Iran Protests Intrusion at Its Embassy in London

By Patrick Goodenough | March 12, 2018 | 4:20 AM EDT

The Iranian Embassy in London. (Screen capture: Press TV)

( – Iran slammed British authorities this past weekend for their handling of an incident in which four men scaled the walls of the Iranian Embassy in London and took down the country’s flag.

The four, reportedly followers of a Shi’ite ayatollah critical of the regime, were eventually arrested, but the clerical regime is unhappy with the length of time taken for police to do so.

Government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said police arrested the men for trespassing “several hours after the attack.”

“This shows that the British police have failed to observe the international law.”

According to the embassy, the trespassers were followers of Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Shirazi, a 75-year-old cleric based in Qom who opposes the principle at the core of the Iranian regime, which accords absolute power to a “supreme leader,” currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Earlier this month, Shirazi’s son was arrested after delivering a sermon in which he equated the supreme leader with the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

Iran’s attorney general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, said the judiciary will take tough action against any group trying to defy the law, noting the Shirazi “cult” in Qom has already been warned.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi summoned the British ambassador in Tehran and demanded “absolute protection of our diplomats in London and immediate dealing of the police with the attackers,” according to the IRNA state news agency.

It said the British ambassador expressed regret over the incident.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut after the 1983 bombing. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Of governments currently in power, Iran’s arguably has the worst track record when it comes to protecting other country’s diplomatic facilities. Not only have missions come under attack inside Iran, but the regime stands accused of bombing embassies, in the some of the world’s deadliest terrorist attacks.

Two years ago, a mob protesting the execution by the Saudis of a prominent minority Shi’ite cleric attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, setting fires and causing damage to the embassy. Riyadh cut diplomatic ties in protest.

The regime condemned the attack and subsequently claimed to have arrested around 100 people involved, although only ten were reported to have been sentenced, to short prison terms.

In 2011, a mob stormed the British Embassy in Tehran, two days after Iranian lawmakers in a vote demanded the expulsion of the British ambassador after banking sanctions were imposed. Some of the attackers removed the embassy’s flag and ransacked offices.

Iranian media described the attackers as “students” but the British government said they were members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ notorious Basij militia.

Again, the regime condemned the incident, but then-Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons, “Iran is a country where opposition leaders are under house arrest, more than 500 people have been executed so far this year and where genuine protest is ruthlessly stamped on. The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful.”

Britain withdrew diplomats and closed the embassy for almost four years, but stopped short of severing ties.

More than three decades earlier, in the early months of the Islamic revolution, supporters of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini infamously seized 52 American diplomats, embassy staffers and others, holding them hostage inside the U.S. Embassy for 444 days.

Diplomatic relations were severed and have yet to be restored.

Commemoration of the embassy seizure – known officially as National Day of Fight against Global Arrogance – is marked each year with the burning of U.S. flags and “Death to America” chants.

The regime in Tehran is blamed for two of the deadliest embassy bombings in history:

--On April 18, 1983, a suicide car bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killed 63 people, 17 of them Americans, including CIA and USAID employees.

--On March 17, 1992, a suicide truck bombing at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires cost 29 lives.

The U.S., Argentina and Israel blame both bombings – and other major terrorist attacks in the two capitals including the Oct. 1983 U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks bombings in Beirut, and the Jul. 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israel Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires – on Iran and its  Lebanese Shi’ite proxy Hezbollah.

Iran has denied responsibility for any of the attacks.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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