Shouting “Death to England” and throwing in condemnations of the United States and Israel for good measure, members of the Basij militia stormed the British embassy compound and a diplomatic residence in Tehran on November 29th, causing significant damage. The rioters reportedly carried banners bearing the name of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, which runs the overseas operations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Iranian security forces did little at first to stop the assault. The militants reportedly ransacked offices, burned the British flag, smashed embassy windows, and set at least one vehicle on fire. Militants also surrounded several British staff members. The police finally stepped in to quell the protest before it was allowed to spiral completely out of control.
The attack by the Basij militants occurred just two days after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave a speech to thousands of Basijis from across the country during a meeting held in Tehran.
The next day Khamenei lashed out at Britain directly for unilaterally imposing the one sanction that will likely have a serious impact on the Iranian economy – requiring that all British credit and financial institutions cease trading with Iran’s banks, including the severing of all contacts with the Iranian Central Bank.
Addressing Iranian naval commanders, Khamenei said that Britain has a history of humiliating nations but that the Islamic Revolution resulted in Iran “single-handedly standing up to the biggest arrogant [powers] and imperialists and crushing their will.”
In addition to Khamenei’s denunciations of Britain, Iran’s parliament approved a retaliatory measure to expel the British ambassador and downgrade Iran’s diplomatic relations with Britain. All this helped to set the stage for the next day’s riot.
Referring to the militants as “students,” Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that the “students’” action against the British Embassy was a symbol of the public opinion of Iranians,” in remarks to reporters the day after the mob attack, according to the Tehran Times. Larijani’s expression of support for the militants gives away the lie to the Iranian foreign ministry’s official expression of “regret.”
The British government decided that it had enough of the Iranian regime. It ordered the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London and closed its embassy in Tehran. In announcing the decision, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that “If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil, they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here.” While technically not a complete break in diplomatic relations with Iran, Hague described his government’s action as reducing relations with Iran to the “lowest level.”
For its part, the United Nations Security Council managed to find enough consensus to issue a tepid statement reminding Iran of its international obligations:
The members of the Security Council called on the Iranian authorities to protect diplomatic and consular property and personnel, and to respect fully their international obligations in this regard.
Considering that Iran has flouted a succession of Security Council resolutions regarding its nuclear enrichment program, has sponsored terrorism around the world, and stands accused of authorizing the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil, Iran obviously has no intention of respecting its “international obligations.”
In case anyone thinks the Iranian government is listening to the Security Council this time, Larijani provided the answer: “The hasty move in the Security Council in condemning the students’ action was done to cover up the previous crimes of Britain and the United States.”
The United States has seen this movie before, with even more disastrous consequences. Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution devolved into the seizing of the U.S. Embassy and the holding of fifty-two Americans hostages for 444 days. We know first-hand the level of barbaric behavior in violation of all norms of international law to which the thugs running the Iranian regime are willing to descend.
Yet, President Obama’s reaction to the sacking of the British embassy and diplomatic residence was little more than a bland rhetorical slap on the wrist. While meeting with Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the White House, Obama said he was “deeply concerned” that the Iranian government had let the rioters “overrun the embassy and set it on fire.” He added that he found the situation to be “unacceptable.”
The only thing that seems to fire Obama up these days are all those terrible Republicans blocking the expansion of his reckless, failed economic agenda. When it comes to Iran, he says he is “deeply concerned” and then resumes his attacks on the Republicans.
How about Obama showing some real concern with the Iranian regime by joining Britain in cutting off Iran’s central bank? Yes, it will hurt the global economy, including ours, as a result of sharply higher oil prices. But if it helps destroy the Iranian government’s economic base for funding its nefarious programs and provide the tipping point that can lead to a favorable regime change in Iran, we finally may remove an existential threat to world peace and security without the need for direct military intervention.
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