Let's cut through the media fog and get to the point. The American attack in Baghdad which killed 10 people, including two Iranian politicians and Qassem Suleimani, a strong man of the Iranian regime, poses a series of problems to which we should give precise answers, even if based for now only on piecemeal information.
1. The target of the American attack was Suleimani, a leading Shiite and head of the largest Iranian military force, al Quds. According to the Pentagon, he is not only responsible for many military actions against the US, but also the instigator of the recent attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, and regarded as the most powerful political and military figure of the government in Tehran. This is not just any old reprisal then, but a targeted assassination, aimed at eliminating a high-profile political adversary, a sort of warning to Iran about American intentions in the Gulf region.
2. The American attack has occurred at a time of particular social crisis in both Iraq and Iran. Recently these two Shiite majority countries have faced revolts against their respective governments: a consequence of the crisis which has produced deteriorating conditions for the workers, and the population in general, accompanied by increasing corruption, which has led to massive and bitter opposition. The response was brutal repression affecting everyone, especially the proletarian fringes who took to the streets for better wages. In both countries, Suleimani was the architect of this violent reaction as he acted as a fifth column for the Ayatollahs’ regime. Given such social upheaval what better time for Trump to strike against both the individual adversary and Iran? It is no coincidence that in Baghdad, when the news of Suleimani's death spread, some demonstrators rejoiced at the end of the Iranian butcher.
3. Going beyond this specific episode, the American attack is a signal to the Shiite coalition that stretches from the Lebanese Hezbollah to the Yemeni Houthi, from the Iraqis and Hamas (even if the latter is not Shiite, it is still opposed to the state of Israel, the first and most reliable American ally in the area) to Russia which, alongside Iran, holds the entire alliance together. The message is that the US is still present throughout the Middle East. It not only does not intend to abandon the region as often falsely stated, but that the Trump administration is ready to strike at will, even without the consent of Congress.
4. Behind the Suleimani assassination lies a complex scenario which, together with the insoluble international economic crisis, increases all the political, diplomatic and economic contradictions, first and foremost being the oil crisis. Since the US has become self-sufficient in energy and has started promoting its gas and oil exports, its horizon has begun to widen. Those who used to be allies because they exported oil to the US to satisfy its energy needs have now become competitors (like Saudi Arabia). Those who were not previously suppliers have become, due to both competition and strategic objectives, enemies to fight. Iran certainly belongs to this category and its strategic position alongside Russia and China makes it the first target of American imperialist ambitions in the Gulf. In addition, an attack on Iran, even an indirect one, looks like a warning to the entire Russian-led coalition.
5. As a preliminary conclusion we can say that this serious event in Baghdad marks a tragically important step towards a possible military escalation throughout the region. An Iranian reaction to the US provocation is on the cards. The Iranian President has already threatened serious retaliation. The Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) have declared themselves ready to face a possible American attack. Russia will certainly not stand by and watch. It cannot allow Trump to undermine the ties between members of its coalition. It cannot allow American imperialist plots to interfere with its gas supply relationship with Europe and its main ally, both politically and for oil, to be attacked with impunity. Nor can it remain indifferent to what we could call a clandestine agreement between Turkey and the USA on the entry of Erdogan's army into Syria, in exchange for a free hand for Washington in Iran and Iraq. This is not to mention Moscow's concern about the constant hesitations and changes in Turkish government policy on the Pax Siriana, on the Iraqi and Lebanese crises, and the end of its entanglement in Rojava.
6. So are we on the dangerous road towards an open world conflict, with the two imperialist giants face to face with each other at the head of their respective allies, or are we "only" in the presence of a worrying military escalation that might set an important region alight without going beyond its political borders? Obviously we can give no definite answer at the moment. Yet the fact is that, even if the least serious option came about, and even worse, if we ended up in the most serious situation, the task of revolutionaries would be to speed up the construction of the international revolutionary party: a) to avoid a third world conflict, b) to prevent millions of proletarians from entering the imperialist game as "cannon fodder" for this or that imperialism, c) to give the international proletariat a reference point, a political weapon that will lead it out of the global slaughterhouse, out of the deadly need for survival of a decadent capitalism that must destroy in order to rebuild, attack and kill in order to continue to live in an increasingly technologically advanced world. With poverty increasingly widespread, an ecological disaster looming, this sword of Damocles will hover over the head of the working class until that head decides to say “enough” to it all.
3 January, 2020