At a Jan. 23 meeting in Brussels, the European Union’s 27 foreign ministers adopted an oil embargo on Iran and froze the assets of the country’s central bank. The same day, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Iran’s third-largest bank, Bank Tejarat, described in a statement as “one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the international financial system.”
Washington and its allies contend Tehran’s nuclear program is geared toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons and are bringing massive pressure to bear in an effort to prevent Iranian technological advances that would bring it closer to that alleged goal. Tehran maintains its program is solely for energy production and medical research.
Alongside the economic squeeze runs an imperialist campaign of sabotage, in which the Israeli government is deeply involved, that includes bombings, crippling computer viruses, and assassinations of scientists.
At the same time, both Washington and Tehranhave taken steps to de-escalate military tensions to avoid the possibility of any armed confrontations.
The new EU sanctions include an immediate embargo on new contracts for crude oil and petroleum products. Existing contracts with Iran will be allowed to run till July. The delay is aimed at giving countries like Greece, whose crisis-stricken economy relies heavily on Iranian oil, time to find alternative sources. The EU imports some 18 percent of Iran’s crude oil.
The imperialist sanctions have had a significant impact on Iran’s economy, bearing down particularly hard on working people already hit by high unemployment, subsidy cuts and other assaults on living standards by Iran’s capitalist rulers and their government.
Official unemployment stood at 12.5 percent at the end of the year, and at 29.1 percent among those under 25. The government counts those working one hour a week as employed. In an early December demonstration, textile workers held up a banner saying they had not been paid for 17 months.
In September, more than 6,500 petrochemical workers were involved in several strikes across the country against subcontracting, low wages and bonuses, and for the very right to strike.
The Jan. 19 New York Times reported that the rial, Iran’s currency, has dropped “to its lowest level ever against the dollar,” increasing the prices of imported goods. According to Reuters, the cost of basic necessities like bread, meat and transportation has shot up in recent months, sometimes by over 50 percent. “Many factories,” it added, “are facing closure … hundreds of thousands of workers have taken wage cuts, inflation is surging, and shortages are spreading.”
On Jan. 16, Washington and Tel Aviv postponed major joint military exercises “to avoid further escalating tensions with Iran.” The maneuvers would most likely have coincided with naval exercises to be held by Iran in February in the waters surrounding the Strait of Hormuz.
Tel Aviv has backed away from previous threats to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Israel’s Army Radio Jan. 18 that any decision by Tel Aviv to launch a military strike on Iranian sites was “very far off.”
Hossein Salami, a deputy commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, told the official IRNA news agency Jan. 21 that the likely return of U.S. warships to the Persian Gulf would be considered as routine activity, backing away from warnings to Washington by Iranian officials not to re-enter the area.
At the end of a two-day visit in Turkey by Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi Jan. 19, Ankara called for the resumption of negotiations between Tehran and what’s known as the “5+1”—U.S. Security Council permanent members China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., plus Germany.
A week earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a one-day stop in Cuba Jan. 11-12 as part of a four-country trip in Latin America. A joint statement with Cuban President Raúl Castro stressed the “right of all nations to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” He also met with former President Fidel Castro, who has defended Iran’s right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The following day, Fidel Castro published a column in Granma reiterating revolutionary Cuba’s stance that no country, large or small, should “posses nuclear weapons.” Cuba has long rejected nuclear weapons as not only of no value but detrimental to defense of its sovereignty against imperialist aggression.
Working class has no use for nuclear bombs
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