By Paul Iddon
The storming of the British embassy in Tehran bears a troubling reminiscence to the infamous storming of the US embassy 32 years ago.
When a small group of radical Islamic students stormed the American embassy in Tehran during the 1979 revolution they started what would become a very turbulent and tense rivalry with the United States that has continued to this very day. It also showed that the new Islamic Republic was ready from the get go to disregard the common international diplomatic standards and instead radicalize a widespread revolution in a bid to suppress the many moderates and secularists that initially had filled the streets in opposition of the Shahs autocratic rule.
In Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi recalls how during the hostage crisis people from rural areas were bused into Tehran to make up the numbers of those gathering around the “nest of spies”. And as she recalls several of them didn't even know where America was, and some were under the impression that they were actually going to America. She goes on to describe how these people were free to reside outside the embassy, hold picnics and hang around and camp by the embassy grounds so long as they chanted “Death to America” and burnt the occasional US flag to keep up such radical momentum.
Just yesterday following the Majlis resolution to expel Britain's ambassador to Tehran following increased British sanctions a mob stormed the British embassy chanting Marg Bar Ingilis (“Death to Britain”). The majority of members of the Maljlis whom had voted in favour of expelling the British ambassador chanted the same slogan the day before, clearly creating a radical atmosphere. The scene at the embassy was reminiscent to the one of the initial storming of the US embassy in 1979. And is clearly a blatant attempt by the regime to incite radical action this comes at a time when the theocracy is showing visible signs of senility in the face of a continually disillusioned populace. Swift and organized radical reactionary action like this incident are essential for the theocracy to maintain a certain degree of control over the public imagination which must have a blurry and overall flawed outlook on the world if they are to see the theocracy as their ultimate governmental representative. Therefore it is necessary for the theocracy to up the ante with regards to such radicalism and fundamentalism in times of widespread disillusionment and discontentment.
Ayatollah Khomeini effectively directed a six year counter-war on Iraq and sent at the very least 300,000 young men (some as young as 13) to die in this poorly planned war of which Iran was ill prepared for, whilst furthermore reassuring those who would go on to be martyred in the suicide waves that God was on their side and that they were guaranteed victory as they were waging a war in the name of Islam. He was finally forced to accept the UN mandated ceasefire when Rafsanjani swallowed his pride and risked his own neck as it were by approaching the Imam and informing him of the raw reality on the ground. Iran had no chance of a tangible victory and to add insult to injury the Iraqi Army was proving to be capable of being able to once again launch substantial incursions into Iranian territory. Khomeini finally gave in and accepted the UN ceasefire agreement with Iraq, likening it to drinking a chalice of poison. In light of the fact that he had waged war in the name of Islam and subsequently lost he must have calculated that in order to retain any credibility he needed something else to point his divinely warranted judgmental finger at in order to ensure the discontentment that followed that fiasco of a war would not manifest itself in its immediate aftermath. So what followed was his issuing of the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie, condemning him to death for his book The Satanic Verses. His offering of money for murder was a squalid act and was also his last major political act before passing away later that year. British-Iranian relations had been restored the year beforehand and temporarily suspended by Iran after Khomeini issued the fatwa.
The regime to a very large extent has actually garnered a propaganda coup for itself, not in Iran and among the Iranian people (where as travel writer Rick Steve's pointed out the former US embassy compound sits in the public's eye like an unwanted call to battle) but in the west. Once again the regime has succeeded in getting images on western TV of radical Iranian Islamist' once again violently storming a foreign consulate, these images will once again reinforce the widespread illusion and irrational fear of Iran and Iranians that is prevalent in the west.
This in turn will inevitably prolong the lifespan of this archaic totalitarian regime which has once again purposely plundered and intentionally squandered any hopes of diplomatic rapprochement with the International Community for the foreseeable future.
Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly column 'Broadened Vistas' appears here on Wednesdays.
Paul, have you ever been to the Islamic Republic of Iran? Ever been to its parliament? It is hardly archaic, especially in light of the fact that its neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan are also Islamic Republics, and Iraq also has clergy members sitting within its judicial courts.
It is also not totalitarian. Apparently you're not familiar with the full definition of the term. Please do a minimum of research on this to be informed.
For a more rounded overview on what prompted this breakdown in UK-IRI relations, please read:
Tehran invokes revolutionary fervor
by By M K Bhadrakumar
Oh, and Paul: either tighten up your punditry a few notches or I'm going to stop reading your column.
Khamenei must cut the knot , the Iranian people have suffered 30 years of harsh sanctions. Iran must obtain nuclear weapons or give in to Western demands , this is the only way to avoid a conflict.
"Khamenei must cut the knot , the Iranian people have suffered 30 years of harsh sanctions. Iran must obtain nuclear weapons or give in to Western demands , this is the only way to avoid a conflict."
Don't worry, the West, out of sheer stupidity,arrogance and imperial hubris has left with no choice but to have the bomb and they'll regret this.I don't think Khomeni's fatwas regarding nukes matter much to the Iranian army now..They'll decide what's necessary to defend the country. Interesting times ;)
A nuclear test now will shut them up for good.
@ Anon 1:00 PM
Thank you again for taking the time to write your comment.
A regime rooted in 7th century ideology which treats half its population (hence Iranian women) as second class citizens and denies them the same rights as their male counterparts strikes me as very archaic!
As for calling a government totalitarian I don't see any fallacy as you seem to in dubbing a regime whose enforcement thugs blend ideology with security when enforcing its ideological outlook on all those who live under its rule totalitarian. Especially considering it seeks to control essentially every aspect of peoples day to day lives.
Very solipsistic of your sir, if you have problems with my writings or views by all means voice them and lets have a constructive discussion, but I do not require (nor seek) your endorsement to voice my views!
I just want to point out that there is a significant difference between the events of 1979 and this week, despite the similar imagery.
The storming of the US embassy in 1979 was a spontaneous action that could be characterized as the wrong thing done for the right reasons, at least from the prospective of the Iranian revolutionaries. In the heat of revolution, actual students took their anger at the shah's ally, the US government and stormed the embassy. Khomeini at the time had to bless their actions after the fact, despite the advise of the seculars in his circle, that was the extend of the involvement of the Iranian government in the early days. The rest is history.
On the other hand, the events this week represent a premeditated government action against an embassy. The government of Iran willfully used government sponsored goons to attack the sovergne compound of the birtish embassy, in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed by Britain on Iran.
The perpetrators of the attack on the british embassy are neither students, nor spontaneous. Their motivation is an extension of the government decision to punish the British for the sanctions, or at least so they think.
The only real similarity I see is that both events are against the national interest of Iran, and both have negative consequences for the country and the nation.
In both cases the iranian leadership expressed that they simply don't give a damn, acting like a delinquent teenager unaware that there is a price to pay for every bad decision.
The view from Ankara
" ..and Iran takes to the stage "
~~~~~The reason behind Iran’s taking a more belligerent stance in recent days is to convey the message that “it won’t remain silent against the international plot aiming at changing the leadership in Syria, even at the expense of causing more trouble to Turkey, Britain, Israel and the United States.”
First message came last weekend when Gen. Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the aerospace unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) warned that they would target NATO missile defense installations in Turkey’s Malatya province if the US or Israel attacked Iran. Iranian officials have long criticized Turkey for deploying NATO’s early warning radar system in its territories, but it was the first time a high ranking military official warned about a military act against Turkey. ~~~~
This regime can't do a damn thing.
Anon 8:54 PM
They can do a damn thing if you push them in a corner.
'HARKING BACK TO A RADICAL PAST'- AND THE OTHER SIDE OF COIN!!
Your bare knuckle assault of the Regime is rather spectacular! while you are entitled to take position on any issue, yet again have you denied us a balanced report and yet again you are exposed!.
This is what you are saying-
1-it is the regime that whipped the masses into a frenzy of radicalism by chanting 'marg bar ingilis' effectively creating a radical atmosphere that resulted in the mob of students storming the Embassy.
2-This Regime from the get go disregard the common international diplomatic standards !
3-BUT THE SWIFT AND organised radical reactionary actions are essential for the regime to maintain a certain degree of control over the public imagination which must have a blurry and overall flawed outlook on the world
4-AND Imam Khomeini waged a poorly organised war that Iran was ill prepared ! resorting to sending child soldiers to fight in the name of ISLAM
5-IRAN LOST THIS WAR!!-thanks to poor planning and because they had 'waged a war in the NAME OF ISLAM!'.
6-so following these events ,this archaic regime has once again intentionally squanderd any hope of diplomatic reproach with the 'international community'
It is impossible to entice learned men and women into acts of mob justice by simply whipping up their emotions.The people who did this are not illiterate forks ferried from the rural Mosques and brought to the city to sing 'marg bar inglis'!on the contrary ,we saw students FROM UNIVERSITIES,from COLLEGES,and technical schools.THEIR FURRY AGAINST BRITAIN has nothing to do with a SHEIKH or Cleric,it has nothing to do with emotions,INSTEAD toss the shilling and see the other side of it and this is the truth-COLONIALIST BRITAIN WANTS FREE OIL,FREE GAS,A RICH MARKET FOR ITS PRODUCTS,A FRIENDLY REGIME EVEN IF AUTOCRATIC,NO UTILIZATION OF DOMESTIC TALENT ,NO DEFENSE INDUSTRY,in short a SAUDI ARABIA IN IRAN.COLONIALIST BRITAIN CAN'T STOMACH a resurgent Persian Empire standing with its own foot blending spirituality and science and modernism.
TO HAVE A DIPLOMATIC SPAT WITH THE USA, OR BRITAIN can not be calculated as waging an assault against the whole world!BUT WE KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO THINK THE USA OR BRITAIN IS THE WHOLE WORLD AND A DIPLOMATIC ROW WITH THEM MIGHT MAKE YOUR CITIZENS DROP DEAD IN STREETS!!.AND Mr Paul, IRAN IS A COUNTRY WITH THE BIGGEST NUMBER OF UNIVERSITIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST,THE ONLY COUNTRY WITH THE BIGGEST NUMBER OF ACADEMICS IN THE MUSLIM WORLD!you cant afford to say that all these learned MEN and women are at the Mercy of MAD MULLAHS,NAY the world has to come and wake up to the bitter reality that NEVER AGAIN WILL IRAN CONDONE PATRONAGE and spoon feeding from ANY BRITAIN OR a U.S.A!!.
IMAM KHOMEINI the figure who led a bloodless revolution of the century, to you is just but another aggressor who waged an unjust war !NO JOURNALIST THE WORLD 0VER has made such a reckless conclusion on the IRAQ IRAN WAR.And WHEN WILL YOU LEARN THAT WE MUSLIMS TAKE LESSONS FROM THE HOLY PROPHETS,.BUT HERE OH!Paul is a clear example OF A CHILD soldier COMMISSIONED BY OUR CREATOR TO FIGHT ON HIS WAY AND his name is David taking on Goliath the giant infidel.CHILD SOLDIER COMMISSIONED BY THE CREATOR HIMSELF!!AND GOD WAS ON HIS SIDE!.SO WELCOME TO SPIRITUALITY AND FAITH . And this picture you have drawn of a desperate Khomeini accepting and hard choice ARE SAYING THAT IRAN DESEAVED IT and that SADDAN was on the truthful side of the conflict? You are awfully wrong!! And Iran did not lose this war Saddam did, He didn’t realize his aims despite Britain and a USA! BEHIND HIM only to kill Him later in a judicial cold blood!
ARE YOU SAYING THAT IRAN DESERVED IT... AND SADDAM was on the truthful side of the conflict??...
Apologies for the belated response.
Now to address your points:
"5-IRAN LOST THIS WAR!!-thanks to poor planning and because they had 'waged a war in the NAME OF ISLAM!'."
Technical inaccuracy there, you must have misread, I said that Khomeini lost a war he had waged in the name of Islam, not that Iran lost the war because it had waged it in the name of Islam.
The people outside the embassy were from what I could see highly organized and I'd contend regime forces such as the Basij. The fact they're young men coming from university strikes me as irrelevant, and your point about their fury having nothing to do with as you say the sheikh or the cleric strikes me as rather obtuse, isn't there not weekly sessions of condemnation held by clerics after Friday prayers in Tehran University that condemn the British as being the worst of the much loathed three (hence US, Israel and Britain).
True a diplomatic spat with the US or Britain shouldn't constitute an assault against the whole world, but my objection to that view is that it was an assault against diplomatic norms, foreign consulates sovereignty and integrity should be respected, if Iran no longer want an embassy or diplomatic relations with Britain they can simply give them a deadline to pack up their bags and leave. Attacking and ransacking the embassy in the manner they did strikes me as rather petty. And this is coming from a guy whose countrymen firebombed the British embassy in my capital city.
I'm well aware Iran has the largest number of universities and the largest output of academics in the Middle East, that isn't in the least bit surprising, with 2,500 years of civilization and enlightenment I'd say it ought to!
I wouldn't call the Islamist militant elements of the revolution or Khomeini's 1988 fatwa 'bloodless'.
Of course I'm not saying Saddam was on the right side of the conflict, I just think Khomeini extending the war post Khorramshahr for six years was extremely unwise. General Shirazi strongly considered resignation around this time if quote "unqualified people continued to meddle with the conduct of the war". Khomeini sided with the hard-liners and went on to invade Iraq under the pretext that they couldn't lose because they were fighting in the name of Islam. Thousands of young men died for his supposed divine infallibility, and what did he do to follow up after losing that war and costing Iran thousands of its young, tried to radicalize the youth (the ones who hadn't already gone and died for his ineptness) once again over the publishing of a work of fiction in the west!
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