WASHINGTON, DC – As the West ratchets up its economic pressure on Iran to halt its drive to develop nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic’s rulers are not sitting idly by. Since Iran lacks the soft power and the economic capacity to counter Western pressure, it is likely that its leaders will resort to threats, and even to force, to prevent the West from cracking down further, as the recent attack on the British embassy in Tehran shows.
Iranian authorities claimed that angry “students” spontaneously stormed the embassy. While inside, they seized documents and set others alight, and took six embassy employees hostage. It was only much later that the crowd came under police control and the hostages were set free.
The scene was quite familiar. In 1979, the United States embassy was also attacked by angry “students,” fueling enmity between the two countries that continues to this day. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was not aware of the students’ plan in 1979. But he later endorsed their actions, and made anti-Americanism a pillar of Iran’s foreign policy.
Iran today is not the revolutionary Iran of 1979. Thirty-two years after the Islamic Republic was established, Iran’s tactics are obvious to everyone. The so-called students are members of the Basij militia, which was ordered to attack the embassy, with the police only pretending to stop them.