Iran releases protesters detained in British embassy attack
Eleven protesters in the British embassy attack were released last night. Britain is rallying Europe to clamp down hard on Iran.
(Page 2 of 2)
Tuesday's protesters, who belong to the student wing of the Basij militia, a volunteer force of Islamic government loyalists, said they had organized the protest days in advance, but said on Tuesday that the storming of the embassy was spontaneous.Skip to next paragraph
Israeli general hints at another Gaza campaign
Unclaimed attack on Islamic school raises tension in Nigeria
See no evil? Activists doubt credibility of Arab League mission to Syria.
Arab League observers head to Syria's war-ravaged Homs
Christmas church bombings put global spotlight on 'Nigerian Taliban' (VIDEO)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
However, many Iran watchers have challenged the storyline of a spontaneous attack born out of popular hatred for Britain, arguing instead that the Basij – which is controlled by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard – played a major role. Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, called those involved with the embassy attack “government-controlled rent-a-mobs," Bloomberg reports.
The website of the semi-official Fars News Agency, which is linked to the guards, carried multiple stories praising the "students" who carried out the embassy attack but offered little coverage of the international condemnation. Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani said the protesters' actions reflected popular opinion in Iran.
“Britain was heavily involved in Libya and possibly will be involved in Syria and so there is general belief in Iran that the British are doing the job of the U.S. in the region, including spying on Iran,” he said. “The Iranians are panicking and they don’t know what to do. This reaction against the UK and possibly against other countries is part of this panicking mood.”
Indeed, many see any regime involvement in or consent to the attack as coming from a position of weakness.
In an Op-Ed for the Huffington Post, Maryam Zar, a former journalist who spent time in Iran, posits that this attack was nothing like the attack on the US embassy in 1979 that reflected widespread popular discontent. She disputes Iran's claims that the most recent attack represented broad public opinion.
They are not on the streets chanting to create the next great satan. They are not eager to jettison yet another Western power. They are not imbued with a sense of religious or ideological zeal to make them risk everything for a principled belief. In fact, they don't have much to risk. They are hungry and tired and are looking for hope, not another confrontation.
This embassy ransack wasn't the work of ordinary Iranian youth. This was a message crafted behind the scenes and delivered by players with a script. Riot police were deployed and stood in the way of the attacking mob. But armed with pelt guns and tear gas, they still couldn't hold back the protesters, even though the crowd was small -- much smaller than the throngs of people who protested during the Green movement. Yet Riot police couldn't hold them back? This was no display of simultaneous inspiration. This was a government that feels increasingly cornered, attempting to show the world it still has popular support.
Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.
IN PICTURES: Iran's military might