Today the government of Iran mounted an attack on Britain’s embassy compound in Tehran. Its purpose was to produce shock and consternation. The “students” who carried out the attack appeared to be firmly under the control of Ahmadinejad’s regime; the Washington Post quotes a description of the Basij militia members who stormed the compound as “government-controlled rent-a-mobs who are at the beck and call of Iranian security forces.” This is certainly consistent with the way the riot was reported by the FARS News Agency, a government mouthpiece, which portrayed the rioters in a heroic light.
The attack on the British embassy was frightening for those inside or nearby. The rioters were perhaps least threatening when they engaged in theft:
Here, government thugs tear down the British flag from the embassy and replace it with Iran’s banner:
Iranian “students” rampaged throughout the compound that houses the British Embassy. Here, they smash the windows of an outbuilding:
News accounts say that embassy personnel fled out the back of the embassy. It would have been easy for the Iranian authorities to seal off such escape routes, so it appears that for now, Iran’s leaders do not intend to duplicate their “America Held Hostage” coup of 1979 and 1980. That could change, of course, at any moment.
The U.K. recently was involved in imposing sanctions on Iran, but whether that was a plausible motive for today’s attack, and whether it made any real sense to single out Great Britain in connection with those sanctions, I do not know. What seems clear is that Iran wants to remind the West of the disaster that was the 1979-80 hostage crisis, presumably to deter further sanctions or other moves to hem in Iran’s military options.