Recent weeks have seen the Trump administration engage in a series of provocations in the Middle East which are escalating tension in the region and could even contribute to detonating a full scale conflict. This points to the need for working people in the U.S. and internationally to stand up to Trump’s reckless moves and build a powerful movement against war and imperialism.
Series of Provocations
On May 14, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner represented the administration at the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in the city which Palestinians also claim as their capital. The move was seen as a triumph by the reactionary Netenyahu regime on the very day that Israeli forces massacred 60 Palestinian protesters at the border between Israel and the Gaza strip while shooting nearly three thousand more. Rubbing salt into the wounds the administration echoed the Israelis in blaming the Palestinians for the massacre.
This follows Trump’s order to bomb targets in Syria in April in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime on a community near Damascus. The real purpose of the U.S. raid though was to assert U.S. imperialism’s interests as Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies increasingly have the upper in the Syrian civil war.
But by far the most consequential step taken by Trump is to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord that also included key European nations as well as Russia and China. Trump and Netanyahu assert that the Iranian regime was still pursuing nuclear weapons but almost all credible experts agree that the deal was achieving its stated purpose of preventing Iran from moving rapidly in that direction.
Trump’s threat to re-impose sanctions on Iran and on companies that do business in Iran is clearly aimed at forcing “regime change” in Iran. But in the short term it will probably rally support behind the clerical regime despite the massive social discontent in Iranian society. It is also a slap in the face to European “allies.” By trying to blow up a treaty the U.S. helped craft Trump shows how little interest he has in maintaining the postwar architecture of “international relations.”
Trump’s moves against Iran are enormously destabilizing and point toward a regional war with the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia arrayed against Iran, with the backing of Russia and perhaps China. The Syrian as well as Yemen wars already have had elements of proxy conflict between these alliances. Recently Israel bombed a series of positions inside Syria targeting Iranian forces fighting on Assad’s side.
Shift to the Right
It is very consequential that Trump has replaced his secretary of state and national security adviser with the superhawks Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. As part of the Bush administration, Bolton was one of the most fiercely committed to the Iraq war and also called for bombing Iran. Since coming on the job, he has advocated the “Lybian solution” for North Korea’s nuclear program, clearly implying regime change. As we go to press, Trump has announced he is cancelling his much-hyped summit with Kim Jong-un as the administration started ratcheting up the bellicose rhetoric again.
While it seems hard to imagine how the reactionary Trump regime could turn to the right, he has abandoned his isolationist rhetoric from the 2016 campaign – when he criticized the Iraq war and talked about getting out of Afghanistan – in favor of an aggressive reassertion of imperialist interests.
Trump’s posture is also clearly an attempt to distract from the crises encircling the administration. It is a classic move by dictatorial or would-be dictatorial regimes to distract from problems by threatening a “small war.” In the tinderbox that is the Middle East today, this is a very dangerous game. On top of this, Trump’s utterly uncritical support for the Israeli regime are linked to his political alliance with the Christian right in the U.S. Prominent evangelical pastors who see support for Israel in apocalyptic theological terms spoke at the Jerusalem embassy opening.
In reality, despite all the bluster, the position of the U.S. has been enormously weakened globally and in the Middle East in the past 15 years with the catastrophic Iraq war, the never-ending occupation of Afghanistan, and the increasing assertiveness of Russian and Chinese imperialism. Trump’s ascendancy is both a reflection of this decline and now contributes to it directly. But working people in the U.S. have no stake in continuing imperialist policies based on maintaining control of oil and other resources which entail the massive costs of the military industrial complex, terrorist blowback, and the enormous suffering that these policies have caused to people around the world. These policies serve the interests of corporate profits not the interests of ordinary people.
A Socialist Solution
People looking for a sharp opposition to Trump’s policies from the leadership of the Democratic Party will be very disappointed. While they defend the Iran deal crafted by Obama and John Kerry, they have supported Trump’s bombing of Syria. The Democrats also advocate an even more aggressive posture towards Russia. At every stage, even if they seem more rational than Trump, they base their position on the interests of corporate America not those of working people.
And although not a single Democratic politician attended the embassy opening in Jerusalem, Senator Chuck Schumer supported the move saying “I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Historically, the Democrats have been the more pro-Israel party based on U.S. imperialism seeing Israel as a key bastion along with reactionary Arab regimes during the Cold War. Among well known politicians, Bernie Sanders was virtually alone in openly criticizing the Israeli state’s murderous policies in Gaza.
The Committee for a Workers International – with which Socialist Alternative in the U.S. is in political solidarity – opposes all the reactionary capitalist regimes of the Middle East many of them brutal dictatorships. We stand with working people like the courageous trade unionists in Iran and Egypt who stand up for their rights and often face savage repression. The working class is the only force capable of ending endless wars and communal divisions. We are for the withdrawal of all imperialist forces.
We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people who demand an end to occupation and for the realization of their legitimate national aspirations. But we also recognize the national rights of the Israeli people. We do not see the Israeli population as one reactionary mass but as a class-divided society. As a recent statement from the CWI pointed out:
“It is a class society like others across the globe with one of the worst gaps between rich and poor – a small number of “tycoon” families at the top control the economy. Israeli workers are regularly forced into struggle.”
On the basis of capitalism there is no way forward except more wars. That is why we call for two socialist states in Israel and Palestine where working people can come together to work out their differences as part of a socialist confederation of the region.
Internationally and in the U.S. there is growing criticism of Israeli policies especially among young people. Before Trump and his allies drag the region into a new and possibly much more devastating war, we must turn the solidarity with the Palestinian people into a mass movement against war and imperialism.