Gulf War: An Iranian Perspective

Against the Current, No. 31, March/April 1991

interview with Ali Javadi

All Javadi is a labor activist, coordinator of the Labor Committee on Iran, and a member of AFT Local 1990 in Los Angeles. He spoke with David Finkel of the Against the Current editorial beard during the first week of the rear.

ATC: From an Iranian revolutionary working-class perspective, what do you think this war is about and what does it mean?

All JavadI: I don’t think the massive lineup of 600,000 soldiers, thousands of tanks and aircraft equipped with sophisticated devices are there to defend the national sovereignty of Kuwait, or even to guarantee the flow of oil.

We have to be clear about defining the crisis in the Middle East, what it’s about and what it’s not. No matter what the Iraqi reasons for invading Kuwait, this was transformed into an international crisis by the United States and Britain. In order to have a clear understanding why they did so, we must address this crisis in its post-Cold War context.

During the Cold War there were clear relations of forces and well-defined lines and areas of political-military conflict With the disintegration of the Eastern bloc and the removal of the Soviet Union from the equation, we have entered a new era. To this picture we must add the declining economic strength of the United States, and the emergence of Europe, centered around Germany, and of Japan as the leading economic force in the world.

The United States has converted this regional (Iraq-Kuwait) crisis into a world crisis in order to shape the political structure of the past-Cold War era of the capitalist societies. The world hasn’t come to this showdown because Kuwait was invaded. The Arab world isn’t separate from the rest of the world, and we should expect massive changes to take place there.

In transforming a regional to an international crisis, the United States is trying to remain the main actor in the capitalist world. Suddenly the world—in particular the western industrial countries—find themselves in need of the U.S. bully.

There are other regional reasons. With the removal of the Shah and the Iran-Iraq war, there was a vacuum and a question: Who will be the leading force in the area? The previous Israeli-Shah alliance was destroyed when the Iranian people overthrew the Shah. None of the countries could emerge to dominate the area the United States is trying to form an alliance, with its own troops in the area, to impose an order which basically guarantees capitalist interests.

The United States has imposed a bloody war against the working people in Iraq—and not only in Iraq but also the workers in all the countries of the coalition—.who are financing and paying the price for this operation.

ATC: Let’s focus in on the Iranian working-class movement. How do you think it is affected both by this rear and the results of the previous Iran-Iraq war?

A.J.: Ten years ago another war broke out in the Middle East The legacy of that war is a million Iranian and 300,000 Iraqi working people dead, and hundreds of thousands injured and disabled.

These weren’t the only casualties: Many people who opposed the war were also jailed and executed by the dictatorial regimes in both countries. Many millions of working people and their families had to flee the war zones to become refugees. Also, many Iranians had to flee the country to prevent their sons from being drafted for the war.

Yet I think the casualties that the Iranian and Iraqi peoples took in that war wouldn’t be comparable to what the United States will impose on Iraqi workers now. [This discussion took place before any reliable estimates on civilian bombing casualties in Iraq were available, or any ground fighting­-ed.]

The Iran-Iraq war was also a great blow to the workers’ movements. The strongest part of the working-class movement, the oil workers in the southeast of Iran, were targets of the bombing. Workers had to finance the war with compulsory wage cuts; 20 percent of blue and white collar workers were drafted. Thousands died in the bombing of industrial targets.

In that war the United States was officially “neutral,” in reality it aided both sides. That war was supposed to give a lesson to working people that they shouldn’t engage in revolution, or take their destiny into their own hands. The war also gave rise to nationalist sentiment in the area, diverting attention from settling the fights and demands of the workers against their ruling classes.

The present war will have the same consequences for the working people. In this war also, it is Arab nationalism along with Islamic fundamentalism that is coming to the front In this respect the working class is driven off the stage.

We want to stop the war, because of all the devastation at causes to the working people, because of the control that the upper classes will gain over them if they come out “victorious.” And we want to settle our own fights, over the destiny of our societies, which the very people who produce the wealth should govern and rule.

March-April 1991, ATC 31