Filed under: Foreign Policy, Iran, National Security, United Kingdom | Tags: British Embassy in Tehran, Protesters Stormed Embassy, The Work of Sanctions
In Iran: protesters stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran, smashing windows, throwing petrol bombs and burning the British flag in protest against the sanctions imposed by London.
Britain, Canada and the United States have imposed new unilateral sanctions on Iran this week, while the EU, France and Italy have all said financial measures against Tehran should be strengthened. London banned all British financial institutions from doing business with their Iranian counterparts — including the Central Bank of Iran.
Iran is the fifth biggest oil exporter in the world. The embassy storming is a clear sign of greater political infighting within Iran’s ruling hardline elites. The conservative controlled parliament is trying to force the hand of President Ahmadinejad and expel the British ambassador. The hardliners in Iran will use the crisis to unite people and to blame the crisis for the failures of their own economy.
Iran, of course, claims that it only wants nuclear plants to create electricity. That is why the mysterious explosions at known missile development sites is international news. And why they have sought help from North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia.
Several dozen protesters broke away from the crowd of a few hundred people outside the main British embassy compound in downtown Tehran, climbed over the gates, broke the locks and went inside. They pulled down the British flag and burned it, and raised an Iranian flag in its place. They smashed windows, took a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth, carried off the royal crest as police stood by, and set a car on fire.
Another group broke into a compound that was once the embassy’s summer quarters, and is now used to house diplomatic staff. Six embassy employees were held briefly. A German school next to the Qolhak compound was also damaged.
Britain is outraged. Nations are required to protect the embassies of other countries. Iran has clearly indicated that it has no intention of giving up its nuclear efforts. The question is whether sanctions can make a difference. The Iranian government has attempted to keep channels of negotiation open in an effort to limit the worst effects of sanctions, but shown no sign of backing down.
I wish I had more confidence in the understanding and capability of my government.