How Labour members can play a role in resisting a war on Iran

Shelly Asquith

The world is a more dangerous place following events in Iraq last week. In a move that has been widely condemned as “reckless”, the US President assassinated both Quasem Soleimani, Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, a leader of the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF). The assassination of Soleimani in particular was not the US’s first aggression against Iran – and it does not take a ground invasion of troops to make it a war. Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) began the warpath.

Now, after months of imposing secondary sanctions which have pushed the Iranian economy to the brink, Trump is ramping up the pressure on European nations to do the same, while imposing an almost complete economic embargo – including sanctions on all Iranian imports, financial institutions and on companies doing business with Iran or with other companies or countries that do.

The result of this action is that the cost of meat and vegetables has more than doubled, with a shortage of necessities like nappies. These sanctions, designed to destabilise the country and force regime change, are also a form of economic warfare. Not necessarily a bloodless one, either – starving a nation is no more humane than bombing them.

We should also be wary of an escalation of war in places where the US and its allies Saudi Arabia and Israel are essentially already at war with Iran. For example in Yemen, where nearly 100,000 have already died and another three million displaced.

Trump undoubtedly sees this aggression as a muscle-flex strategy to bolster his 2020 re-election bid. Boris Johnson, likely without his own electoral fate to worry about for some time, will be more concerned about US-UK relations in the context of EU withdrawal trade arrangements.

What has our own government’s response been so far? Boris Johnson has justified the assassination and not ruled out support for a full-scale war. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has met with Mike Pompeo – the hawkish US Secretary of State – in Washington. This came after already placing warships, helicopters and troops on standby for deployment to Iraq – troops who would join the 400 British troops already there.

We must not allow our own government to play to the tune of US warmongers Trump and Pompeo. Labour members have a role to play in bolstering opposition among the wider public. The response by leading figures in the Labour Party has been, on the whole, reassuring – but only a minority of Labour’s MPs have any history in the anti-war movements.

We need Labour members to help mount a public campaign to demonstrate the weight of opposition against our own Government joining or supporting any further US war with Iran. As one of the six signatories of the JCPOA, our country has a duty to do all it can to revive the deal in order to de-escalate.

We can help play a role in resisting a war by attending events and protests, passing motions and joining Stop the War, which is co-ordinating activity – just as it did in 2003 against the invasion of Iraq. The majority of people in this country are not in favour of military intervention: it’s over to us to voice that feeling.

Join the demonstrations

Demonstrations are being held on Saturday in Chesterfield, Harrogate, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, London and Bristol; on Sunday in Bradford; and on the following Saturday in Swansea, Canterbury and Warrington. A full list can be found here. The London protest will be addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, in his first rally speech since the election.

Pass the motion

A model motion is available here which can be submitted to your union or Labour branch or CLP.

Organise a meeting

Consider organising a meeting to discuss the situation within your local area: reaching out to people concerned by the prospect of a war will help grow local Labour networks, allow people to feel more informed and able to take action in other ways. Stop the War can advise and suggest speakers for meetings.

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