Channeling internal unrest into unified hatred of the West was certainly an aspect of the British embassy storming. The protesters carried placards showing pictures of Majid Shahriari, an assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist, and Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Qods Force. Shahriari, reportedly involved in a “major project with Iran’s nuclear agency,” was killed a year ago on his way to work in one of two bomb attacks that also wounded scientist Fereidoun Abbasi. Other Iranian nuclear scientists have also been killed. In 2007, Ardeshir Hosseinpour was poisoned. In January of 2010, professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor at Tehran University, was killed by a bomb. Iran accused the West and Israel of carrying out the attacks, and they have been a lightning rod among the regimes throngs of supporters.
As for Suleimani, he is a hard-core terrorist, perhaps responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and British troops, according to American diplomatic cables. A consolidation of power by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps may lead to Suleimani’s ascension to the presidency after Ahmadinejad finishes his second and final term. Thus, the attack on the embassy may reflect a flexing of hard-line political muscle.
Yet assuming the uprising was orchestrated, why now in particular? The most likely reason is that the British imposed the harshest sanctions on Iran of any nation, the most onerous of which is the requirement that all contacts with the Iranian Central Bank be severed. If other nations adopted the same tactics, Iran’s ability to process it’s $90 billion worth of oil and gas sales would be seriously compromised.
The upside? Funding for the Iranian government, including the military, and possibly their nuclear development program, would be severely hindered. The downside? Chaos on the world oil market, engendering sky-high prices of perhaps $150 per barrel, damaging already fragile hopes for an economic recovery in both the U.S. and Europe.
Moreover, a multi-nation sanction of Iran’s Central Bank represents the last diplomatic card the West can play. After that, the real possibility of a military strike moves to the fore. The Iranians undoubtedly recognize the level of their vulnerability and seek to mitigate it the best way the know how: by adopting more aggressive posture reminiscent of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. That too was carried out by radical students who took hostages. 52 Americans were held for 444 days.
Thus, the Iranians are sending the British an unsubtle message. It was a message compounded by the fact that another group of Iranians broke into a second British compound at Qolhak in north Tehran, where demonstrators seized what state IRNA news agency called “classified documents.” No doubt another manufactured “crisis” to “unite the people.”
It remains to be seen exactly what “serious consequences” Britain intends to carry out. What ever they do, nothing, short of regime change is likely to alter Iran’s inexorable determination to acquire nuclear weapons. Despite all the other upheaval in the world, Iranian intransigence and fanaticism remains a dangerous constant. One that may soon make all those other upheavals look trivial by comparison.
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