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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

End the crisis in the Gulf

by our Middle East Affairs correspondent

BRITISH and other European diplomats went into top gear this week to stop the Gulf crisis spiralling out of control following the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar by Royal Marines enforcing European Union (EU) sanctions against Syria. But the Iranians say the ship is not bound for Syria and they’ve denounced the raid as an act of piracy that will be met be an appropriate response if it is not released in good time.

Last weekend the four-member crew of the detained Iranian vessel was released from custody without charge and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has told the Iranians that their tanker could also be released in return for assurances that the oil would not be sent to Syria.

Meanwhile, French diplomats have held talks in Iran in a renewed effort to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal that the Americans walked out of in May 2018 and the Trump administration claims to have made progress in secret talks with the Islamic Republic that the Iranians say have not taken place.

The security level for British ships in the Persian Gulf remains at the highest state of alert and a second Royal Navy warship has been ordered to the Gulf following claims that Iranian gun-boats had harassed a British oil tanker as it was moving out to the Straits of Hormuz.

American President Donald Trump claims that a “lot of progress” had been made to ease tensions with Iran. “We are not looking for regime change. We are not looking for that at all,” the leader of US imperialism said last week. “We’ll see what happens. But a lot of progress has been made.” But he added: “They can’t have a nuclear weapon. They can’t be testing ballistic missiles.”

At the same time, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the media that Iran is now prepared to negotiate over its missile programme — a key demand of the Trump administration.

The Iranians say that although no such talks have taken place, the Islamic Republic was ready to resume negotiations with the Americans provided that all sanctions are lifted in advance.

“Once those sanctions are lifted, then ... the room for negotiation is wide open,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York for a United Nations conference. “It is the United States that left the bargaining table. And they’re always welcome to return.”

He questioned why Trump keeps talking about Tehran’s alleged nuclear aspirations, given that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons programme long ago. “Had we been interested in developing nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it long time ago,” he said.

The Iranian minister downplayed the possibility of an armed conflict, saying: “I do not believe that President Trump wants war. But I believe that people are around him who wouldn’t mind,” he said. “But I don’t think they’ll succeed because at the end of the day, I think prudence will prevail. People know that Iran is a big, proud country. And we will not take a military attack lightly.”

Last month communist and workers parties, including the New Communist Party (NCP), signed a joint statement expressing their grave concern about the recent developments in the Persian Gulf, which pose significant threats to world peace.

They strongly condemned the “US administration and its hawkish representatives such as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton for initiating the rising tension and threats of military action on Iran, as well as the use of economic sanctions as a means of starving the people of Iran into submission. It further believes that these actions are having a disastrous impact upon the continuing struggle of the Iranian people for peace, sovereignty and social justice, as well as for human and democratic rights.

“The aim of US policy regarding Iran is to secure the undisputed domination of US imperialism and its allies in the region. The actions and policies of the US administration on Iran have been and continue to be co-ordinated with those of the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia.”