Sunday, September 30, 2012

Condemn Iran or Else: Targeting the Anti-Imperialist Left

September 26, 2012

How RAHA / Havaar Feign Left and Charge Right

Condem Iran or Else: Targeting the Anti-Imperialist Left


It’s late September 2012, and tensions between Iran and the Western powers have seldom been more intense. The Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are desperately trying to outdo each other in militaristic rhetoric against the Islamic Republic. The latest in a long series of U.S., European and U.N. sanctions are threatening Iran’s ability to sell oil – by far its major revenue-generating export – in the world market. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is leading a threatening 30-nation naval exercise in the Persian Gulf. Canada, without any apparent provocation, has expelled all Iranian diplomats and closed its embassy in Tehran. Responding to a multi-million dollar public relations campaign, the U.S. State Department is removing the “terrorist” designation from the anti-Iranian political/military organization Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, or MKO. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to attack Iran, with or without Washington’s permission.

And yet, this is the exact moment when organizations claiming to oppose war and sanctions against Iran are demanding that the antiwar movement expel from its ranks very forces working hardest to defend Iran from attack.

The Raha/Havaar Attack on AIFC

On Sept. 18, the New York-based Raha Iranian Feminist Collective and its companion group Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression, issued an “Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement” demanding that the movement exclude a solidarity organization called the American Iranian Friendship Committee from all protests, campaigns and coalitions. (1) While Raha/Havaar only accuses AIFC of specific transgressions, the letter – and previous public statements – make it clear that the real target is the entire anti-imperialist left.

As someone who has supported the Iranian Revolution since the 1970s, who has focused on Iran solidarity work for the past six years and who identifies with the anti-imperialist left, I would like to respond.

The Raha/Havaar letter charges AIFC, as an organization, with engaging in “a campaign of hostility and intimidation … against Iranian activists in the U.S. who oppose war, sanctions and state repression in Iran.”

Painting a picture of a rising tide of violence, the letter accuses AIFC of taking “the lead in a series of physical and verbal attacks on Iranian activists and their allies” and calls on the antiwar movement to “stop condoning, excusing or dismissing these attacks by continuing to include AIFC in your coalitions, demonstrations, forums and other organizing events.”

The letter concludes by declaring that “AIFC has consistently demonstrated an inability to follow basic rules of civility and engagement and should have no place in our movement.”

In “our” movement. Really. Very territorial words, for such new organizations.

This is the first time in my 45 years of antiwar activism that I’ve ever heard of any organization demanding another group be banished from the entire antiwar movement. It’s a bit stunning – and more than a bit ironic, coming as it does from an organization founded to oppose what it says is state repression of dissent in Iran.

The letter’s charges are actually only directed against one person, AIFC’s founder, Iranian-born Ardeshir Ommani. It cites four instances of his allegedly intimidating political opponents, including twice engaging in actual physical attacks.

I’ve know Ardeshir for many years. He and his wife, Ellie Ommani, were high school teachers in Brooklyn for decades and have been well known in the peace and justice movement for 50 years. I also know that Ardheshir can at times be overbearing.

Ardeshir also is 73 years old. And suffers from asthma, back pain and hearing problems which make him tend to raise his voice louder than he otherwise might.

I don’t want to belittle accusations of violent behavior, but honestly, if I were a member of an organization of young women and men (Raha is open to all genders), I think I’d hesitate to appeal to the entire antiwar movement to protect me from one elderly man who yells. It’s just possible that there’s more to this attack than grievances against a single individual.

It’s also interesting that, although all the incidents took place more than six months ago, Raha/Havaar waited to raise them until one week before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak before the U.N. General Assembly.

But the first point is that Raha and Havaar are lying in their accusations. I know, because I was at two of the four incidents the letter describes and have spoken to people who witnessed one of the others.

The charges

Here are the charges and what actually happened:

* At the March 2012 conference of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), there was a heated floor debate over a Raha/Havaar resolution calling on the antiwar movement to oppose “repression” in Iran. UNAC, the largest and most active antiwar coalition in the U.S., has taken the position that its proper role is to oppose war and sanctions and not to get involved in Iran’s internal politics or problems. Ardeshir was standing in line, waiting to speak. The Raha/Havaar letter alleges that he harassed and “poked” a young women who was prepared to speak in support of the resolution. At the time of this alleged attack, I was standing one person behind Ardeshir and had an unobstructed view of him and the woman. They were both arguing and Ardeshir was getting loud. I asked him to lower his voice, which he did. That was it. There was no poking. (The Raha/Haavar resolution was overwhelmingly defeated.)

* The letter states that, at a Raha panel discussion at the same conference, Ardeshir “had to be asked repeatedly by conference security to stop calling members of Raha ‘C.I.A. agents’ and ‘State Department propagandists’ and even to allow us to speak at all. Unable to engage in any respectful dialogue with the ideas Raha members and their allies were advocating, he simply stormed out of the panel.” I was present at that workshop. After the panelists spoke, Ardeshir raised his hand, was called on and started to disagree with the speakers. Raha supporters immediately called on him to be quiet. He got loud and the supporters got louder. Ardeshir then accused the Raha supporters of using a double standard for free speech and left the room. That was it.

* At a June 2010 U.S. Social Forum workshop hosted by Raha and a similar group called Where Is My Vote, the letter alleges that Ardeshir was “disruptive, insulting young women organizers and questioning their legitimacy in speaking at the conference at all.” I wasn’t there, but can believe he may have been insulting and questioned the group’s right to speak at that conference, just as Raha and Havaar are insulting AIFC and demanding that that group be banned from the antiwar movement. Rude? Sure. Disruptive? No.

* The final charge: That at a February 2012 anti-war rally in New York City, “Ommani attempted to physically knock an Iranian woman off of the speakers’ platform.” What actually happened? The rally and a march were part of a national day of actions held under the slogan “No War, No Sanctions, No Assassinations, No Interference!” With signs and banners, Havaar and Raha were promoting their own slogans denouncing the Iranian government. At the end of the rally, according to Kazem Azim of the group Solidarity Iran, who was standing by the speakers’ mic at the time, “Eight or nine people approached the chair the speakers were using to stand on. One of them grabbed the mic, got up on the chair and started denouncing the Iranian government.” A video posted on YouTube shows the speaker almost losing her balance, then quickly looking behind her at a white-hatted Ardeshir. Check out the video yourself. (2) It’s hard to be sure, but it looks like someone may have jostled the chair. However, the speaker clearly has not been “knocked,” quickly regains her footing and is allowed to finish her remarks, even though she was not a scheduled speaker and had in fact seized the mic. Conclusion: you shouldn’t jostle a chair if someone is standing on it, and it’s also not polite to seize mics at other peoples rallies.

Lying, as a calculated tactic

Now I’d like to relate my own incident, also from the UNAC conference. After Raha’s panel presentations, I made a comment from the floor in which I said that, although I disagreed with the speakers’ analysis of Iran’s internal situation, and even though it’s true that wealthy Americans like George Soros are trying to influence Iran’s Green Movement, I did not believe that Iran’s dissident movement was a creation of the U.S. State Department or the CIA. A young Iranian man sitting not four feet from me immediately shouted to the audience that I had just accused the Green Movement of being a creation of the U.S. State Department and the CIA. He could not have misunderstood me, and I immediately and pointedly corrected him. He was deliberately lying about what I had just said. (Side point: I’m a member of UNAC’s Coordinating Committee. Even though Raha was not a member of UNAC, I had argued, successfully, that they should be allowed to sponsor a workshop at the conference. I also organized a workshop on Iran, and argued that we should debate our differences in public. I attended Raha’s workshop. They did not attend mine.)

My conclusion from all these incidents is that Raha and Havaar have consciously decided to lie, as a deliberate political tactic, accusing their political opponents of threats and physical violence where there are none, or taking a minor incident and falsely exaggerating it to make it seem like a vicious attack. In the case of AIFC, they have seized on some uncivil behavior by one single person and have deliberately lied about the details in order to cast the entire AIFC as a physically thuggish group beyond the pale of the antiwar movement – and to project AIFC as leading “a series of physical and verbal attacks on Iranian activists and their allies” by like-minded organizations.

The real target: the anti-imperialist left

But, as stated above, AIFC is not the real target of these attacks, as the Raha/Havaar letter explains:

“They [AIFC] are not alone but work with the Workers World Party and the International Action Center to give left cover to the Iranian government and to infuse the anti-war movement with pro-Islamic Republic politics.”

OK, now we’re getting down to the real issues.

There are those in the anti-war movement who oppose U.S. wars, but not necessarily the objectives of those wars. The most obvious example were those organizations that, in the build-up to the first Persian Gulf war in 1991, promoted the slogan “Let the sanctions work.” They did work. They severely weakened Iraq’s ability to defend itself from aggression and resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis, a third of them children.

Later, some of these same groups supported the U.S./NATO “humanitarian intervention” in the former Yugoslavia, in which more bombs were dropped on that small country than by the Allies on all of Europe in World War II. More recently, there was the frantic demand that “somebody” do “something” about the mounting violence in Libya. Somebody did do something: the U.S. bombed the Libyan government out of existence. In all these instances, it was the so-called “moderates” who gave a left cover to Washington.

The anti-imperialist wing of the anti-war movement, represented by organizations like the IAC, WWP, ANSWER, UNAC, AIFC, the Defenders and many others, oppose any U.S. wars, sanctions, blockades, threats, sabotage or covert intervention in the internal affairs of formerly colonized or oppressed countries. The character of the targeted country’s government isn’t what’s decisive – the deciding factor is opposing imperialism, while respecting the right of oppressed peoples to choose their own roads to liberation. That’s what it means to respect the right of oppressed peoples to self-determination.

Who are Raha and Havaar?

The Raha Iranian Feminist Collective, which includes both men and women, was founded in New York City just after the 2009 Iranian presidential election. According to its Mission Statement, “We seek to support the aspirations of the democratic movements in Iran while also opposing U.S. economic and military intervention. (3)

Havaar, a more recent formation, describes itself as a “grassroots group” that stands “in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression.” (4)

In fact, supporting opponents of the Iranian government is Raha/Havaar’s main activity. While they pay lip service to opposing war and sanctions, their focus is almost exclusively on trying to convince the U.S. antiwar movement to support Iran’s Green Movement. That was the focus of their workshops at the 2012 national conferences of UNAC in Stamford, Conn.; the Left Forum in New York City; and the People’s Summit during the NATO conference in Chicago, as well as their intervention in various antiwar marches and rallies.

For a description of Havaar’s real agenda, check out a 2012 talk by one of their representatives posted on the cable and Internet program “Struggle” ( In the video, a young woman identified only as a “speaker at a Havaar event, unnamed for security reasons” is explicit about the group’s purpose:

“… many of the groups that tend to dominate the kind of consistently anti-imperialistic wing of the antiwar movement, the people who show up, no matter what, are either silent about the repressive actions by states targeted by the U.S. or they openly support those states. … In fact, Havaar actually formed because anti-war rallies were too often turned into spaces of support for the Islamic Republic … so we didn’t want to participate in that kind of betrayal, so we decided to try and create a space for an ethical anti-war movement. The first time we tried to do this, to bring science to an anti-war rally in New York, last February, we were meant with physical and verbal attempts to silence our message.”

The speaker’s conclusion? “Do not have pro-Iranian government activists in your antiwar coalitions.”

The New York rally the speaker refers to is the one at which the Raha/Havaar letter accuses Ardeshir Ommani of a physical attack. Here’s a different version of Havaar’s role at that protest, by Sara Founders of the International Action Center, a leading member of the coalition sponsoring the protest:

“Raha and Havaar flooded the Iran demonstration against war and sanctions with more than 100 of their Green signs against repression in Iran. They tried to dominate with their chants attacking Iran. They were so opposed to any message that was strictly antiwar and no U.S. intervention that they put their signs into every media camera and blocked interviews. They waved an ugly caricature of a ‘mullah’ behind me as I spoke.

“On the march, they tried to put their banner and signs in front of the lead banner. I explained, as one of the coordinators of the coalition, that the lead banner with the slogans “No War, No Sanctions, No Assassinations, No Intervention” had been collectively decided by the coalition as the front banner. So please respect this democratic process. They waved their signs right in my face and the young woman I was speaking to turned to the others and claimed I was threatening her and abusing her. I responded that I was three times her age, had not even raised my voice and she should show some respect both to me and to the coalition.”

So here’s an organization that tries to take over a protest organized by a coalition they are not part of, tries to position their banner, with opposing slogans, at the head of the march, seizes the speakers’ mic to deliver an opposing message – and then complains that it is being excluded from the protest, even though it clearly is not.

Meanwhile, it calls on the antiwar movement to expel from its ranks organizations that don’t agree with their line on criticizing governments targeted by U.S. imperialism.

This is “democracy,” Raha/Havaar-style.

Feigning Left, Charging Right

As this piece is being written, Havaar is calling for a protest on Sept. 25 to demand “No to war against Iran! No to sanctions against Iran! No to state repression by the Iranian government!” Its online announcement says this will be a “Demonstration Against Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, Obama & Their Threats to Iranian People.” (5)

So will the protest be at the United Nations, where all three leaders will be speaking?

No. It will be outside the hotel where President Ahmadinejad is expected to stay while in New York. Really.

Following this line of equating Iran, Israel and the U.S., the Raha/Havaar letter attacking AIFC concludes by stating, “In our view, the Iranian state, the Israeli state, and the U.S. state each are guilty of repressing popular democratic movements. Standing in solidarity with others engaged in similar struggles, we will organize against the vicious and autocratic measures of these governments until we are free – from the U.S. to Iran to Palestine and beyond.”

In this view, the Iranian, Israeli and U.S. governments are all equally reprehensible – in effect equating the treatment of political dissidents in Iran with the sufferings of the entire Palestinian people and the reactionary, racist, repressive role of the U.S. ruling 1 percent both at home and abroad.

Raha/Havaar and the CPD: A new manifestation of an old pro-imperialist line

One reason Raha and Havaar are angry at AIFC is that, earlier this year, that group issued a report documenting that some Raha/Havaar members have received grants from organizations that promote a pro-Israeli agenda. In their letter, the two groups accuse AIFC of exposing their families in Iran to state repression, or making it dangerous for them to travel there themselves. This seems a little disingenuous, since all of the information is readily available on the Internet. Besides, if you claim to support the Palestinian people and yet take money from pro-Israeli groups, sooner or later somebody is going to point that out.

More revealing are the relationships Raha/Havaar promote in public.

At the 2012 UNAC conference, Raha shared its workshop panel with a representative from the pro-free market Campaign for Peace and Democracy. The CPD, which pays a mentoring role for the two groups, was founded in 1982 as the Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, with the goal of promoting anti-socialist movements in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. In the case of Cuba, the CPD went to bat for about 75 Cuban “dissidents” imprisoned in 2003, some of whom had openly accepted money from the U.S. for counterrevolutionary activities. (6)

The CPD takes the same approach toward Iran, stating that “We too would like to see a regime change in Tehran, but one brought about by the Iranian people themselves, not by Washington.” (7)

But, like Cuba, Iran isn’t targeted by the U.S. because of any issue of democracy or human rights. It’s because, like Cuba, Iran refuses to bow down to the Empire, a dangerous position to take anywhere, but especially in the oil-rich Middle East.

What’s interesting is how the CPD’s attacks on foreign governments coincide with virtually indistinguishable attacks by the U.S government. The group’s demonization of Saddam Hussein mimicked the U.S. government’s and mainstream media’s barrage of “getting rid of the evil dictator” as a way to sway public opinion to support the bombing of Iraq.

The CPD states that “we encourage democracy and social justice by promoting solidarity with activists and progressive movements throughout the world,” (8) but their history shows that they support some “democracy” movements but not others. At the same time the U.S. was covertly pursuing the downfall of socialist governments in Eastern Europe, the CPD focused on supporting the so-called “color revolutions” as vigorously as Ronald Reagan and the neocons.

Now it’s Iran that’s the focus of CPD’s selective indignation, just as Iran is now the focus of the U.S. State Department. While the CPD expressed outrage at the 2009 Iranian elections, it was silent about the U.S.-backed coup carried out at the same time in Honduras, ushering in a massive and murderous repression against the Honduran people. Again, the CPD was working in tandem with U.S. foreign policy. Instead of exposing the distortions and deceptions that comprise Washington’s campaigns for war, the CPD works to legitimize them from within the antiwar movement.

Aligning with and promoting Raha/Havaar isn’t the first time the CPD has tried to promote its politics in the antiwar arena. In 2010, it introduced a resolution at the founding conference of UNAC, held in Albany, New York. The CPD resolution, which condemned the Ahmadinejad government along with war and sanctions, was defeated by a 2-1 margin, after the conference attendees accepted the argument that it wasn’t the role of the U.S. movement to take sides on internal matters in Iran.
Instead, the conference unanimously passed a resolution against war and sanctions initiated by the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality and co-sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the International Action Center. That resolution purposely did not address internal issues in Iran.

The CPD’s position, soundly defeated in 2010, now reappears as the political agenda of Raha and Havaar.

What is the Reality in Iran Today?

Raha and Havaar describe the Iranian government as thoroughly reactionary, brutal and illegitimate. In their view, no one except the clerics have gained anything from the Iranian Revolution. To them, Iran is just one great, big, miserable concentration camp in which 75 million Iranians spend every day yearning for the collapse of their government.

This is also a lie. If it weren’t, the Iranian people, who waged three revolutions against their governments in the 20th century, would have already overthrown this one.

But let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that groups like Raha and Havaar are right – that Iran’s government is thoroughly backward, repressive, corrupt, whatever. I don’t agree, but let’s say for a minute that it is. Here are a few hard facts that don’t fit into that bleak picture.

What Raha/Havaar leave out: The Revolution materially benefited workers and the poor

Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, poverty has been reduced to one-eighth of what it was under the Shah. (9)

Under the Shah, about a third of university students were women. By 2010, the figure was 65 percent. (10)

One of the Revolution’s first priorities was to extend electricity to the countryside, where the most of the population lived. In 1977, only 16.2 percent of rural households had access to electricity. By 2004, the figure was 98.3 percent. (11) This meant a real revolution in the lives of the rural poor, especially women. Can you imagine what it must have meant for a rural family to be able to get a refrigerator? Not to have to buy fresh food every day, to be able to cook a meal and store the leftovers? To have electric lights, a radio, a television set and other modern appliances? Aren’t these important achievements? Especially for women? Or don’t the lives of poor and working-class women matter?

Another priority of the new government was the extension of health care to the countryside and inner cities. In fact, universal access to health care is guaranteed by the Iranian Constitution. Iran today is dotted with local clinics where trained medical personnel treat minor injuries and illnesses and can refer more serious cases to regional hospitals. These “health houses” are dramatically extending the lives of the working poor. (12) That’s not an important advance?

The government offers free schooling up through the university level. And even though there are not enough places in the universities to accommodate everyone, the majority of students are now women.

Women now work in virtually every profession in Iran. They are truck drivers, athletes, factory workers, retail clerks, scientists, movie directors and business owners. Yes, the law says women have to cover their hair, arms and legs. But, unlike in Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, they can leave the house without a male escort, drive, vote and run for office.

And Iran, routinely accused of virulent anti-Semitism, has the largest Jewish population in the region outside of Israel. Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, several kosher meat shops, a Jewish hospital and a government-funded Jewish community center. Like Christians and Zoroastrians, Iranian Jews are guaranteed representation in the Majlis, Iran’s parliament.

Isn’t any of this worth mentioning?

Sure it is – unless your goal is to present a completely distorted view of Iran. In other words, to lie.

The Class Character of Iran’s Green Movement

Organizations like Raha and Havaar play into the Western-promoted view that there are just two sides in Iran: the people, and a repressive government. Period.

What we’re not told is that the major division in Iranian society today is class. While the major industries like gas and oil are, by law, owned by the government, there is a substantial private sector with its own economic and political agenda. It is this sector, along with the more privileged professionals, technicians and university students, that is the social basis for the anti-government movement. Even the Western media admits that it was mainly the middle and upper classes that supported Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main presidential challenger in 2009, as well as the protests that followed that election, while it’s the poor and the working class that provide the political support for President Ahmadinejad. (13)

As I stated at the UNAC conference, I don’t believe Iran’s Green Movement is a creation of the CIA or other Western agencies, although it’s no secret that some Iranian dissidents do get funding from the U.S. (14) Rather, it’s the result of contradictions left unresolved since the 1979 Revolution, particularly the question of which class will most benefit from that revolution: the more Western-oriented middle and upper classes, or the workers and poor.

Odd, isn’t it, that these kind of issues so rarely make it into any debate about Iran? And are never raised by groups like Raha or Havaar, whose members also come from the highly educated middle class.

Without a doubt, many of those who took to the streets in Tehran and other cities after the 2009 election were motivated by a sincere belief that the election was unfair, and also wanted a loosening of what they saw as social and political restrictions. And some of these suffered unjustly for taking part in the protests, prompting Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to order the closing of Kahrizak Prison, where some of those arrested in the protests were being held by. (15)

But there also are other forces opposing the Iranian government.

Not All “Democrats” are Democratic

There are the royalists, who want to bring back a Shah. You see their supporters at anti-Iranian protests in the U.S., waving the old Shah-era Iranian flag with the lion and sword.

There are the armed groups that carry out attacks on government forces, such as the PKK in the Northwest, Jundallah in the Southeast and the MKO, which until recently operated with U.S. protection from bases in Iraq. Even though some of these violent organizations have been exposed as receiving substantial financial and military support from the U.S., (16) they all claim to be promoting “democracy and social justice.”

Then there are the wealthy, ideological and disproportionately influential elements in the “pro-democracy” movement that promote a neocon agenda of privatization of the government-owned sections of the economy, particularly the oil and gas industries; deregulation of business and industry; and drastically scaling back social services for the poor. In the U.S. political context, that’s the Tea Party movement – complete with anti-government diatribes. (17)

And there’s the matter of the tens of millions of dollars spent by first the Bush/Cheney and now Obama administrations to support Iranian “dissidents,” most of whom choose to live in the United States. (14)

With its unqualified slogans, Raha and Havaar in effect are asking the U.S. antiwar movement to declare its unconditional support for all these forces, without distinction.

In Conclusion

Are there real problems in Iran? Sure. Abortion is against the law – just like it is in 40 other countries, including Ireland and Brazil. (And it’s under pretty severe attack right now in Virginia.) The judiciary can be arbitrary. Abuses have taken place, as has been acknowledged by both Iran’s Supreme Leader and its president.

But by every honest measure, Iran is probably the most democratic country in the Middle East or South Asian regions. (I know, that’s supposed to be Israel, but that’s like saying saying apartheid South Africa was a great place for white people.)

Unlike in many Middle Eastern countries that are strong allies of the U.S., there are local and national elections, the majority of the people actually vote, including women, the political pendulum does swing right and left, there are real struggles between different government factions that are covered in the news media, and the average Iranian is quick to offer his or her opinion about political matters.

Are there restrictions on civil liberties? Even examples of state repression? Yes, there are, although the Green Movement also has a history of making wildly false charges. (18)

But it’s important to remember that this is a situation in which the U.S., other Western powers and Israel are objectively at war against Iran: increasingly onerous sanctions; assassinations of scientists; industrial sabotage, including the infamous Stuxnet computer virus; and – according to crack investigative reporter Seymour Hersh – actual boots-on-the ground U.S. Special Ops training of violent, military, anti-government organizations such as the Jundallah. And now there’s the political rehabilitation of the MKO, a murderous, cult-like organization that for the last 30 years even the U.S State Department has classified as terrorist.

Under these conditions, it would be impossible for any country to allow a full range of civil liberties. But to portray Iran and its government in totally negative terms, completely ignoring the many achievements Iran has made over the last 30 years in the areas of poverty reduction, education, health care and the status of women, especially those from the “lower” classes, is more than simply dishonest.

Promoting such a view – at precisely the same time that Western powers and Israel are engaged in a coordinated political, economic, diplomatic and covert military offensive against Iran – means consciously or unconsciously lining up with the forces of reaction and imperialism.

This is not the time to try and undermine the government of Iran, which, like it or not, is the only force standing between the Iranian people and imperialist domination.

And it’s no time to try and undermine the anti-imperialist left.

Phil Wilayto, a former organizer in the Vietnam-era GI Movement, is a lifelong activist in the labor, anti-racist and anti-war movements, based in Richmond, Virginia. He is the Editor of The Virginia Defender; Board Member of the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII); and Member of the Coordinating Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). Among his written works are “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic;” “An Open Letter to the Antiwar Movement: How should we react to events in Iran?” (June 2009); and “Two petitions, two approaches toward defending Iran,” a response to CPD attacks on Iran. He accepts no financial compensation from any government or foundation for his political work. He making his living as a self-employed, blue-collar worker. He can be reached at:



(2) “No War On Iran NYC Protest Feb/4/12” –





(7) “Iran: Neither U.S. Aggression nor the Theocratic Repression”


(9) “Revolution and Redistribution in Iran: Poverty and Inequality 25 Years Later” by Djavad Salehi-Isfani, Department of Economics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va. –


(11) “Revolution and Redistribution in Iran: Poverty and Inequality 25 Years Later” by Djavad Salehi-Isfani, Department of Economics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va. Http://


(13) 2009 poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a U.S. nonprofit that incudes on its Advisory Board U.S. Sen. John McCain, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader William Frist, former U.S. Sen. Charles Robb and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean.

(14) “U.S. Grants support to Iranian dissidents” – USA Today, 6/28/19 –


(16) “Who supports Jundallah?” PBS Frontline, 10/22/09 –

(17) – -

(18) ”An Open Letter to the Ant-War Movement: How should we respond to the events in Iran?” By Phil Wilayto – June 2009 –

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