On July 2, a huge explosion did extensive damage to Iran’s most important nuclear fuel enrichment facility at Natanz. The investigation by Iranian officials is ongoing, but there is little doubt that this was the latest attack on Iran by the United States and Israel. Investigators believe a bomb was brought directly into the building.
The U.S.-backed Israeli regime responded to questions from the press with very thinly veiled comments that all but took responsibility for the deadly sabotage. In 2010, the U.S. and Israel carried out a cyberattack against the same facility using the Stuxnet virus. Initially, it was thought to have set back Iran’s centrifuge program for years, but the damage then turned out to be minimal.
The July 10 issue of the New York Times quoted anonymous U.S. officials who described U.S.-Israeli strategy as “a series of short-of-war clandestine strikes.”
On July 23, three weeks after the Natanz explosion, two U.S. F-15 fighter jets flew toward an Iranian passenger plane headed to Beirut. While flying over Syria, the pilot was forced to take such sudden evasive maneuvers that some passengers flew from their seats and hit the ceiling of the aircraft from the sudden drop in altitude.
The attack on Natanz comes just six months after the Jan. 3 U.S. assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, and eight others. Soleimani was Iran’s most important military figure and was widely admired in Iran.
Soleimani was in Baghdad, according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, to discuss a message from Saudi Arabia intended to ease the ongoing confrontation with Iran. Saudi Arabia has been waging war against Yemen, where Houthi forces drove the pro-U.S. government out of the capital in 2014 and have held most of the country since. The Houthis receive aid from and are in an anti-imperialist alliance with Iran.
The uranium enriched at Natanz only reaches the 4.5 percent purity level for electrification. The advanced centrifuges that Iranian engineers are working on are to help make their outdated power grid more efficient, and free up gas and oil for export. Uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent or higher purity to make a nuclear bomb. Iran doesn’t possess or want the technology to accomplish that.
Undermine Iran’s development
Under the guise of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the attacks on Natanz are more attempts at undermining Iran’s development. The U.S. is the only country to have carried out a nuclear attack when it snuffed out the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Korean people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 — a criminal and militarily unnecessary move, launched only as a threat to the Soviet Union.
Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy for Iran, was quoted in the same New York Times article saying, “We have seen historically that timidity and weakness invites more Iranian aggression.” The “aggression” that Hook refers to is Iran’s unyielding four-decades-long effort to guard its sovereignty and aid anti-imperialist struggles in Western Asia and North Africa.
Iran’s alliance and support for the Palestinian struggle and progressive forces in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are thorns in the side of U.S. imperialism. Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah fought alongside the Syrian Arab Army and defeated U.S. proxy forces there.
Saudi Arabia is armed to the teeth with advanced U.S. military equipment used in the brutal war on Yemen. But inexpensive drone technology and ballistic missiles enable the Houthi forces in Yemen to strike back deep inside Saudi territory. In the most well-known incident, in September 2019, a Houthi drone strike heavily damaged two major oil facilities run by Saudi Aramco.
The imperialist ruling class wants to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran. But the strength of Iran’s military and its potential ability to block the Strait of Hormuz — which much of the world’s oil is transported through — gives the imperialists pause regarding an all-out war. This conundrum brings about differences among them.
During the Obama administration, an agreement was struck that curtailed Iranian nuclear research and development and imposed 24/7 International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) monitoring of all of its nuclear facilities. The agreement also granted access to military sites. None of this was favorable to Iran; but in return, some of the deadly economic sanctions were lifted in 2016.
Donald Trump’s early signals that he would end the agreement, his appointment of John Bolton, a hard-line enemy of Iran, to the administration, and the May 2018 withdrawal from the agreement, garnered a great deal of criticism. European allies and others were afraid of an all-out war.
After Bolton was ousted as Trump’s national security advisor, and after the assassination of General Soleimani was followed by Iranian missile attacks on Pentagon bases housing U.S. troops and equipment, it was widely reported that Trump had pulled back from the brink of war with Iran. This was yet another slight shift in strategy and reflected the problems and frustrations for the imperialist ruling class over how to deal with the strength of Iran and other anti-imperialist forces in the region.
A new and stronger anti-imperialist movement is needed in the U.S. Only a tiny clique of billionaires benefit from the horrors of imperialist war.
The uprisings in defense of Black lives show how quickly pent-up anger can erupt into a militant struggle. As anti-capitalist sentiment spreads throughout the U.S. over the profit-first, people-be-damned response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the racist disparities revealed by it, an anti-imperialist movement is bound to develop.