by Katie Swift
As the lives of Hoosiers are thrown into disarray and uncertainty because of the U.S. government’s incapacity to immediately, effectively, and compassionately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time for us to unite not only with our neighbors here in the state, but around the world. The same system and government that is throwing millions out of work and unnecessarily exposing countless more to the threat of infection is wreaking even more devastating havoc on the people of the world.
As we approach the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, our attention is turned to the people of the Middle East.
To ring in the new year, the U.S. Air Force carried out an assassination via drone-strike on Qasem Soleimani, major general of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Jan. 3. This strike followed an increase in tensions between the United States and Iran, precipitated most immediately by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)–known as the Iran Nuclear Deal–and intensified U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Later on Jan. 3, the United States announced it would be sending 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East. The following day, Trump threatened to attack 52 Iranian sites that are considered culturally important, effectively promising to commit war crimes against Iran. Despite these actions and threats, millions of mourners attended General Soleimani’s funeral procession over the next four days, highlighting his importance to the Iranian and Iraqi people. It was a remarkable demonstration of unity between the two countries, one that hadn’t been seen since at least before the beginning of the 1980 Iran-Iraq War.
In the days following, while the United Nations, European Union, and others urged for de-escalation, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper stated that the U.S. had no plans to pull troops from Iraq. The United Nations had a meeting scheduled in New York City, which the U.S. barred Javed Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, from attending by denying his visa. On Jan. 8, Iran responded to the unprovoked assassination of their major general by launching 22 ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq. Zarif said of the response that Tehran “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.” While showcasing the sophistication of Iran’s missiles and their general ability to strike at the U.S., by minimizing damage to U.S. personnel, Iran allowed the Trump administration to step back from the brink of all-out war.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Parliament voted to remove U.S. troops from the country. Laying bare the colonial nature of the U.S. occupation, the U.S. has refused to comply. Trump even threatened to seize Iraq’s revenue from the sale of its own oil, revenue that is held not in Iraq, but in a U.S. Federal Reserve bank in New York City.
War by other means
The assassination of Soleimani was the culmination of an ongoing U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure campaign” following the U.S.’s unilateral and illegal withdrawal of the JCPOA. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been high ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution overthrew the US-backed Shah, fundamentally shifting the balance of forces in the Middle East.
The U.S. has long imposed sanctions on Iran in an attempt to destabilize their government and social infrastructure in the service of U.S. oil companies and military interests. The 2015 nuclear deal was meant to lift secondary economic sanctions on Iran in return for Iranian concessions on their nuclear energy program, including U.N. inspections. Although the U.N. confirmed that Iran was complying with the agreement, the U.S. never really reciprocated. While some sanctions were lifted, they added new sanctions against Iran. In 2018, when Trump said the deal was not “tough enough,” the U.S. reinstated all sanctions on Iran’s most important economic sectors, such as energy and shipping.
For the Iranian people, the sanctions are much more than a political maneuver. They are a brutal punishment for refusing to fall in line with American imperialism. The oil sanctions have caused Iran’s per capita GDP to fall to below 1/10th of the U.S.’, and resulted in massive inflation in the cost of food, medicine, and other daily necessities. While Iran produces most of its basic medicine domestically, it imports many specialized medicines, such as treatments for epilepsy patients and chemotherapy for cancer patients. Foreign producers of these medications are afraid of exporting to Iran, as they may become the target of secondary sanctions from the U.S.
Now, as COVID-19 spreads, Iran is unable to adequately procure medical devices and testing kits to properly prevent the spread of the disease. While Iran has taken extraordinary steps in curbing the spread of COVID-19, including releasing about one third of its prisoners, there are currently 300 dead and some 8,000 infected with COVID-19 in Iran, many of which could have been prevented if not for the “maximum pressure” U.S. sanctions on the country.
Sanctions are a form of economic warfare that are just as deadly as military warfare. Yet they are often a preferred tactic for the U.S. ruling class, which presents them as an “alternative” to war.
Whatever platitudes the U.S. government may level, the reality is that its economic sanctions are used to force foreign powers to fall in line with its policies and to punish them for resisting. The criminal attack on General Soleimani demonstrates that they will stop at nothing to achieve these aims. In the days following the assassination, the U.S. government repeatedly changed its reasoning for the attack. President Trump tweeted on Jan, 13 that the reason “doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!” However, on Feb. 18, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee ultimately determined that there was “no justification or imminent threat” that would “merit the killing of Soleimani”.
Indiana Senator Mike Braun released the following statement on the killings:
“President Trump made the courageous decision to kill Qassim Suleimani, who was the leader of Iran’s violence against the United States that was directly responsible for killing American soldiers through IEDs for over a decade and was planning future attacks against American citizens throughout the Middle East. Iran has been one of America’s greatest enemies and I’m proud that President Trump is protecting our country and our allies.”
Braun was one of 45 senators who refused to sign the Iran War Powers Resolution in February, which re-affirmed that the President must secure Congressional approval for war. According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress is the only body empowered to declare war.
U.S. continues to escalate
Just last week, the U.S. launched attacks against multiple Iraqi militia bases in the country. The U.S. establishment and corporate media refer to the militias as “Iranian-backed,” as if their links with Iran make them legitimate targets. But the reality is that the Iraqi militias are Iraqi people fighting against a foreign occupying army.
It is crucial that the anti-war movement remains vigilant in this moment and steadfast in our demands for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Middle East, an end to all sanctions, and reparations for the decades of devastation caused in Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere in the region.
Many Hoosiers are rightfully concerned about the bare shelves at supermarkets and the lack of availability of basic household items. This situation is the result of capitalism, its profit motive and absence of centralized planning and coordination. While the U.S. spends trillions on war and bailouts for corporations and banks, there is somehow never enough money for people’s basic needs.
The people of Iran and all countries targeted by U.S. sanctions, from Venezuela to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, must deal with shortages in various necessities on a daily basis. This situation is the result of U.S. imperialism, its wars, occupations, and sanctions
Our struggle here is the same struggle of the peoples of the world, and we stand in unconditional solidarity with all victims of U.S. capitalism and imperialism.