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Week commencing 7th December 2007

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by our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

plans to attack Iran are in disarray following an American intelligence report that says Iran shut down its nuclear weapons programme more than four years ago. A new consensus assessment from all 16 US intelligence agencies has concluded Iran shut down its nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) starkly contradicts the Bush administration’s claims that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear bomb.

The National Intelligence Estimate states that while Tehran is likely to keep its options open, they “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons”.

It adds that they believe Iran is still a decade away from manufacturing highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, and that the Iranians will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.

The NIE concludes that if Iran were to end the freeze of its weapons programme, it would still be at least two years before Tehran would have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. But it says it is still “very unlikely” Iran could produce enough of the material by then. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is only designed to produce energy and that it has the sovereign right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

A few weeks ago Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported that Iran was operating 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges, capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons. But his report also said that the IAEA inspectors had been unable to determine whether the Iranian programme sought only to generate electricity or also to build weapons.

Last October Bush raved on about “World War III” if the Islamic Republic continued with its alleged nuclear weapons activities, which the Washington hawks claimed was based on reliable intelligence.

The war lobby within the British and American ruling class stepped up their propaganda war against the Iranians to justify a sanctions regime against Iran and openly talked about American and Israeli air-strikes that would take out all the Islamic Republic’s nuclear research complexes.  This was resisted by People’s China and Russia. The Russians said their own intelligence had produced no evidence that could back up Bush’s claims. Now they’ve been proved right.

At the United Nations China said that proposed new sanctions against Iran could be called into question by the latest US intelligence assessment. UN Ambassador Wang Guangya called it “an important report”. America, Britain and France are still pushing for more UN sanctions against Iran but these would need Chinese and Russian support to get through the UN Security Council.

deep divisions

The fact that America’s intelligence chiefs have gone public on what the White House must have known for months reflects the deep divisions within the American ruling class and the mounting opposition to Bush’s sinister neo-con war lobby that was responsible for the disastrous war in Iraq. This was conceded by leading neo-con war-monger, Norman Podhoretz, a Zionist Republican aide and an architect of the plan for American world domination called the “Project for the New American Century”.

Podhoretz admitted that the intelligence report had “just dealt a serious blow to the argument some of us have been making that Iran is intent on building nuclear weapons and that neither diplomacy nor sanctions can prevent it from succeeding…” but added “...I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.”

Fake intelligence reports about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction like Blair’s “dodgy dossier” were used to justify Anglo-American imperialism’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. The imperialists’ lust for oil has plunged Iraq into chaos and sectarian strife.

Over a million Iraqis have died over the past four years. Now they have their greedy eyes on Iran. The labour and anti-war movement must mobilise to ensure that Britain plays no part in any attack on Iran and that all British troops are immediately and unconditionally withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.


Paying for the Party

THE NEW SCANDAL about unregistered donations from rich businessmen to the Labour Party seems to be unfolding new dramas everyday – the latest being some dodgy donations to Peter Hain. Predictably the spectre of Government funding for political parties has been hoisted again, with encouraging noises from both front benches. This would, after all, see all of them well set up for life.

 But it would undermine what remains of bourgeois democracy in this country. For a start, the plans being mooted would cut or severely curtail trade union donations to Labour. No union has indulged in illegal or dodgy practices in this respect but it seems they must pay the price for the bad behaviour of self-seeking millionaires.

 Trade union funding of the Labour Party is completely different to the big donations from rich individuals. In reality it represents thousands of small donations from trade union members who have all, individually opted to pay the political levy. The way the unions use the sum of these thousands of donations is democratically decided at union conferences. And it is the only way – who pays the piper calls the tune – that ordinary working people can have any real impact on a party that is capable of being a government in Britain.

 Furthermore if political parties were funded from taxes by the state, we would all be paying for the propagation of views we do not hold. Parties would no longer be accountable to their members. There would be little point in being a member of most political parties. Those that do get state funding could and would ignore the views of members and there would be a mighty gulf in the viability and impact of those that did get funding compared to the fringe parties that didn’t.

 Membership of a political party would be even rarer than now, political activism would be seen as eccentricity, if not a form of mental illness – and the ruling class would have the passive, submissive, uneducated, unorganised proletariat it seeks.

 But we’re not going to let that happen, are we!


Storm in a teacup?

GILLIAN GIBBONS, the teacher who was imprisoned briefly in Sudan for allowing her class of children to call a teddy bear Mohammed and thereby insulting Islam, is home now safe and well. But what was really happening with her early release? The woman clearly made a genuine mistake and should have known better; you wouldn’t go to teach in a fundamentally Catholic country and call a toy camel Jesus Christ.

But when one of her Sudanese colleagues complained it presented the Sudanese government with a problem. British imperialism has, over the last 150 years or so, abused, humiliated and oppressed the Sudanese people and made fun of their government. That government now had to tread a fine line between not incurring the wrath of the imperialist powers without incurring the anger of their own people for appearing to appease the British government.

 A 15-day sentence, of which half had already passed, seemed to them a tactful compromise. Fifteen days in a not-too-awful jail was small beer compared to the total sum of human suffering going on in that country. But the British government and the western media reacted with exaggerated horror and anger, as though Gibbons was facing imminent execution.

 Two Muslim members of the House of Lords were despatched to negotiate her immediate release and succeeded to great acclaim in bringing her home about four days before she would have come anyway. Why so much effort and expense – when other British residents have been left to rot without charge or trial for up to six years in Guantánamo Bay and the Foreign Office won’t lift a finger?

 A BBC Foreign Office “expert” put it all into perspective on Monday morning when he explained that the whole thing had been good for the British government because it gave an opportunity to establish a new kind of relationship with the Sudanese government. “Now if something else happens down the line, for example human rights abuses or the Sudanese making agreements with the Chinese to exploit their oil and other mineral reserves, we can just pick up the phone and call them,” he said. In other words the FO thinks it has succeeded in browbeating the Sudanese government and re-established the old colonial relations – the more trivial the issue, the more it emphasises British control. Let’s hope the Sudanese government – and the Chinese – soon prove them wrong.

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