Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pro-Gaza Protestors Storm British Compound

More than 70 protestors, believed to be affiliated with the Basiji forces of IRGC, stormed a British Embassy compound in Qolhak, in northern Tehran. The public opinion in Iran, like in many Middle Eastern countries, has solidly turned against Israel and the West in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the many casualties it has caused.

The protestors have brought down the British flag and have raised the Palestinian flag inside the compound.

The Qolhak compound has in the past been used as the summer residence of the British Ambassador in Tehran. The large property, situated in one of choice locations in the Iranian capital, has been the center of an ownership controversy with the UK. Iranians believe that the British lease on the property has been expired and it needs to be handed back to Iran. Britain considers the property as an integral part of its embassy, protected by international law.

The occupation of the compound is not all that surprising, given the Iranian claim. What is surprising is the pretext of helping the Palestinian cause in occupying the compound. The Iranian public opinion could have much easier accepted the move if it was cast in Iran vs. Britain struggle. Tying the move to the developments in Gaza would be hard to comprehend and might backfire and help the British.

Notwithstanding the move, the Iranians are real angry at the events in Gaza. Even mainstream journalists are using profanities in referring to Israel, and the West, in their reporting of the bombardments. The West is rapidly loosing the public opinion and the media war regarding Gaza.

UPDATE: A media officer at the British embassy in Tehran confirmed reports that diplomatic police had driven the demonstrators out of the compound.

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