Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro's address to his country's national assembly last weekend centred on the need for a world peace front to persuade Washington not to launch a military attack on Iran writes John Haylett in the Morning Star.

Castro spoke supportively of US President Barack Obama, pointing out that he was being put under intense pressure, "in tune with the standards of the gigantic empire."

But he warned that, "in the instant that he gives the order, he would be ordering the instant death of hundreds of millions of people."

It is not simply the US Republican right that is demanding a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Israel too is eyeing a reprise of its lawless bombing of Iraq's Osiraq 40 megawatt light-water nuclear reactor in June 1981.

Disregarding its own undeclared nuclear arsenal of 200 bombs, Tel Aviv claims that Iran's civil nuclear power programme poses an existential threat to Israel.

The theocratic regime in Tehran has capitalised in a number of ways on the threats and rhetoric emanating from the US-Israeli partnership and its close allies in Europe.

It put the White House on the back foot by striking a deal with Brazil and Turkey, whereby Iran would send 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for 120kg of fuel rods for a Tehran research reactor designed for exclusive production of radioactive isotopes to treat cancer.

Not only would this plan divert low-enriched uranium from any military nuclear programme - which, in any case, Iran denies having - but it actually mirrors a scheme suggested by Obama himself last January.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad milked the limelight as he posed hand in hand with his Brazilian counterpart Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Lula called the agreement a "victory for diplomacy," while US representatives hummed and hawed before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insulted Lula by suggesting that he was a dupe of the Iranians.

And she told the Brazilian president that "we think buying time for Iran, enabling Iran to avoid international unity with respect to their nuclear programme, makes the world more dangerous not less."

Washington has also been outsmarted by Tehran in regional diplomacy, with Iran's profile being high in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ahmadinejad visited Baghdad two years ago, the first ever by an Iranian head of state, offered an aid package and developed a close relationship with prime minister Nouri al-Maliki under the noses of the US occupiers.

The Iranian president's role in convening last week's tripartite summit in Tehran with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Tajik Prime Minister Emomali Rahmon was another irritant for Washington.

Its efforts to isolate Iran, to condemn its nuclear programme and to impose sanctions on it have backfired.

Iran has built close relations with progressive Latin American states, including Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and, most especially, Venezuela.

It is understandable that this would be so. In a sense, they have been thrown together by Washington's hostility.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry complained bitterly this week about having been placed once more, alongside Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, on the discredited US list of states identified as sponsoring terrorism.

This designation precludes trade agreements, preferential terms and economic aid from Washington and it can complicate relations with third countries, no matter how spurious the charges.

In such circumstances, self-interest dictates that the socialist-inclined Latin American countries should cultivate closer ties with Iran, but these links have generated another bonus for Tehran - the widespread but erroneous belief that the Supreme Leader regime is somehow anti-imperialist in nature.

This situation recalls a similar error made by ultra-left groups in Britain and elsewhere with regard to the latter years of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The US hates Saddam, the US is imperialist, so Saddam is anti-imperialist. A perfect symmetry and yet hopelessly wrong.

While Cuba, Venezuela and their regional allies prioritise improving not only their people's living standards but also their democratic, human and cultural rights, Iran does not.

It hangs teenage boys on suspicion of being gay, stones women and men to death for adultery and locks up and tortures trade unionists and democracy campaigners. These barbaric realities are certainly used by US and European politicians as pretexts to impose sanctions on Iran, but they cannot be dismissed as unimportant or secondary to the regime's supposed anti-imperialism.

Last year's mass demonstrations against electoral fraud have given way, as a result of internal repression, to hunger strikes in jail by democratic opponents of the regime and appeals for international solidarity.

Solidarity cannot be withheld by trade unionists and other progressives in Britain simply because US imperialism opportunistically criticises Iran for practices it excuses or ignores in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Nor should revulsion against the vile punishments and repression visited on Iranians be misused to justify imperialist intervention, as the B52 liberals did with regard to Iraq.

As Tudeh Party of Iran general secretary Ali Khavari, the leader of the country's banned communists, makes clear, "Regime change from outside, such as occurred in Iraq, is neither possible nor acceptable by any means in Iran.

"Any foreign force that attempts such a dangerous provocation will burn its fingers, set the whole region on fire and seriously endanger world peace."