites the Iranian dissatisfied feel are the bigger villains in this whole sorry mess remains to be seen. After a century of western interference in the Middle East, it may well be the West’s – yet again – and hostilities continue.
Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020)