The Tudeh Party of Iran, founded in 1942 out of the labor and communist movements, has carried forward the struggle for peace, democracy and socialism in that country despite decades of the fiercest repression by reactionary governments and by the forces of imperialism. The Tudeh Party has spoken out vigorously against the U.S. war on Iraq.

The following interview was conducted by Marilyn Bechtel, international secretary of the Communist Party USA, earlier this month with Comrade Mohammad Omidvar, member of the Tudeh Party’s Political Bureau.

Q – Why does the Tudeh Party of Iran believe the Bush administration has persisted in its extremely aggressive policy toward Iraq, despite worldwide popular opposition and objections by other governments?

A – Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, world progressive forces warned against use of the tragedy to impose absolute hegemony over the world and to set a new dangerous precedent where a military superpower ignores all international laws, the United Nations and even the UN Security Council in pursuit of its own narrow economic, political and military interests.

What has unfolded since March 20 – despite the active protests of tens of millions of peace and freedom loving people throughout the world – is savage military aggression by U.S. imperialism against a small country which has suffered more than 12 years of economic sanctions at great cost to ordinary Iraqis. Over the last six months world public opinion has been presented with various flimsy excuses to justify the war. But the clumsy U.S. and British attempts to provide a rationale for the attack have made clear that the war was aimed neither to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction nor to “liberate” the Iraqi people from a dictatorial regime guilty of horrific crimes against its own people.

The real agenda is control of the key strategic Persian Gulf region and its vast oil resources. It is thus no accident that the U.S.-led invasion aims first to install a U.S. military governor in Iraq, charged with handing lucrative “reconstruction” contracts to U.S. companies closely linked with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and then to install a puppet regime like that in Afghanistan. This is in direct contradiction to the wishes of the Iraqi people and their progressive forces including the Iraqi Communist Party which has been waging a heroic struggle against the dictatorial regime in Iraq. The people of Iraq along with their patriotic and democratic forces are the only legitimate forces to determine their country’s future.

Q – How will the U.S. attack on Iraq affect the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy, and the Palestinian people’s struggle for a viable state?

A – While Washington and London emphasized that the Iraqi regime has ignored UN resolutions for the past 12 years, they failed to acknowledge that successive Israeli governments – with U.S. help – have violated more UN resolutions since 1967 than any other country in the world.

The war against Iraq clearly shows the hostility of the U.S. and British governments toward the plight of millions of Palestinian people who live under brutal military occupation and are denied their most basic human rights under the pretext of “war on terrorism”.

Far from solving the problem of “terrorism,” the latest military adventure will strength the fundamentalist forces that see this as “holy war” against Islam. Since the war on Iraq began, the Israeli government has greatly escalated its military operations, resulting in death and injury to hundreds of Palestinians and kidnapping of hundreds more from their refugee camps. The war against Iraq will have a devastating effect on prospects for peaceful solution of the region’s problems. U.S. leaders’ threats against Syria and Iran are irresponsible policies that could engulf the entire region in war and destruction.

Q – President Bush includes Iran together with Iraq and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in an “axis of evil.” Why is the U.S. administration characterizing Iran in this way and how do you think the U.S. might act toward Iran?

A – To achieve its aims, imperialism needs to control or at least neutralize the two key countries in the strategic Persian Gulf region – Iraq and Iran. Following the collapse of the Shah’s despotic regime (which the U.S. viewed as the “island of stability” in the region) the entire Persian Gulf has gone through very turbulent times – three destructive wars and the rise of fundamentalism – which could threaten regimes like Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states. U.S. policy makers believe the ever-increasing military presence and military occupation of the region would bring back the “stability” that would ensure the flow of cheap oil to the west.

Q – What are the recent developments and trends in the struggle for democracy in Iran?

A – Our country has gone through tremendous changes in recent years. In the May 1997 presidential election, despite all the intimidations and pressures, more than 20 million Iranians rejected the regime’s official candidate in favor of a little-known moderate cleric who promised democracy and civic society. While supporting any reform effort, our party pointed out that it is an illusion to think a democratic government and a civic society could be achieved by safeguarding the present power structure – the rule of the supreme religious leader (Velayat Fagieh). Six years later, it is clear that Mr. Khatami cannot carry out his reform program under the current power structure, which gives him, as elected President, very little leverage against non-elected bodies and the supreme religious leader. The indecisive and conciliatory approaches of Mr. Khatami and some of his followers have allowed reaction to strengthen its position and to organize an onslaught against the reform process, resulting in arrests of hundreds of intellectuals, students, editors of reformist newspapers and political activists.

The March 2003 local council elections, boycotted by over 80 percent of the electorate in main cities like Tehran, showed that the people have very little faith in the system being able to fulfill their demand for democracy and social justice. In the last five years our party has stressed that social forces such as youth, students and women – and particularly the working class and its allies – are the main forces for change. Until the progressive movement can overcome its lack of organization and united action, reaction can overcome any attempts to dislodge it.

Our party emphasizes the need to establish an anti-dictatorial front of all progressive and freedom-loving forces. This view has gained much prominence over the last year. It is worth mentioning that recently the “Office for Consolidating Unity” (the country’s largest student body) called on all progressive and reformist organizations to form a “front for democracy” and to conduct their struggle outside the straightjacket of the current “power structures.” Our party continues its effort to organize the masses and strongly believes that the current popular movement for reform, if organized and united, could pave the way for fundamental, democratic and lasting changes within our society.

Q – How can anti-war forces in the U.S. and around the world provide solidarity with the people of Iran in their struggle to win democracy at home and to be safe?

A – Most important is to prevent the U.S. administration from interfering in Iran’s internal affairs under any pretext. However, it is crucial that the peace movement prevent its campaign against the Bush administration’s Iran policy from becoming a justification to support the theocratic regime. It is far more important to expose the absurd policies of successive U.S. administrations towards Iran, how they have lied about the real consequences of Washington’s Middle East policies and underestimated or ignored their long-term political effects.

The carnage of Sept. 11 was so horrendous that it was effectively impossible to state that U.S. policies and actions were partly to blame for the rise of terrorism in the first place. This point now needs to be made in a systematic way. There is a clear need to explain that U.S. military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have neither created stable democracies nor rooted out terrorism. While these military adventures may function in the interests of U.S. business, they certainly do not make life bearable for the ordinary people of those countries.

Any U.S. threat of war against Iran only serves reaction in justifying its oppressive policies against the movement for democratic change in the country. It is important that the American people are told of the true history of Iran and its people’s attempts to establish democracy and how successive U.S. administrations have foiled these attempts. The people of the United States need to know that the Iranian people and their progressive political forces are capable of bringing about fundamental democratic and progressive change.

Finally, allow me to express our heartfelt gratitude to the progressive forces in the USA, particularly our comrades in the CPUSA, who for the past 60 years have been unwavering in their solidarity and support of the struggle of the Iranian people and the oppressed people in the region fighting for their national liberation and independence.