Does Ahmedinejad Want War?

March 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm (left, TWP)

Given all of the sabre-rattling going on between the US/UK and Iran you think that the president of Iran would tread a little more carefully. I cannot see any reason why his government would be holding the UK personnel unless it was wilfully trying to provoke a war with the US and UK. Sure everyone knows that every country has the right to hold another country to account for any incursions on its sovereignty, but surely holding these people for as long as they have been held is not doing anything to win adherents to their cause. Further, not even under conditions of conventional warfare would this behaviour be allowed.

Why is Ahmedinejad seeking to start a war sooner rather than later? Surely this goes against the image painted by a number of folks on the left who claim that Iran is a persecuted and innocent nation who is standing up to world imperialism. To me it shows rather clearly that Ahmedinejad is a warmonger who props up the false rhetoric about the “clash of civilisations” and actually wants to draw the imperialist powers into conflict. In a mirror image of the fanatical Bush, he sees himself as leading this war.

Of course the imperialist powers are loving every minute of it as he plays right into their hands and their rhetoric about the “clash of civilisations”. I once got a fierce response on my blog for claiming that Ahmedinejad and Iran’s current regime has “imperialist ambitions”. Given their behaviour over the course of the last week can anyone convince me that I’m wrong?

Further, once the war with Iran starts in earnest I think we will have some serious analysis to do so as not to fall into the trap of supporting one fanatic’s administration over another. Dual defeatism anyone?


  1. johng said,

    Its just possible of course that the British were pushing their luck in disputed waters in the hope of catching them out doing something naughty, in order to pump up the Imperialist war drive. And then got caught out when the Iranians refused to behave like craven satrups in the age of British gunboat diplomacy.

    I don’t understand how you can imagine that holding military personel from an overtly hostile power until you find out what they were up to is ‘against the rules of warfare’.

    But the politics of this site are by now becoming almost surreally silly. Britain has already been defeated in the region. It should leave. Now. With or without its soldiers. And leave the people of the region free to sort out their own problems.

    British soldiers should not be patrolling disputed waters if they can’t take a little joke.

  2. johng said,

    Imperialist ambitions? Because it arrested some British soldiers? WTF are you on about?

  3. Tim said,

    I presume you meant satraps John?

  4. twp77 said,

    No john – imperialist ambitions because Ahmedinejad has made it clear he thinks he’s leading his people in an all out war against the US and UK and also making it clear that he has every desire to make Iran into a superpower.

    Do you think it’s wise for him to carry on holding British soldiers if the threat of war that you speak of is imminent?

    My point is why should I trust what the Iranian government says any more than I should trust British or US imperialism? We don’t have any clue who is telling the truth about what is happening there.

    What we do know for certain is that Iran is holding UK personnel and escalating the situation by doing so. Do you think that is a wise decision – or could it be the actions of a man and an administration who want to start a war?

  5. tim said,

    Its a handy diversion from the economy for Ahmedinejad.
    He hopes it will work for the Iranian masses as well as it works for the SOAS “researchers”

  6. said,

    I think it’s possible to see Ahmedinejad’s rhetoric on several levels

    1) as hard line a fanatic who somehow believes in the reincarnation of the 12th Iman, etc and that drives him
    2) within the context of his subordinate position to the Iranian theocracy and need to prove his worth (afterall he’s hardly cut out for subtle diplomacy, is he?)
    3) nationally, there is real discontent within Iran and he probably thinks that some conflict is the best way to stem it, and it allow the suppression of any dissent
    4) regionally, after the demise of Iraq, Iran wants to be a power player in the Middle East and it can only do that by exerting itself
    5) internationally, Ahmedinejad curries favour with other countries when he is seen to stand up to Britain and the United States, the grand imperialists

    I think Ahmedinejad is calculating that even with his provocations that the US and Britain won’t (because of the situation in Iraq) consider a realistic military conflict with Tehran, so Ahmedinejad can gain plenty political capital while rattling his sabre, for comparatively little cost

    PS: I think no. 1 is unlikely, he’s too much of politician

  7. Bruce said,

    I agree with Tim. Whenever the Iranian regime faces internal difficulties the ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric gets cranked up. How convenient that he has a few faces to parade on TV.

  8. Will said,

  9. Will said,

  10. Louise said,


    This issue of “imperialist ambitions” isn’t viable as what country is Iran trying to dominate? Doesn’t seem to have projects in extracting super profits. Maybe it would like to but they don’t.

  11. Igor Belanov said,

    Iran has clearly tried to exert its influence on a religious/cultural level in the Middle East ever since the 1979 revolution, and has more concrete ambitions in Iraq and Afghanistan. If not ‘imperialism’, Iran certainly is nationally assertive in an expansionist manner.

  12. twp77 said,

    I understand your point Louise and perhaps “imperialist ambitions” is too strong a statement on a purely economic level. I am pretty certain that they would like to dominate the region given half the chance but at this point it isn’t an economic reality for them.

    I was trying to indicate a desire to dominate politically rather than economically, but perhaps “imperialism” is the wrong term in that case.

  13. chjh said,

    Further, once the war with Iran starts in earnest I think we will have some serious analysis to do so as not to fall into the trap of supporting one fanatic’s administration over another. Dual defeatism anyone?

    The chances of the US and the UK actually invading Iran are practically zero – part of the point of the detention of the sailors and Marines is surely to reduce the chances of that even further.

    If the UK and US do attack Iran, it’ll almost certainly be in the form of an air war. What would ‘dual defeatism’ mean in that context – we’re against the B-52s bombing Tehran, but we’re equally against the Iranian anti-aircraft missiles? Or would it be OK for Iran to use anti-aircraft fire against bombs directed at civilian targets, but not against those directed at military targets?

    Faced with a war between equally imperialist powers, Lenin argued that the task of revolutionaries was to be for the defeat of your own ruling class. It seems to me to be a simpler position to take, as well as a more principled one.

  14. twp77 said,

    So chjh are you saying that you would support the victory of the Iranian regime? And if Iran were to win then what? Isn’t it possible to oppose an occupation but not support the Iranian regime?

  15. Jim Denham said,

    Don’t back down, twp: the term “imperialist” is an entirely accurate description of Iran’s regional ambitions.

  16. Louise said,

    “the term “imperialist” is an entirely accurate description of Iran’s regional ambitions.”

    Really Jim? Talking about imperialist ambitions what about the Israeli state..?

  17. twp77 said,

    I am trying to differentiate between what Iran has the capability to do economically and what it has the ambition to do politically. As I said I am not sure “imperialism” is the best term for the economic capability that Iran currently has but I do think it has a desire to dominate politically in an “imperialist manner”. That may be more accurate.

  18. Jim Denham said,

    I think the most accurate term is probably “sub-imperialism”.

  19. Jim Denham said,

    Louise: while I am by no means uncritical of Israel’s role in the region since 1967, it seems to me pretty clear that, in general, Israeli policy has been motivated by considerations of self-defence, rather than a desire to dominate the region in any sort of “imperialistic” manner. Tragically, though, the longer various Arab bourgeoisies and Islamist “radicals” refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist, the more agressive and “imperialistic” Israel’s stance becomes.

  20. chjh said,

    twp – If the US and the UK attack Iran, then, yes, I want Iran to win. The other possible outcomes is that the US and the UK win. That would be a qualitatively worse outcome.

    But the reality is that they almost certainly won’t invade, and that any war will be an air war. It won’t remove the Iranian regime – it won’t be designed to – it will kill thousands of Iranian civilians in order to make the Iranian regime do what the US and UK tell them to. How on earth can you be a ‘dual defeatist’ about that outcome?

    And, yes, Iran is a ‘sub-imperialist’ power in the region. So are India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel…the list could probably go on. Why is Iran qualitatively worse than any of them?

  21. Jim Denham said,

    Ichjh: I’m glad you agree about the catagory of ‘sub-imperialism’ (not eveyone does). Iran is worse (i’m not sure what you mean by “qualitively” worse) than all those other staes you list, because of its evident desire to dominate the region in a ‘sub-imperialist’ manner – which even the Saudis show no signs of. It’s worse than Israel in that it’s not a democracy (despite fake, Slalinist-type “elections”) and that its an out-and-out theocracy, which Israel, despite being a “Jewish state”, most definitely *isn’t*.

  22. Clive said,

    “This issue of “imperialist ambitions” isn’t viable as what country is Iran trying to dominate?”

    Kurds, for starters.

  23. said,

    we shouldn’t be oblivious to the political interactions of states in the Middle East, it has been reported for some time that countries like Saudi Arabia, etc are considering acquiring nuclear technology to balance out the power that would be exerted by a nuclear Iran

    clearly there are power dynamics between these countries and the ruling classes within each one of them, and they are extremely politically savvy

    the attraction of a minor conflict with Britain the manyfold not least the fact that the Iranian theocracy would gain kudos in the Middle East if it manages to humble either Britain or the US, and domestically it would enhance the Iranian ruling classes’ position which is shaky at the moment

    but it is a poor state of affairs for the Left when some “socialists” in Europe feel somehow duty-bound to be almost propaganda agents for the Iranian ruling classes and reactionary theocracy

  24. said,

    I see that JohnG is indulging in cheap shots at Lenin’s mausoleum, it is a shame that such an intellect is now lowered to the point of defending the Iranian theocracy

    still that is what JohnG’s type of privileged and public school upbringing will do for you, distort reality until Iranians dictators seem like political saviours?

    all very strange

  25. voltaires_priest said,

    Particularly odd given that I have no recollection of saying any of the things which he attributes to me in that thread.

  26. said,


    the misrepresentation of their political opponents’ views is a common tactic by the likes of the SWP, I think that the SWP do it because they are incapable of dealing with the real political arguments

    So the SWP put up a crude strawman and try to demolish that, even then they are not too successful

    But it is surprising that JohnG indulges in such shabby behaviour

    As I understand it, a basic tenet of academia is that you do not misrepresent other people’s views or attribute views to them that they do not hold, and JohnG as a professional academic should know this

    I am not sure why he does it, sometimes JohnG seems like an intelligent individual, quite lucid, reasoned, then suddenly in another moment a monumental childishness seems to overtake him

    such behaviour is very peculiar, but not entirely surprising as SWPers generally don’t have the intellectual calibre to deal with their political opponents arguments straight on and in an honest fashion

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