The following is the text of a speech given by Neil Ballantyne (Co-Convenor of Wellington Palestine) at the Wellington rally for the Global Day of Protest against war on Iran on 25th January 2020.
I am very proud to be here with you today on this global day of protest against war on Iran.
Some people think this protest is unnecessary. That the crisis is over. That the protagonists have backed down. But that’s a mistake. The most recent crisis is just one small flare up in America’s perpetual War on Terror.
Since the so-called War on Terror began the US government has spent 6.4 trillion dollars on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Over 800,000 people have been killed as a direct result. If you include those who died indirectly – due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure and other causes – the number approaches 1.25 million.
Since 9/11, twenty-one million civilian refugees of war have been internally displaced or scattered across the globe. Twenty-one million men, women and children making dangerous journeys to unknown destinations to live out there lives in uncertain conditions.
Do you feel safer as a result? Do the American people feel safer? Do the refugee families feel safer?
The assassination of the Iranian commander Suleimani – an objective achieved with the collaboration of Israel – is just the most recent in a series of steps by the US to put pressure on Iran.
Trump deliberately abandoned the Iranian nuclear deal so he could to reinstate economic sanctions and exert “maximum pressure” on the Iranian state. The Iranian economy is currently in free fall and economists predict a deep humanitarian crisis for the Iranian people.
Let’s be clear, no one is here today to support the Iranian regime. We’re here to offer solidarity with ordinary Iranians. Including those citizens and students who have taken to the streets to call out their government as dictators. But the Iranian people don’t need war, and they don’t need sanctions that threaten their health and wellbeing.
We need to recognise that the ongoing diplomatic war and military skirmishes are not just about the US and Iran. They also involve America’s ally Israel.
Uncritical support of the Israeli state is a pivotal part of US foreign policy and always has been. US policy is founded on the belief that “What is good for Israel is good for America”.
While the US government tightens the noose of sanctions on Iran it grants Israel $3.3 billion of foreign aid annually. This tiny country with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes in the world is the third largest recipient of US foreign aid, and the largest recipient of all US foreign aid since World War II. Almost all of the annual $3.3 billion directly funds Israel’s military: supporting its brutal occupation of Palestine, its illegal blockade of Gaza and its armed interventions in Syria and the Lebanon.
While politicians are rightly concerned about the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons, it is widely accepted that Israel possesses a nuclear stockpile of between 80 and 400 nuclear warheads and has the capability to deliver them.
Many commentators believe that if there is a war on Iran, it is more likely to be triggered by the actions of Israel rather than the US.
Our main demand today is to pull New Zealand troops out of Iraq and for all foreign troops to be withdrawn now. But if we really want to resolve perpetual war in the Middle East, we need to tackle the diplomatic elephant in the room. We need to confront the problem of Israel, and the question of Palestine.