Concrete web-magazine

5Dec/130

Irans nuclear ambitions – Unsafe at any speed

»The enrichment of uranium will proceed as before. [...] The Worlds powers have recognized Irans right to enrich uranium on Iranian soil.«

-Hassan Rohani following the conclusion of the talks with the USA

If the reactions of the European public were anything to go by, the deal with the Iran must have saved the world. There seemed to be a general consensus that ending the sanctions on the Iran is the goal to be achieved and Irans nuclear ambitions are generally ignored despite being at the center of the debate. German media in particular have attributed the new Iranian president Rohani almost saintlike qualities, painting the picture of a fundamental change in Iran.

However, if voices from the region itself are anything to go by, things look wildly different.

Israels opposition to the deal with Iran is well known and, considering Israels role as "jew amongst the nations", it' not too far-fetched to believe that the coverage of Israels opposition to an end of the sanctions is actually used to reinforce the positive image of the deal with the general public. If Netanyahu opposes it, it must be a good thing. To drive this point home, German journalists even resorted to anti-semitic imagery, portraying Netanyahu as the archetypical poisoner, who intends to kill peace itself.

What is commonly ignored is both Israels reasons for its outspoken opposition to the Iranian nuclear programm and the fact that other nations in the region have shown similiar strong opposition to the deal with Iran.

From all available information, we can probably conclude that Iran wants the atom bomb. Many parts of its nuclear developement would make no sense for a civilian, energy-producing goal. Iran is not only enriching uranium to a point only needed for the developement of weapons, it is doing so in underground vaults intended to inoculate the industry against foreign attacks. It furthermore has in the past rejected solutions that would have allowed it to develope a civilian nuclear industry but taken away the possibility of constructing nuclear weapons, for example the Russian offer to take over the task of uranium enrichment for Iran completely.

Israel fears a nuclear Iran because it is a threat to its own existence. The Iranian state doctrine is fundamentally antisemitic and the destruction of Israel remains an ideological and strategic goal of the government. While President Rohani has avoided openly anti-semitic remarks in the recent months, as those would have endangered the talks with the United States and the European Union, there was no fundamental change in Iranian government policy - its brutality evidenced by the more than 300 death sentences carried out since Rohani became President - and Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini continued threats towards Israel which have a long tradition. Worryingly enough, this tradition includes a very specific argument for nuclear war with Israel:

"If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world."

- Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani during a Quds-Day speech in 2001

But will the Iran risk its own destruction by the hands of Israeli nuclear bombs in retaliation for such an assault? One can only speculate. Public speeches of course do not reveal the full truth about a governments ambitions and the words may have been meant for the public, not as an actual intention for nuclear war with Israel. Despite the irrational elements of antisemitic ideology, the "all or nothing"-attitude which already had been Nazi Germany's downfall, the Iranian leadership is comparable to other Islamist movements in the sense that it is quick to sacrifice millions of its people for the ideological goals, but also very concerned with preserving its own status and power.

Still, Israels worries are understandable. Even the faintest possibility is still a threat to the millions living in a country so small that, indeed, one or two bombs could lead to the thorough destruction and the death of most its population. One or two bombs, that won't necessarily be fired from Iran itself and could just as easily be handed over to one of the Shiite militias under indirect control of the Iran, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.

But, as noted before, Israel is not the only country panicking in the face of Irans nuclear ambitions. Saudi-Arabia has publically announced its intention to acquire nuclear bombs of its own from Pakistan, should Iran go nuclear. Pakistan possesses a sizeable nuclear arsenal that had been developen with Saudi-Arabias help.  Egypt and Turkey are likely candidates for developing nuclear bombs in response the Iranian ambitions as well. Furthermore, it was Saudi-Arabia that informed Israel of the talks held between the USA and Iran without consultation of the Israeli government. A remarkable event, considering that Israel had been the United States' most important ally in the region during the past decades.

As a consequence of the deal with Iran, the region will become less safe and the possibility of regional war is increasing - no matter how many times the negotiations with Iran are called "peace talks". Iran has strong hegemonial ambitions and ongoing imperialist designs for the arabic world. Next to Turkey it is the only country with the material base to do so: Israel is too small and too much of a Pariah for the Arabs to exert much influence over regional affairs. Saudi-Arabia and Qatar are both trying to influence political movements in other countries, for example by funding political groups or governments, but they lack the population for grander designs. Egypt, while a large state, is tied down in internal and economic unrest.

Irans national ideology and predominantly shiite religion adds a religious dimension to the hegemonial struggle with the Sunni states. It had been unable to bridge this divide by invoking Israel as common enemy. Iran is fighting covert wars in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq by funding militias and terrorist activity. While it has thusfar shunned open engagements with any regional powers, this may change if the country developes nuclear weapons that would shield it from repercussion for expansionist policies. Bluntly said: which country would want to assault a nuclear Iran, even it were to invade Iraq?

The Obama-administration meanwhile is pursuing a policy of disengagement in the middle east that, from a national perspective, has been long overdue. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been costly and yeilded no practical benefits for the US government while costing it large amounts of legitimacy. Its tightly knit alliance with Israel demonizes the USA in the eyes of anti-semites throughout the world and has jeopardized business opportunities with the Iran.

Likewise, Germany leads Europe into appeasement of Iran for very solid reasons. Much of the Iranian nuclear programm - just like other countries before - has been developed with German technology. While formally sticking to the sanctions of Iran, German industry had reportedly felt encouraged by politics to illegally evade the sanctions long before the talks with Iran started.

Iran is a large market, much larger than Israel and Saudi-Arabia. Furthermore, re-approachment with Iran may spoil relations with these countries, but it will not cause them to turn against their powerful, if unreliable, partners in Europe and America. Business wil proceed undisturbed. Indeed, it may actually improve, if the destabilized situation in the middle east prompts regional partners of the NATO to expand their arms-purchases.

Much of the middle-east has been rendered useless for the global economy. The unemployed and unproductive populations of countries like Syria may die in protracted civil wars and the rest of the world will sit idly, as long as the governments in the region and the many militias participating in the wars compensate the loss of civilian consumer demand with demand for military products and as long as the access to ressources like oil remains secure. Considering its their only source of income, warring factions will likely ensure it does in order to pay the bills of their arms dealers.

3Dec/130

Fortress Europe – Castle Keep Germany

As much, as the state of the world must depress anyone, who wishes for social progress and moving beyond the constraints of the capitalist society, sometimes there are things that make hopeful not all is lost yet.

In particular, the tenacity, with which refugees and their supporters in Germany stem themselves against the tides of the racist mainstream, is impressive. This is all the more praiseworthy, considering that throughout this year, Germany seemed to be headed back to the dreaded times of the early nineties. Back then, a wave of nationalism caught the German public in the aftermath of the reunification and quickly found its expression in a series of pogroms against asylum-seekers. Media and politics fanned the fires with slogans such as: "the boat is full" or complaints about "asylum abuse", implying the refugees headed for Germany only intended to leech of social security.

Racism in the early nineties culminated in the Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots in 1992. Government sided with the rioters, interpreting these riots as an expression of justified worries and used them as a pretense for a de-facto abolishment of the (constitutional) right to political asylum.

In many ways, 2013 reminded of 1992. The public debate was heated, many politicians on the right (including the German minister of the interior Hans-Peter Friedrich) warned about a rise in the numbers of asylum-seekers and especially the upcoming integration of Romania and Bulgaria into the open labor-market of the European Union was cause for panic. There have also been large public protests against several asylum-seeker homes, including the "Lichtelmarsch" in the small Saxonian town of Schneeberg, and in one case against a housing-block populated mainly by impoverished Roma in the city of Duisburg.

The slogans reminded us of the early nineties, including the parole of the reunification "Wir sind das Volk" - "We are the people", which had quickly acquired a nationalist meaning during the reunification in the sense of "Wir sind EIN Volk" - "We are ONE people". The subtext is that anyone not part of our blood and soil community by birth is not deserving of a life within these borders. Furthermore that the German government is not representing the national interests of the Germans as a unified and monlithic people, but foreign interests. The proximity to Nazi propaganda about the enslavement of the German people by foreign countries or a sinister jewish conspiracy controlling government and media is not a coincidence.

Comparing the pogroms of 1992 and the protests of 2013, even the participants looked the same.

Therefore, the way in which the organisation of the refugees themselves and their protests resonated in parts of the German public must be considered all the more impressive. In particular in Hamburg, large protests have repeatedly criticised the refusal of the local government to grant asylum to a group of refugees from the war in Lybia who are currently sheltered in a church in the district of Sankt-Pauli. Arriving through the island of Lampedusa, Italy had already granted these people political asylum but then urged them to move onwards, considering the desastrous conditions for refugees in the country.

The city of Hamburg insists that the refugees apply for asylum again, at the same time signalling that this would be the first step to deportation. Officials of the social-democratic government in Hamburg consider themselves and their city not responsible, considering the Dublin-II agreements which define that refugees can only seek asylum in those countries of the European Union in which they first arrive. The Dublin-II agreements have been harshly criticised in the past as a way for countries in central and north Europe to rid themselves of the responsibility for refugees at the expense of the poorer (and now: crisis-ridden) countries along the European borders.

There is not enough room to give a full chronology of the protests in Hamburg, but they first started with smaller protests in May this year and a first demonstration drew roughly 600 people at the 8. of June. The group, calling itself "Lampedusa in Hamburg" gathered further public attention when the sinking of a ship overloaden with refugees at the coast of Lampedusa (resulting in the death of about 390 people) was widely reported in the media. Meanwhile, police started a campaign of racial-profiling in the district of Sankt-Pauli with the explicit goal of identifying the refugees and forcing them to leave the country.

From here on, protests intensified. The refugees found allies not only, but very prominently, in the "Rote Flora" and the activist groups organized within the structures of what is perhaps Germanys most prominent Squat. A first illegal protest of about 1000 people at the 15. October was stopped violently by the police, gathering additional attention for the cause as pictures of the clashes were sent on German television (riots are a surefire way to get good audience ratings).

At about this point, protests started to spread throughout Germany. Many smaller towns saw people gather in solidarity with the refugees in Hamburg. Furthermore, a campaign of militant protest flanked the demonstrations, causing property damage to a variety of targets, but popularily the beuraucratic institutions responsible for the treatment of refugees in Germany.

The largest protest (thusfar) occured at the 2. Novemberg, gathering something between 10.000 and 15.000 individuals. The significance of this protest (and the one following a football match some days before that which saw 9.000 participants) is the realization that the refugees found supporters far beyond the "usual suspects" of the radical left and a few humanitarian organizations. Furthermore, their supporters seem to possess quite some stamina, as there are at least weekly protests and the last one, occuring last weekend at Saturday, still had about 1.000 participants. There is also the upcoming large protest march on the 21. of December, planned as a march in support of the "Rote Flora" squat, which will likely become a large solidarity march for the refugees as well.

Of course, Hamburg isn't the only city in Germany where refugees protest. Munich and Berlin both saw groups of refugees camp out on public spaces and start a hunger strike for their demands to be granted basic human rights. However, the notable difference here is, that neither enjoyed public support anywhere comparable to what is currently happening in Hamburg. In fact, large parts of the German public likened the hunger strikes to "blackmail".

There is, no matter how hopeful the events in Hamburg may make one, still a growing racist sentiment within Germany. In times of capitalist crisis, especially when lacking any answer pointing beyond the constraints of bourgeoise society, many individuals will resort to violently defending what little privilege they had been granted. The recent wave of racism in Germany therefore often has a very prominent social-chauvinist aspect, insisting that refugees are just here to get social security and that they are just plain too expensive to be granted aid when unemployed Germans have to suffer cuts to social security themselves. Of course, in such a world view, impotence of the individual is a very prominent factor: to complain in such a way, I must first accept the cuts to social security as some sort of unstoppable fate and (super)natural in origin.

Finally, one word of warning: following the riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen and the numerous assaults on migrants in Germany in the early 90s (resulting in numerous gruesome deaths) several large, publicity-gathering protests occured where Germans held light-chains against racism. The practical effect of these protests was no reversal of the anti-asylum politics of the government or any kind of improvement for migrants or those perceived as foreigners by virtue of their "un-German" looks. The practical effect was merely a restauration of Germanys image in the eyes of the rest of the world which had looked with worry at a reunited and powerful Germany where racism ran as rampant like this.

The goal must be an end to the discrimination an the European isolation from refugees. To achieve this, we all must be wary not to let ourselves be instrumentalized for the sake of Germanys foreign policy, clouding the worlds view at how racist German society really is.