British embassy attack exposes tensions outside – and inside – Iran
Some Iranian conservatives praised yesterday's attack on the British embassy, while others condemned it as endangering national security as tensions rise with the West.
(Page 2 of 3)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The agency also reported that police had to finally use tear gas to clear the embassy, and arrested a dozen protesters at the embassy's Golhak residential garden compound further north in Tehran.
"The revolutionary students' move today and occupation of the Old Fox's Den of Plots [British Embassy] was only a meager response to this declaration of war and Britain should wait for the coming moves of the great Iranian nation who intends to settle an old score for years of plotting [against Iran]," the statement read.
Persian-language news websites identified in photographs some of the protesters as leaders of the Basij militia – which is commanded by the Guard – and the Guard's Qods Force, which handles Iranian military and covert actions abroad.
Neither Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei nor the arch-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – whose respective supporters have been locked in political battle since last spring – have yet spoken about the events. But Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative to the universities said students had proven “they found the center of sedition.”
"An attack like that could not have happened, unless it was approved quite high up," says Massoumeh Torfeh, an Iran specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. "I don't know what level it was on, because we haven't heard yet from Khamenei, but it must have come from a high source."
Iran singles out Britain
While Persia has historical grudges with Britain that stretch back centuries, the latest surge dates to the 2009 presidential election, when millions of Iranians took to the street to protest the declared reelection of Mr. Ahmadinejad, only to be crushed.
Among foreign enemies the US and Israel – in times past called the "Great Satan" and "Little Satan" by revolutionary leaders – Britain was singled out then for being the most determined to overthrow the regime.
"Pressure has been mounting on the relationship between Iran and the UK over the past two years, triggered by the 2009 post-election protest, which was widely reported by the newly set-up BBC Persian TV, which the Iranian government described as a 'soft war' on Iran," says Ms. Torfeh.
The second blow was the new British sanctions against the central bank of Iran, which "annoys the authorities endlessly," since the Revolutionary Guard is the main engine for the economy, she adds.
Ahmadinejad admitted to parliament in recent weeks that Iran was facing "the biggest offensive in history," such that all banking operations, trade, "all our purchases and sale, all our agreements are being monitored and blocked."