US sells a million gallons of seized Iranian oil amid rising tensions

Japhy Barrera, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

The United States has sold off over a million gallons of Iranian oil that had been seized last year. The shipment was being sent to Venezuela but was intercepted before arrival. Last week, the final gallons were sold off by Washington, with profits netting over $40 million. The cargo was seized under the pretext of violations of U.S. sanctions on Tehran, which greatly limit both Iranian imports and exports.

Sanctions on Iran have been in place on and off for over 40 years. An international agreement was reached in 2015 to end longstanding UN, EU, and U.S. sanctions, with Tehran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons in return. The treaty was seen by some on the left as a lone saving grace in an Obama administration that reigned terror all over the Middle East.

In 2018, Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, utilizing his typical ‘bad deal’ rhetoric, and went on to impose sanctions harsher than ever. U.S. sanctions have a certain notoriety due to their threat to third parties; if they go against the grain, they too shall come under the boot of Washington. Subsequently, to be under U.S. sanctions is to be excluded from global trade that can make or break an economy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these sanctions have not seen any easing, causing medical shortages and economic collapse in Iran. The nation has been the worst hit by the virus in all of the Middle East, with many pointing to the lack of necessary resources brought on by sanctions as the primary determinant.

The Trump regime justified a series of aggressions late in his term with evidence that Tehran had violated the nuclear deal through enriching uranium over the specified limits. The expectation that Iran would uphold their side of the treaty after it had already been violated severely and unapologetically is preposterous, and can only be explained by omnipresent American exceptionalism.

With all of this considered, one may be surprised at the fact that there is actually no evidence that Iran has ever even had a nuclear weapons program, let alone a nuclear weapon. Their uranium enrichment has been used for nonviolent energy purposes alone up to this point.  

Nevertheless, U.S. rhetoric that Iran is ‘months away’ from having a nuclear bomb has been ongoing for almost 20 years, through what is now 4 administrations. This can only lead one to think that perhaps the Pentagon is trying to propagate a similar narrative to that of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq, one that inevitably proved to be false.

Iran, like Iraq previously, has nationalised much of their industry in an attempt to render it into the public good. The nation is amongst the most resource-rich in the world, and the revenue from those industries is the backbone of their economy. For imperialist countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, which strive to shore up the profits of the big monopolies, not having access to other nation’s resources and markets can trigger them into military aggression.

There are plenty of nations that produce nuclear weapons, but only when they simultaneously deny western capital access to their natural resources does that become an issue. Often the accused nation does not have nuclear weapons at all, rather just the desired resources, while the former is fabricated to lay claim to the latter. This completely dismantles the narrative of the U.S. being the peacekeepers and do-gooders of the world, an anecdote used to justify seemingly every overseas military intervention. 

The Iranian oil falling into U.S. hands had more than one dimension. Venezuela, the intended recipients of the cargo, are another subject of intense U.S. sanctions and imperialist aggression. Uncoincidentally, the South American republic has the largest oil reserves on the planet, a sector which under socialist leadership has been completely nationalised. 

Although Iran and Venezuela differ ideologically, they have found solidarity in their resistance to imperialism. The sanctions imposed on both countries mean that most of the world’s trade opportunities are not available, so they have cooperated during mutual periods of economic struggle. The intercepted cargo was seen as a win-win by many in the U.S. state department for this reason; further economic devastation to both adversaries.

President Biden campaigned on a return to the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that he was a part of constructing in 2015. Many on the left reluctantly voted for him precisely for this reason, a dulling down of overseas aggression that was abundant under Trump. However, such is yet to be seen, and Biden has now stated that he will not be lifting sanctions on Iran until they meet the regulations specified in the deal. In response, Iranian officials have stated that since the U.S. violated the agreement first, they must return to their commitments before the deal is restored. 

These developments look to be setting into place a sort of gridlock, one that will halt any necessary action for peaceful relations. Further, President Biden is showing that he is more than willing to go back on campaign promises, giving priority to serving the imperialist state apparatus.

Although this conflict is yet to fully play out, the current administration continuing the wrongdoings of those preceding it exposes something crucial. The changing of the President does not change the intentions of the imperial state, only its figurehead.

The Iranian government is far from ideal, it is not socialist, and many of its laws are draconian, theocratic and reactionary. However, the people of Iran deserve the right to self-determination, as all peoples do. U.S. intervention will only plunge the country into chaos as it has done to so many before, and the Biden camp are just as willing to do that as anyone.

To them, and all those who wish to continue these atrocious and merciless practices, we have only one message: hands off Iran.

Japhy Barrera

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