Obama on Iran: The Specter of World War III
By Bill Van Auken
August 10, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "WSWS"
- In an extraordinary speech delivered
Wednesday, US President Barack Obama went public with a warning that
powerful factions within Congress and the state apparatus are
determined to carry out a war against Iran that would have
Speaking on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the
atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Obama said that a scuttling of the
nuclear deal with Iran that was announced last month would mean war
with Iran—a country nearly four times as large and with almost
triple the population of Iraq. He further suggested, harking back to
World War II and the Cold War, that a war with Iran could open the
door to a Third World War.
At this juncture, it is not at all clear how the
vote in Congress on the nuclear accord negotiated between Iran and
the P5+1 (the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany) and
approved by the United Nations will go. Obama has announced that he
will veto any measure that blocks the United States from
implementing the agreement. Whether there are sufficient votes in
both houses of Congress to assure the two-thirds majorities required
to overturn a presidential veto is still undecided.
What is beyond dispute is that a large majority of
the US Congress will vote for a policy that is predicated on a
catastrophic escalation of American militarism.
If the House of Representatives and the Senate
override his veto, Obama warned, war will come, and “soon.” The
commander-in-chief gave the unmistakable impression that control
over the movement toward war was slipping out of his hands.
As Obama spelled out: “Congressional rejection of
this deal leaves any US administration that is absolutely committed
to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option,
another war in the Middle East. I say this not to be provocative; I
am stating a fact.”
The debate over this accord shows that the
American political establishment, including its vast military and
intelligence complex, is deeply divided over whether US imperialism
should pursue its global interests by means of yet another, and far
more dangerous, war in the Middle East. What is not in dispute is
Washington’s supposed prerogative to wage preemptive war, i.e.,
criminal aggression, against whatever nations or peoples it chooses.
The US president underscored this point, citing his own record.
“As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from
using force when necessary,” he boasted. “I have ordered tens of
thousands of young Americans into combat… I’ve ordered military
action in seven countries. There are times when force is necessary,
and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t
have an alternative.”
Yet, for all his multiple interventions, drone
missile murders and massacres, Obama considers war with Iran a
highly dangerous undertaking. His argument is that Washington can
pursue its interests by using the nuclear accord as leverage to
shift the Iranian regime behind US imperialism, while keeping “the
military option on the table” should this strategy fail.
The reasons for Obama’s fear of a precipitous
confrontation with Tehran go beyond the bloodbath that a war on Iran
would entail. The US president warned that a repudiation of the
nuclear deal would provoke a dangerous confrontation with Russia and
China. It would also, he strongly suggested, inflame relations with
Washington’s allies in Europe, in the first instance Germany, as
well with those in Asia. None of them, he declared, will bow to the
“dictates of the US Congress” and enforce a unilateral American
sanctions regime that has already cost their economies billions upon
billions of dollars.
Germany, France, Italy and other European
countries have already dispatched high-level delegations to Tehran
to negotiate lucrative contracts. They have made it clear that they
will not return to the negotiating table, much less to sanctions.
Berlin’s second-highest-ranking diplomat in
Washington warned Thursday that a US repudiation of the nuclear deal
“would be a nightmare…a catastrophe,” driving Iran and possibly
other countries to rapidly pursue nuclear weapons in the knowledge
that no negotiated agreement will be respected by the US.
If the US military attacks Iran as European
capitalism attempts to penetrate its market, the end result could
well be the death of the NATO alliance and the eruption of military
tensions between Europe and America.
Obama also called attention to the implications of
any attempt to force China to return to the sanctions regime. “We’d
have to cut off countries like China from the American financial
system,” he said. “And since they happen to be major purchasers of
our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own
economy, and, by the way, raise questions internationally about the
dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.”
Implicit in such an outcome is a military
confrontation with China. It would also plunge the US and world
economy into a full-scale Depression, Obama suggested.
But precisely such a course is being plotted by
powerful sections of the American ruling elite. They are doing so
behind the backs of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose
war. Given the chilling implications of Obama’s warnings, the
reaction of the American media has been remarkably muted.
With the 2016 election campaign already under way,
popular antiwar sentiment finds no expression whatsoever in the
corrupt and bankrupt US political system. Millions of people may
well wake up some time after the congressional vote on the Iran
agreement in September to find the US at war once again, on a far
greater scale than the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq
combined. They could be suddenly engulfed by a collapse of
employment and living standards, with the entire planet on the
precipice of a third, nuclear, world war.
The policies of those prepared to drive the world
down this path are a reflection of the desperate crisis of the US
capitalist system and the determination of the ruling class to
offset American capitalism’s global decline by military means.
Frustrated by the failure of US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and
Syria to secure undisputed US hegemony over the Middle East and
Central Asia, they now want another roll of the dice for the much
higher stakes of militarily subduing Iran, the country that bridges
these two energy-rich regions.
In the most cowardly section of his speech, Obama
attributed the rabid opposition to the Iran deal within the American
establishment to “sincere affinity for our friend and ally Israel,
an affinity that…I deeply share.” There is nothing “sincere” about
this poisonous relationship. The alignment with the Israeli regime
by the most reactionary and reckless elements of the American
political establishment is bound up with their common support for
The continuation and spread of what Obama’s
predecessor termed “the wars of the 21st Century,” now including the
promotion of war with Iran, also express the need to divert
outward—in the form of ever greater eruptions of American
militarism—the internal class tensions generated by growing social
This points to the only means of defeating
American militarism and the threat of a Third World War—the
development of the class struggle and the conscious preparation of
the socialist revolution in the US and internationally.
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