Saturday, 3 December 2011


The Iranian mob attack on the British embassy represents a dreadful manner by which the government handled the entire affair. It made matters worse after the attack by its undiplomatic rhetoric - essentially blaming the victim - thus reveling a huge reality disconnect on the part of Iranian officials with reality of international politic. Even if it turns out that the Quds Force, a group loosely linked to the Revolutionary Guard, that does not excuse the government's failure to protect the embassy. 
In fact, the manner that Iran has handled the entire affair is contrary to its best interests and it affords an opportunity to the US to rally support behind its policy to further isolate and undermine Iran. All 100 US senators voted to cut Iran's central bank off from the global financial system, making it even more difficult fot the country to do business. Because Iran accounts for about 5.5% of the world's oil supply, exporting about half of that amount, mostly to EU and within Europe to the debt-ridden southern countries, the northwest European governments will have to assess how far they want to go with a ban on Iranian oil, especially since Iran is not demanding cash up front from Greece that receives no such treatment from any other exporter in the world. Because the US is in a difficult position of pushing the EU to do something about stimulating growth for 2012, it has to figure out hoe the EU can cope without half-a-million barrels of Iranian oil a day, if a ban is imposed.
Iran for its part blames UK as a long-standing enemy, and that is certainly true. However, it is completely immaterial what the Iranian government believes is right and wrong in this case, what it believes were the lingering ideological and political causes responsible for the embassy attack by the crowd of people, what it believes is a measured response from the West as a result of what happened to the UK embassy, and all this for the simple reason that the government in Tehran has failed to carry out international obligations to which it is a signatory.

The reality is that perception in politics is the only reality, and the perception in this case is that the attack on the British embassy attack brings back memories of 1979 and the capture of the US embassy. The last thing Iran needed was for the US to have the entire EU behind its Iranian Cold War policy. To have the Arab states using the pretext of the British embassy to further isolate Iran, and to have both Russia and China cornered on this issue - all denouncing the event as they should have - comes at the worst possible time for Iran. In short, Iran is responsible and no one else for what may be coming ahead.

To blame Israel, to blame the US, to blame everyone except the dreadful mistakes that the government has made with regard to this specific issue is not selling with many people outside of Iran, and even within it I am sure there are those who dreaded the event. I hope that the government in Tehran takes this opportunity to reevaluate its approach to foreign policy, both in terms of substance and hyperbolic and monotone anti-Israel rhetoric. 
I am willing to bet that privately there are Iranian officials who believe the attack on the embassy and the official response to it were dreadfully handled. The question for Iran is whether it wants to become a great regional power and develop its nuclear energy technology along with the rest of the economy, or whether it is using that as leverage to sustain an Islamic regime in place that values dogma more than it does the overall progress and welfare of its people and nation.

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