This time Iran retaliated

Yossi Schwartz ISL (RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 19.04.2024

A Short History of Iran

“Iran, a civilization spanning thousands of years, traces its origins to the Elamite civilization in southwestern Iran—southern Iraq today—during the third millennium BC. This period marked the beginning of a journey to see the emergence of two distinct Iranian states, the Medes and Persians, in the 1st millennium BC. Their impactful presence on the world stage was heralded by the accession of Cyrus II in 559 BC.

This continued with the migration of the Iranian tribes from Central Asia onto what is now known as the Iranian plateau in the 2nd millennium BC.

The Achaemenid Persian Empire, a testament to Iran’s historical might, grew to become the largest contiguous land empire known to man then. Its relatively benign administration, influenced by religious ideas that would later be associated with Zoroastrianism, left a lasting impression. Despite its failed attempts to conquer the Greek states and its subsequent defeat at the hands of Alexander the Great in the 330s BC, the empire’s legacy looms large in the Western imagination. Hellenized rule under Alexander’s successors – the Seleucids – lasted a century until the arrival of a new Iranian dynasty from the east, the Parthians.

In the 7th century, a new power emerged from the Arabian Peninsula – Islam. Defeating the Byzantines, the Muslim Arab armies eventually conquered and absorbed the Sasanian empire into the new Caliphate. Iranian ideas on the nature and practice of ‘just’ government and culture began to shape how the Caliphate developed. Many of the leading administrative and scientific minds of the classical Islamic age, including the polymath Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and the famous vizierial (ministerial) family of the Barma kids, emanated from the Iranians. This influence was evident with the emergence of the Abbasid Caliphate in 749 AD and the transfer of the capital from Damascus to the newly founded city of Baghdad (around 762 AD); in Iran, the Persian language was developed using the Arabic alphabet.

The Mongols (nomadic warriors from the steppes of inner Asia) shaped Iean in the 13th century. The Mongols altered the country’s political economy from primarily sedentary to a significant nomadic component, especially in the northern parts.

Indeed, the emphatic influence of the Iranian world was made clear not far from the old Sasanian capital. This Iranian turn was exemplified by the development of the ‘new’ Persian language, now empowered with the adoption of the Arabic alphabet to become the lingua franca of the eastern Islamic world and, in time, one of the great literary languages of the world.

The Islamic era would witness another profound development in the history of Iran with the entrance of the Turkic peoples from central Asia in the 11th century, but most consequently with the eruption of the Mongols (nomadic warriors from the steppes of inner Asia) in the 13th century. The Mongol conquest facilitated the migration of the Turkic tribes onto the plateau – forcing a knock-on migration of Iranians onto the Anatolian plateau – fundamentally altering the political economy of the country from one that was largely sedentary to one with a significant nomadic component, especially in the northern parts of the country.

There are several Shia sects, the two most prominent being the Twelvers and Seveners (or Ismailis), relating to the number of hereditary Imams recognized. In 1501, the Safavids introduced Twelver Shiism into Iran, which remains the state religion. The Twelfth Imam, Mahdi, is considered to have gone into Occultation in the 9th century, remaining ‘Hidden’ from his followers pending his reappearance at an unspecified time when he will inaugurate an era of justice. During his Occultation, senior religious scholars, known today as ‘Ayatollahs,’ made various claims to his authority.

By the end of the 18th century, it faced a new challenge in the Russian and British empires. These were not just political threats but ideological ones, with self-confident European powers who were not in awe of Iranian civilization—on the contrary, they regarded the political economy of the Iranian state as archaic and dependent on the authority and despotic power of its kings.

At the turn of the 20th century, in 1906, the first of Iran’s revolutions—the Constitutional Revolution—established a parliamentary system on the British model, complete with a constitution and separation of powers. It was a seminal moment that altered the country’s political landscape. But its ambitions were high, and its promise remained unfulfilled as a new dynasty—the Pahlavis (1925–1979)—sought to impose changes from above.

In 1977, a revolutionary wave erupted in Iran. The Iranian Revolution of 1977-79, but the result of the Iranian struggle was a new form of authoritarianism. The autocratic monarchy of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi faced a broad coalition of opposition forces, including the Stalinist party, the Tudeh, and constitutional liberals. Still, the opposition ultimately became dominated by the mullahs of the country’s Shia hierarchy. A series of demonstrations and strikes over the previous two years peaked in the fall of 1978, as millions of opponents of the Shah’s regime took to the streets of Iran’s cities, and a general strike paralyzed the country. The Shah fled into exile in January 1979, and exiled cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to lead the change toward a theocratic regime.”

The Tudeh was the party of the working class in Iran, and it betrayed a revolution that could end as a socialist revolution. It had connections with the industrial working class. Many of the worker-militants in the oil sector were members or sympathizers of the Tudeh Party.

The Stalinists adopted the old Mensheviks’ theory of a two-stage revolution: one a liberal democracy and, in the future, a socialist revolution. This led them to support the Mullis as the representatives of the democratic stage; in the same way, the Stalinists in Egypt supported El -The El-Sisi coup as a great leap toward democracy in the Arab Spring. The continuation of the same program led them to support the formation of the Zionist state and help the Zionists get weapons from Stalinist Czechoslovakia.

The imperialist exploitation of Iram

“The first oil concession in Iran (known as Persia prior to 1935) was signed between Mozaffar al-Din Shah) and  the British multi-millionaire William Knox D’Arcy in 1901 (. Oil was struck on May 26, 1908, in Masjed-e Suleiman, a tiny village in southwest Iran. This concession comprised the entire country, except for five northern provinces (Āzerbāijān, Gilān, Māzandarān, Astarābād, and Khorāsān), and was under D’Arcy’s complete control for exploration, production, gathering and storage, and transportation of oil exclusively for a period of 60 years. The term included £20,000 advance cash; and upon exploration, £20,000 in shares of the company to be formed, and 16 % of annual net profits as royalties. On April 19, 1909, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) was formed, and eventually, in 1913, it produced oil in commercial quantities, including the construction of pipelines, storage facilities, and what is known as the Ābādān refinery. Meanwhile, the British Navy decided to switch from coal to oil and had an eye on Persian oil.

In 1914, the British government obtained about 53 % of APOC’s stocks and installed two representatives on the company’s board of directors. This was a preamble to secretly supplying the British Admiralty with heavily discounted oil, which in turn led to a substantial reduction in the company’s net profits, at the expense of the Persian government. During the First World War (as acknowledged by Lord Curzon), Britain “floated to victory on a sea of [Persian] oil” APOC evaded the payment of royalties to the Persian government in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, “maximizing” stockholders’ returns (the British government being the majority stockholder), paying an “excess profit tax” to the same government, and secretly granting deep discounts to the British Navy (an incredible triple-dipping in the profits); plus, engaging in illicit accounting practices through vertical integration, special marketing arrangements, and simply fictitious bookkeeping to hide profits and to reduce the magnitude of the oil royalties. APOC consistently refused to allow the Persian government to participate in management in accordance with the equity stipulated in the concession.

 Armitage-Smith “interpretive” agreement, a de facto dialogue between the company and Britain’s emissary, which was never ratified by the Persian Majles. In 1920, this original agreement “justified” ex post the non-payment of royalties based upon the calculation of the net profits of APOC’s consolidated (worldwide) operations. In Winston Churchill’s own words, “Fortune [i.e. Persian oil] brought us [i.e. Britain] a prize from fairyland far beyond our brightest hopes”. For the 1914-24 decade, the non-consolidated net profits of the company were £28.5 million, of which £9.5 million (33 %) were distributed as dividends and £3.9 million (13.7 %) were paid to the Persian government.

The royalties, which were at the mercy of deliberate APOC bookkeeping, due to the company’s arbitrary price fluctuation and its effect on the net profits, did not remain steady. On September 17, 1928, APOC (a crude-long company) joined with two remaining major oil companies, namely the Standard Oil of New Jersey (Exxon) and Royal Dutch Shell, to form a worldwide cartel at Achnacarry Castle (Scotland). This was the beginning of an International Petroleum Cartel (IPC) that controlled the exploration, development, refining, transportation, marketing, and retailing of oil worldwide. By the end of the 1920s. Oil royalties declined, from £1.288 million in 1930 to £307,000 in 1931–a drop of more than 75 %. By contrast, APOC’s corresponding net profit dropped less than 37 % over the same period. To make matters worse, on September 21, 1931, Britain went off the gold standard, thus causing the depreciation of Persia’s sterling balances in London.

On November 27, 1932, the Government of Persia informed the company of the cancellation of the concession. This act brought British warships to the Persian Gulf, and soon, the British government also took the dispute to the Council of the League of Nations and submitted the case to the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague. This, of course, resembled the very same spectacle that would be displayed two decades later, during the 1951-53 nationalization of oil under the premiership of M. Mossadegh.

During the 1931-50 period, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC, following the change of Persia to Iran in 1935) continued to increase its dividends, from 5 % in the depth of the Great Depression to 20 % in 1936-38. Dividends rose to 30 % in 1946-50 –a maximum rate allowed by Britain’s new policy at the time. Despite the nationalization of Iranian oil in March 1951 and the significant deterioration of its revenue, AIOC kept on rewarding its stockholders (the British government being the majority holder) to the tune of 30 % in 1951, 35 % in 1952, over 42 % in 1953, and 15 % plus a 400 % scrip bonus in 1954. Between 1935 and 1950, Iran’s official (under) estimate of crude oil reserves by AIOC increased from 2.2 billion barrels to 7 billion barrels (an increase of more than 300 %), with a negligible fraction of retained earnings as investments.

The nationalization of oil in Iran was a significant event that reflected the objectives of Iran’s Constitutional Revolution (1906-11), namely, the opposition to autocracy and foreign domination. Hence, democracy and independence were the twin motivating forces behind Dr. Mossadegh’s nationalization of oil in Iran.’ [i]

However, the British and American imperialists organized a coup to remove Dr. Mossadegh’s government and keep their profits. After the ayatollahs took over, the US used Sadam Hussien to fight against Iran and provided him with weapons for mass destruction that lasted 8 years, and over one million people were killed in it.

Israel and Iran

Israel had close relations with the Shah. It provided Iran with weapons and training for the repression of the people of Iran. Israel has targeted the Iranian regime with computer viruses like the flame virus and assassinations for years. The demagogy and the hypocrisy of the Zionist monsters and the Western imperialists relate to the Iranian attack on Israel as if it came for no reason except the wish of the Iranian regime to kill the Jews of Israel. It is as if Israel has the right to bomb the Iranian embassy in Syria and to use viruses to murder scientists and military leaders. Iran has to accept it without retaliation. Well, this time, Iran retaliated. An imperialist coalition made up of the US, France, Britain, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia joined them to defend Israel.

Israel, which has nuclear weapons, claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies, and claims that it develops atomic energy for civilian purposes. However, without a shade of proof, Israel attacks Iran time and again.  

As Al Jazeera writes:

Assassinations of Iranian scientists

January 2010: A physics professor at Tehran University, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, was killed through a remote-controlled bomb planted in his motorcycle. Iranian state media claimed that the US and Israel were behind the attack. The Iranian government described Ali-Mohammadi as a nuclear scientist.

November 2010: A professor at the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, Majid Shahriari, was killed in a car explosion on his way to work. His wife was also wounded. The president of Iran at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed the United States and Israel for the attacks.

January 2012: Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemical engineering graduate, was killed by a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist in Tehran. Iran blamed Israel and the US for the attack. It said Ahmadi Roshan was a nuclear scientist who supervised a department at Iran’s primary uranium enrichment facility in the city of Natanz.

November 2020: Prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in a roadside attack outside Tehran. Western and Israeli intelligence had long suspected that Fakhrizadeh was the father of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. He was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2007 and the US in 2008.

May 2022: Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was shot five times outside of his home in Tehran. Majid Mirahmadi, a member of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, alleged the assassination was “definitely the work of Israel”.

Israel’s cyberattacks on Iran

June 2010: The Stuxnet virus was found in computers at the nuclear plant in Iran’s Bushehr city and spread to other facilities. By September 2010, as many as 30,000 computers across at least 14 facilities were impacted. According to an estimate by the Institute for Science and International Security, at least 1,000 out of 9,000 centrifuges in Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility were destroyed. Upon investigation, Iran blamed Israel and the US for the virus attack.

April 2011: The Iranian cyber defense agency discovered a virus called Stars, which said the malware was designed to infiltrate and damage Iran’s nuclear facilities. The virus mimicked official government files and inflicted “minor damage” on computer systems, according to Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization. Iran blamed Israel and the US.

November 2011: Iran discovered a new virus called Duqu, based on Stuxnet. Experts said Duqu was intended to gather data for future cyberattacks. The Iranian government announced it was checking computers at main nuclear sites. Experts widely believed that the Duqu spyware was linked to Israel.

April 2012: Iran blamed the US and Israel for malware called Wiper, which erased the hard drives of computers owned by the Ministry of Petroleum and the National Iranian Oil Company.

May 2012: Iran announced that a virus called Flame had tried to steal government data from government computers. The Washington Post reported that Israel and the US had used it to collect intelligence. Then-Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon did not confirm the nation’s involvement but acknowledged that Israel would use all means to “harm the Iranian nuclear system”.

October 2018: The Iranian government said that it had blocked an invasion by a new generation of Stuxnet, blaming Israel for the attack.

October 2021: A cyberattack hit the system that allows Iranians to use government-issued cards to purchase fuel at a subsidized rate, affecting all 4,300 petrol stations in Iran. Consumers had to either pay the regular price, more than double the subsidized one, or wait for stations to reconnect to the central distribution system. Iran blamed Israel and the US.

May 2020: A cyberattack impacted computers that control maritime traffic at Shahid Rajaee port on Iran’s southern coast in the Gulf, holding up ships waiting to dock. The Washington Post quoted US officials as saying that Israel was behind the attack, though Israel did not claim responsibility.

Israel’s drone strikes and raids on Iran

January 2018: Mossad agents raided a secure Tehran facility, stealing classified nuclear archives. In April 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel discovered 100,000 “secret files that prove” Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program.

February 2022: Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett admitted in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal in December 2023 that Israel carried out an attack on an unmanned aerial vehicle and assassinated a senior IRGC commander in February of the previous year.

May 2022: Explosives-laden quadcopter suicide drones hit the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, killing an engineer and damaging a building where the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces had developed drones. IRGC Commander Hossein Salami pledged retaliation against unspecified “enemies”.

January 2023: Several suicide drones struck a military facility in central Isfahan, but they were thwarted and caused no damage. While Iran did not immediately place blame for the attacks, Iran’s UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, wrote a letter to the UN chief saying that “primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible”.

February 2024: A natural gas pipeline in Iran was attacked. Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji alleged that the “explosion of the gas pipeline was an Israeli plot” [ii]

For Netanyahu, this is another chance to drag the US to a war against Iran even when the US does not want such a regional war.

If such a war breaks out, the interest of the international working class is the revolutionary defense of Iran against Israel without giving political support to the reactionary Iranian regime. Why? Because Israel is a settler colonialist state and an imperialist state, while Iran is a semi-colony and a regional power.

Down with the Zionist apartheid from the river to the sea!

Defend Iran against Israel without giving the Iranian regime political support!

For Palestine red and free from the river to the sea!


[i] Iran’s Oil, the Theory of Rent, and the Long Shadow of History, Cyrus Bina


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