On Tuesday 6 March, the European Union announced a move to restart talks with Iran over its nuclear programme.
“The time and venue of these talks will now be agreed”, said EU foreign-affairs chief Catherine Ashton.
The same day the Iran government said it would allow UN investigators to visit the Parchin military complex, to which it had previously refused access.
The day before, 5 March, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, declared that his agency “continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” and “is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities”.
On 4 March, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu aggressively asserted that Israel would “do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge — because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself...”
US president Barack Obama warned against “loose talk of war”, and the next day Netanyahu told Obama that Israel had made no decision yet to bomb Iran in an attempt pre-emptively to block Iranian development of nuclear weapons.
In Iran, results were announced from the parliamentary election on 2 March, boycotted as a farce even by the moderate opposition. Supporters of “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei won out against supporters of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has come into increasing but obscure conflict with Khamenei.
Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak has said that only a small timeslot remains until so much of Iran’s nuclear program is buried deep underground that it is invulnerable to bombing. That assessment also, of course, indicates that bombing would at best delay Iran if it wants to develop nuclear weapons, and possibly even speed up nuclear-weapon development by giving a political boost to its bellicose advocates. Khamenei has responded to Israeli threats bullishly, declaring that Iranian retaliation, aided by Iranian-allied groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, would hurt Israel more than the bombing hurt Iran.
US officials say that there is no clear evidence of Iran going for nuclear weapons and that sanctions and diplomacy can work.
Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran’s clerical-fascist regime would be a real threat. The complex dance of threat, counter-threat, and diplomacy is only strengthening the Iranian right at present, and carries a large risk of tipping into war. That war is as likely to bring a nuclear-armed Iran closer as to block it, and certain to bring death and devastation to working people across a large stretch of the Middle East.
No to war, no to the Islamic Republic! Our solidarity should be with the working-class, democratic, and secular opposition in Iran, and with the internationalist opposition within Israel.