The Bush administration has begun a new round of aggressive posturing towards Iran’s regime. Under the pretext of the “war against terror” and “spreading democracy,” the U.S. is attempting to rally international support for its policy against Iran. In her recent tour of European capitals, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn’t rule out the possibility of military assault against Iran, but stated “military attack by the United States on Iran is simply not on the agenda at this point.” In response, Iran’s regime has embarked on a round of brinkmanship not too dissimilar to Saddam Hussein’s empty boasts.

Iran’s nuclear industry is used as a dangerous bargaining tool by both the U.S. and Iran’s theocratic regime. The Bush administration’s discredited record on Iraq’s alleged WMDs points to a similar pattern regarding Iran’s perceived nuclear threat. On the other hand, this issue forms the basis of the regime’s dangerous and unsustainable foreign policy.

Given the state of the U.S. government’s messy involvement in Iraq, it is not necessarily able to initiate another full-scale military adventure in Iran right now. Invasion of a vast country such as Iran undoubtedly would pose enormous problems for the U.S. The Bush administration, in line with its overall strategy, may consider a limited airborne operation against selected targets. However, a limited attack may not lead to a “regime change.” And as recently explained in The New York Times by the Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, “For human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause.”

If at present a full-scale military attack is not practical, the unstable nature of Iran’s politics presents the U.S. with other opportunities instead. By taking advantage of the upcoming presidential election in Iran on June 17, the U.S. could achieve its objectives without an all-out assault. Undoubtedly Washington’s neoconservatives are not interested in the emergence of truly democratic processes in Iran. A democratic state and a free society would be an obstacle to the U.S. plans for economic and political hegemony in the region. Historically, for the U.S., lack of democracy and civic society in countries such as Iran has been instrumental in exploiting their national resources.

The U.S. economic model has not changed and its energy needs are greater than ever. Consequently its policies towards the countries of the Middle East cannot be significantly altered. The so-called plan for a “Greater Middle East” should therefore be judged against the strategic needs of the U.S. economy.

Therefore, in the absence of a total regime change in Iran, the emergence of an oligarchy led by a pragmatic and powerful figure will be a suitable alternative. Such a “strong leader” and a corrupt political economic structure are conducive towards the U.S. regional interests.

Among the possible contenders in the forthcoming election, former president Rafsanjani is the best fit for the U.S. objectives. As one of the most powerful and wealthy figures within the regime, he is also well connected within the mercantile capitalist class in Iran. In 1984-85 he was the key figure in the Iran-Contra affair. In a recent interview with USA Today, he offered himself as someone that the U.S. “can do business with.” He is certainly qualified for the job, as during his presidency Iran experienced one of its darkest periods of repression, while at the same time the regime zealously implemented a destructive “economic adjustment” program prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

However, the majority of the Iranian people loathe the regime and its leaders such as Rafsanjani because of their continued betrayal of the national interests. Experience shows that even under the current undemocratic conditions these reactionary elements would fail to rally any popular electoral support. Shielding Iran from a perceived U.S. military attack is the only message that a candidate such as Rafsanjani would try to offer.

It is against this background of politics within Iran that the Bush administration’s increasingly confrontational and threatening language should be considered.

The people and democratic progressive forces fighting the dictatorship strongly oppose any sort of foreign intervention in Iran. The popular movement for freedom and democracy in Iran needs and deserves the active support and solidarity of all those who oppose war and strive for peace and progress.

Nima Kamran is a correspondent from the Tudeh Party of Iran.