British Embassy in Tehran Stormed by Protesting Students

The gates at the old US embassy site in Tehran. (David Holt photo on Flickr with Creative Commons license)

While gathering materials for yesterday’s post on the reports of an explosion near the uranium processing facility near Isfahan in Iran, I almost mentioned this story on the Mehr News website, where we got confirmation that Iran was reducing its diplomatic relations with the UK, expelling the Ambassador:

The Guardian Council has endorsed the parliamentary ratification on reducing ties with Britain, the council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaii announced on Monday.

Lawmakers approved on Sunday a proposal calling for a reduction in the level of diplomatic and trade ties with Britain to a minimum level.

Now the Foreign Ministry is obligated to reduce its relationship with London to the level of charge d’affaires within two weeks.

This action by Iran has now escalated, with multiple reports surfacing that student protesters have entered the grounds of the British embassy in Tehran.  From CNN:

Iranian students stormed the UK Embassy in Tehran Tuesday, breaking down the door, throwing papers and replacing the British flag with an Iranian one, a CNN crew witnessed.

The protesting students also threw stones at the embassy’s windows.

There is more from Reuters:

Iranian protesters stormed the British Embassy compound in Tehran on Tuesday, smashing windows and burning the British flag during a rally to protest against sanctions imposed by Britain, live Iranian television showed.

/snip/

The incident followed Britain’s imposition of new sanctions on the Islamic state last week over its nuclear program.

London banned all British financial institutions from doing business with their Iranian counterparts, including the Central Bank of Iran, as part of a new wave of sanctions by Western countries.

And the Reuters article shows that the protesters had “encouragement” from the government:

In parliament in Tehran on Sunday, a lawmaker warned that Iranians angered by the sanctions could storm the British embassy as they did to the U.S. mission in 1979.

Looking at Iran’s Fars News Agency, we see documentation of the start of the protest:

Hundreds of Iranian university students started a rally in front of the British embassy in Tehran Tuesday afternoon to shout protest against London’s hostile policies against Iran.

“Down with Britain”, “Down with America”, “Down with Israel” and “Students are Awake and Hate Britain” are among the slogans chanted by the protestors.

Protesters who carried photographs of Iran’s assassinated nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari and IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, set fire on Britain’s flag.

The rally comes as Iran is commemorating the first martyrdom anniversary of its nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari who was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad agency supported by the British MI6.

The article then also repeated the information on downgrading Iranian-British relations from the ambassador level to the level of charge d’affaires in response to the economic sanctions put in place after the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear technology.

So far, there are no reports that I have seen of hostage-taking, but it looks like Iran is doing their best to recapture some of the anti-western hatred of 1979.  It seems likely to me that if hostages are taken, the war mongers in Washington, DC (yes, I mean you, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, among others) will go into paroxysms of joy over a new reason to attack Iran.  However, if they do take hostages, Iran should be prepared for a deluge of contact from Republican presidential candidates looking to bargain for the release of the hostages as they each try to resurrect the Reagan zombie.

Update: The Washington Post is reporting that the housing compound for British diplomats also was stormed, but there still are no reports of hostages.  Also, Iranian authorities appear to have ordered the students out of the embassy compound after an hour:

When the students arrived at the embassy complex late Tuesday afternoon, there was no scaffolding or barriers of the type erected by Iranian security during previous demonstrations as a way of keeping the protesters out of the compound.

Riot police, who normally would have been deployed to keep order at the protest, were absent as well. In their place were standard Iranian police forces, equipped with shields.

For about an hour, the police did not move to stop the students as they rushed into the embassy compound, lowering the flag, destroying the satellite dishes and setting fires.

But eventually, police told the students to leave the compound and disperse.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
15 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    I think Iran’s government will tamp this down quickly. They don’t want to give anybody the excuse to hit them. I dunno if England is looking for an excuse, but ObamaLLP and Bibi sure are.

    I’ve seen some photos of the missle site explosion. If that was terrorism, the bomb would have been the size of of the Ok city bomb or perhaps a bit larger. OTOH, if the explosion was caused by stored rocket fuel, the destruction would be about right.

    Boxturtle (But we’re willing to take credit and Iran is willing to blame us)

  2. Jim White says:

    @emptywheel: Yeah, it kind of stands out to me that today’s “student” group appears to have been encouraged and potentially even coordinated by the civilian government while the 1979 group was driven by the religious side.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    @Jim White: I hadn’t noticed that. Funny…but I’m sure it’s just cooincidence.

    A model rocketeer stopped by while I was looking at the photo. He said it looked to him as though a rocket motor was being tested and overpressurized early in the test. He refered to it as “rapid unplanned disassembly” and indicated he had some experience with that sort of thing.

    Boxturtle (I suppose we could have set a small bomb by a storage tank)

  4. BoxTurtle says:

    @emptywheel: You mean COMBINING into just two factions, right? :-)

    Seriously, there’s the religious conservatives, the religious not-so-conservatives, the pragmatics, the economics, the liberals, the globalists and the street. And I’ve probably missed some smaller groups.

    The GOPers like to portray Iran as a monolithic bloc, lead by a Crazy Scary Brown Moslem intent on using a bomb as soon as they get it. It gives them comfort, I suppose.

    But politically, Iran is more complex than America is.

    Boxturtle (Imagine Holy Joe’s disappointment when Iran clears the issue before he can declare war)

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    @Mary: Both certainly possible. But either would imply that we have assets who gained legit access to the sites and could place the devices without raising eyebrows. I know in the US, approching rocket fuel storage on foot is VERY uncommon for anybody except inspectors. We’d notice and I assume Iran would as well.

    Given 15 minutes access to the rocket motor and the right wrenches, I could rig it to explode during startup and I’m no expert. Were i an israeli agent, that’s where I’d aim. Catch it while it still has a full load of fuel and the explosion covers my tracks.

    Boxturtle (keep in mind startup is the most likely time for a legit accident)

  6. JohnLopresti says:

    Here is a long excerpt from an ACW 174-comment thread, posted by anonymous commenter “b” last week:

    the passage is located within one remark situated ~1/2-way thru the thread:
    [Quote]
    “People in the U.S. seem to generally underestimate Iran. It is a big country with 70+ million inhabitants, lots of natural resources, high level education, science and research and, due to 30 years of sanctions, now self sufficient in many production capabilities. Persia is not an Arab desert tribe but a 5000 year old nation and civilization.

    “There is also a general misunderstanding of Iran’s political system. All Iranian political functionaries are either elected or put into place by an elected official or group. (That not everyone who wants to get elected can but is “filtered out” by the ruling system is just the same within our “western” party democracies systems.)

    “The Ayatollahs are not “clerics” in the sense we know in Christian culture but are foremost highly trained jurists with doctorates and tenure who teach at upper university levels. Velayat-e faghih means the guardianship of the jurist not the guardianship of religion/cleric/priest.

    “Khamenei is not a high priest, but a jurist and the head of the supreme court of Iran as which he has a guiding function and the last word when the elected executive and legislative branches collide. This is more “hands on” than the U.S. supreme court role but the general function is just the same.

    “If one tries to understand what Iran says and does within this framework it makes all much more sense than the “dictatorship” and “cleric” analysis western media love to do.

    “Iran will not build and deploy nukes. Its supreme court has several times ruled against this and has done decisively so. To change that would be a huge break in the system and is about as likely as the legal reintroduction of racial segregation in the U.S.” [EndQuote]

    The above cite patently avoids contemplating how Ahmedinejad won reelection nearly by acclaim a few years ago with ~8/10 of the popular vote. I have vectored to that thread previously. It contains some interesting ruminations, as well as the usual anticipated spice of geopolitical hype. fyi

    Yet, there is one more october to go for an october surprise.

  7. Jim White says:

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague is mad:

    “We hold the Iranian government responsible for its failure to take adequate measures to protect our embassy, as it is required to do,” Hague said in a statement. “Clearly there will be other, further, and serious consequences.”

    “other, further and serious consequences” — Pretty strong words from a diplomat.

  8. Maddy says:

    We should sanction israeli zionists, keep them someplace where they can’t shit on the world and cause all these problems. Or is everyone afraid of the anti semitic race card. Just to be clear, the jewish people are a different entity than the zionists, the two don’t go hand in hand.

    Atacking Iran would be a big mistake, huge, world war huge.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this was engineered.@JohnLopresti:

  9. P J Evans says:

    @Jim White:
    Yeah, let’s start a new war in the Middle East, because the last two have worked out so well for us.

    Some days I think the amount of intelligence in the world is a fixed quantity, because the stoopid seems to be increasing at least as fast as the population.

  10. Jim White says:

    So was the storming of the embassy an attempt to deflect attention from the fact the blast at Isfahan was real?

    AN IRANIAN nuclear facility has been hit by a huge explosion, the second such blast in a month, prompting speculation that Tehran’s military and atomic sites are under attack.

    Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

    The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was “no doubt” that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was “no accident”.

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