More than meets the eye behind the Iran sanctions
Liz Payne, left and Navid Shomali, right in Lisbon, Portugal, December 3. Photo by John Wojcik | PW.

LISBON, Portugal – To many Americans, the 99-0 vote in the U.S. Senate last week to authorize a 10-year extension of sanctions against Iran may seem like an insurance policy against international terrorism sponsored by that country.

To many other Americans, it was a vote that reflects the right wing’s aim to undermine and destroy a nuclear arms reduction deal that the Obama administration reached between Iran and several countries, including the United States.

To the 60-plus progressive, left and communist organizations that gathered here in Lisbon last weekend for the 20th Congress of the Portuguese Communist Party, however, sanctions against Iran are about a whole lot more.

Navid Shomali, the International Secretary of Iran’s Tudeh Party, was present here for the congress and talked with People’s World about the situation.

“There was a positive aspect to the nuclear arms deal,” he said, “which we supported – it reduced the threat of nuclear war, a reduction which every sane political force on the planet supported.”

Despite this, however, Shomali said the Tudeh party always had major concerns about the deal. Many aspects of the deal, he said, involved holding out a carrot and then wielding a stick, depending upon whether Iran is being a ‘good boy’ according to what the U.S. needs at any particular moment. The deal allowed for the U.S. to continually make more and more demands because Iran was in a weak position going into the talks.

“The United States,” Shomali continued, “has been following a policy of multi-lateral confinement, especially during the Obama years, of alternately backing and then opposing actions by each of four major Mideast countries in order to manipulate all of them to better carry out its aim – control of the vast oil and gas reserves in the region.”

He identified those countries as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.

“The large American oil companies,” he explained, “want to control the Mideast permanently because they want to be able to control countries that continue to be dependent upon Mideast oil, including China, Russia and even to an extent the EU countries.”

Shomali and Liz Payne, the national Chairperson of the Communist Party of Britain, discussed the sanctions vote in the U.S. Senate with People’s World during a stroll across Lisbon’s historic Praca do Comerico, the largest plaza in Europe. Tens of thousands of people poured into that plaza in 1974 during the uprising that overthrew the fascist Salazar dictatorship. A warship backing the dictatorship docked right off the plaza, aiming its guns at the crowds when army troops led by the PCP arrived, forming a defense line between the crowds and the warship.

“There’s another important thing to keep in mind with these Iran sanctions,” said Payne. “The U.S. banks, through their activity in London, which is a center of world finance capital, control two thirds of the financial transactions all across Europe,” she said. “They have been able to levy billions of dollars in fines against European and other world banks that violate the sanctions. So the sanctions against Iran become a stick these banks can use to keep competitor banks under control.”

Shomali agreed, adding, “The international role of the dollar and of the U.S. banking system are something they never want to have called into question. Strategic control of the Mideast and its energy resources provides the U.S. with one key factor by which it can delay the process of other parts of the world rising up to challenge its economic hegemony.”

“Optimally for the U.S.,” Shomali said, “This (meaning the extension of the sanctions against Iran) could trigger the political disintegration of China itself. At worst, the impact of China’s rise could be delayed.”

“This,” he explained, “is the reason America is now trying to create a Middle East in which no power is dominant and all are to some extent dependent on the U.S.”

Shomali expressed doubt that this U.S. strategy could be successful. “It is a strategy dependent upon the stability of very exploitative and highly oppressive regimes that are themselves in a state of conflict. All the more reason that we have to control nuclear arms.”


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.