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U.S. Imperialism Is Pushing Tensions in the Middle East to a Boiling Point

U.S. Imperialism’s support for Israel is driving the tensions behind Iran’s attack and the escalations in the Middle East. It is all the more urgent for the working class to unite with the movement for Palestine against imperialism and chart a way out of the crisis in the region.

Samuel Karlin

April 15, 2024
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After two weeks, Iran responded to an Israeli attack on its consulate in Syria on April 1. On the night of April 13, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel from its own territory for the first time in history. A portion of missiles were also launched from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

This attack was a highly calculated maneuver from the Iranian regime to save face in response to Israel’s challenge. Iran gave the world two week’s notice before launching the attack, and timed the launch of its weapons so that Israel and other countries would have hours to intercept them. Iran also announced immediately after the attack that this would be the last of its attacks, unless Israel retaliates.

A Calculated Tit-for-Tat in an Unpredictable Region

The tit-for-tat actions of Israel and Iran come as Israel continues its genocidal offensive in Gaza. From the start Israel’s objective of “eliminating Hamas” became an excuse for Netanyahu and his far-right war cabinet to unleash an unprecedented massacre against Palestinians. Netanyahu hoped to politically rescue himself after his unpopularity within Israel was exacerbated by the failure of curtailing the Hamas-led Oct 7 offensive. For months now there have been growing protests in Israel calling for Netanyahu’s resignation, largely due to his refusal to prioritize negotiating a return of the hostages still held by Hamas. Divisions have also developed within the Israeli war cabinet over the hostage issue.

Faced with the crises within Israeli society, Netanyahu is pursuing the agenda of the most reactionary sectors of Israeli society, which includes the genocide in Gaza and aggressive moves against Iran and the Axis of Resistance (including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Ansar Allah or “Houthis,” Hamas, and militias in Iraq and Syria). The Far Right seeks to use the tense current moment to attack Iran and its allied militias throughout the region, gambling that the Iranian regime will be too weak and back down.

Iran for its part also faces a domestic crisis. The unpopularity of the regime was expressed in the country’s recent elections, which saw record low turnout. The government has not recovered from the feminist movement which rocked the country just two years ago or the economic crisis, which has been exacerbated by U.S. sanctions.

For six months, Iran and its Axis of Resistance alliance throughout the region have shown that their priority is to avoid a regional conflagration, which might threaten the interests of their national bourgeoisie. While the response mainly shows a policy of restraint, sectors of the Iranian regime believe that the country should be taking a more aggressive posture against Israel. The recent attack from Iran is an unprecedented move at a time when the region is highly volatile. It remains open whether Israel will respond, escalating the situation further. It is likely that the reason Israel attacked Iran’s consulate in the first place was to drag the U.S. into a war with Iran.

Imperialism is Responsible for the Crisis in the Middle East

For his part, Biden is interested in avoiding a regional conflagration and has informed Netanyahu that “the U.S. will oppose any counter-attack against Iran.” Of course, this does not mean Biden will abandon Israel in the face of an actual conflict with Iran.

The United States, along with France, the U.K., and Jordan helped Israel by intercepting Iran’s missiles. Prior to the attack, Biden reiterated to the press that the U.S. support for Israel is “ironclad,” and he has continued to send weapons to Israel, enabling the genocide in Gaza.

As I’ve written before, Biden is trapped in a contradictory position between needing to restrain Israel’s reckless actions in the region, while being unable to abandon Israel, given the Zionist state’s key role maintaining U.S. interests in the Middle East. While Biden is unable to abandon Israel, the movement for Palestine has succeeded in popularizing support for a ceasefire, and created a crisis for Biden’s election hopes. Biden now has to act as if he is listening to the demands of the movement while still being hostile to the movement’s most anti-imperialist aspirations.

Even as the United States has sought to keep Israel from acting outside of the interests of U.S. imperialism, none of Israel’s actions for the past six months would have been possible without U.S. support. Biden has continued to provide Israel with billions in weapons. There is no way Israel would have been able to kill more than 31,000 Palestinians or engage in its attacks on Iran’s consulate if not for the military support that the United States provides.

On top of all this, the Democrats and Republicans were united in immediately denouncing Iran’s attack. Republicans are now going on the offensive, using Iran’s attack to justify more funding for Israel. Long-standing Iran hawks like John Bolton and Tom Cotton are calling for aggressive action military action against Iran, and these positions are amplified by conservative media such as The Wall Street Journal.

While both the Biden administration and Iran work to avoid a regional war, the United States makes it possible for Israel to continue its aggressive moves on its enemies throughout the region. With weapons and diplomatic cover from the U.S., Israel will keep attempting to force a situation where Iran has no choice but to respond to attacks to save face. This threat of escalation makes it all the more urgent for the movement for Palestine in imperialist countries to strengthen itself. A movement with sufficient political weight could force the imperialist countries to stop aiding Israel.

Ending the Genocide in Gaza and the Fight for a Free Palestine 

It is the working class that must lead the liberation of Palestine, because defeating imperialism can only happen as part of a struggle against the whole capitalist system that exploits and oppresses workers throughout the Middle East and the world. The movement for Palestine which has emerged in the imperialist countries has the potential to unite the working class from the United States, France, Germany, the U.K., and throughout Europe with our class siblings under the terror of imperialism in the Middle East. Uniting along our shared class interests would also mean influencing sectors of the Israeli working class to break from Zionism by showing them that their current struggle against the Netanyahu regime and the Far Right can be strengthened by uniting with the Palestinian liberation struggle and their class siblings throughout the Middle East.

The fight of the Palestinian people for their liberation can be a struggle that inspires our class to overthrow the whole capitalist system that keeps Palestine oppressed. This means challenging all the capitalist regimes that put their class interests over the Palestinian struggle including the imperialist countries and Zionist state first and foremost, but also the regional regimes which collaborate with Israel and imperialism, as well as the Axis of Resistance which uses the Palestinian struggle to obscure their own anti-worker interests.

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Samuel Karlin

Samuel Karlin is a socialist with a background in journalism. He mainly writes for Left Voice about U.S. imperialism and international class struggle.

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