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On the Brink? British Embassy in Iran is Stormed; Are We Close to War?

Posted on the 30 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

On the brink? British embassy in Iran is stormed; are we close to war?

Iranians storming the British Embassy. Photocredit: Russia Today

The British embassy in downtown Tehran and a residential compound in the north of the city were ranskacked this week by Iranian students, causing widespread damage with Molotov cocktails. According to Reuters, the students – dubbed “protesters” – also burned a British flag, in a statement against sanctions made by London. The whole thing took two hours, with police restoring order. Fars, Iran’s (semi-)official news agency, claimed that the protests were simply part of the Occupy Movement. But the Iranian parliament had already ordered a downgrading of diplomatic relations with Britain because of the sanctions.

The Times reports that they also stole pictures of the Queen and chanted “death to England!” Britain has now told all its diplomats to leave Iran. Though six embassy staff were held briefly, they were released, and no hostages were taken. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has condemned the attacks, but the British are bleating about “serious consequences”.

This all comes as Fars reported an explosion in the town of Isfahan. Which is where the nuclear facilities are. The report was later removed, and, according to The Daily Beast, a source quoted as having heard the blast was afterwards reported in another news agency as having heard nothing at all. Murky goings on, indeed.

So are we heading close to war? Some commentators on the right believe that we should be acting more strongly in regard to Iran; those on the left argue that our long history of betraying the country does us no favours. All agree that trouble is brewing.

“The seizure of the British embassy was done by the revolutionary students and this action was not done on the order of any organization. Each free Iranian … should know that the seizure of this old embassy is in the interest of Iran,” said a statement by the students, quoted in Kar Va Kargar, on Reuters.

A tangled past. And one of the main reasons that trouble is brewing is that Britain’s history with Iran runs deep, said Robert Fisk in The Independent. It invaded (with the Soviets) during the Second World War; after Mohammed Mossadegh nationalised Britain’s oil interests in the region, it dethroned him in a genuine secret operation, even though he was democratically elected. The Shah, and his brutal regime, returned. Iranians view America and Britain as continually trying to undermine Ayatollah Khomeini – and with good reason. Fisk, for one, “cannot wait” to see what the documents the protesters ran off with contain.

No smoke without fire. The thing is, said The Times editorial, a little more warily, in Tehran you can’t just go around protesting – you need the “connivance of the authorities. And these protesters were completely “unhindered”, so the Government “must have approved.” And why? Well, it’s all nuclear. Britain’s imposed sanctions  on Iranian banks after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Iran’s nuclear programme. But the definition of a civilised country is how they treat others’ diplomats – Britain guarded Gaddafi’s embassy, and even ended the terrorist attack on the Iranian embassy in 1980. Iran isn’t even looking in the right place – it should blame its “own agressive isolationism and economic failure” rather than Britain.

Pull out all the stops. But Iran doesn’t look at itself: it has seen Britain, and the West, as its implacable and eternal enemies, ever since the Islamic revolution. William Hague’s response, blustered Melanie Phillips apocalyptically in The Daily Mail, reminded her of King Lear raging. “How the Iranians must be chortling.” Don’t forget the embarassing episode of the British sailors held hostage in 2007 – with “zero consequences” from Britain. We shouldn’t even have diplomatic relations with Iran. Virtually every single terrorist attack has had “Iran’s fingerprints on it.” Iran actually wants “the end of the world” – but the West won’t listen. Iran is now a dominant power in the region, whilst the US is “the enfeebled nag.” It’s time to make a stand – but all Hague can do is shake “his puny fist.” We need to act soon, before a “terrifying denoument.”

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