Even with the passage of more than two weeks since a group of Basij official-militia attacked the British embassy in Tehran, and the aftermaths of the event, Principlists (the ruling hardliners in Iran who proclaim loyalty to the ideals of the 1979 revolution) continue to make contradictory statements over the issue.
Hassan Ghashghavi, a former spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, called the British response to the attack on the embassy “irresponsible” and accused UK authorities of not paying attention to their own “national interests.”
Referencing the resolution passed by the Iranian parliament in reducing relations with Britain – which took place before the attack – Ghashghavi said, “We had intended to reduce relations with Britain but not break them because of our humanitarian concern and also that a break could possible harm both countries.”
Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, earlier this month passed a resolution tasking the government to reduce the level of the country’s relations with Britain. According to the resolution, the ministry of foreign affairs had to reduce the relations to “the lowest possible” level and also lower the diplomatic relations from ambassador to that of charge d’ affair level, indicating that economic relations too would be reduced. The UK foreign office had at that very time responded by announcing that it would “firmly respond” to the passage of such a resolution.
The leader of the Islamic republic has till now refrained from making any public comments on the incident and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kept his short remarks to what the foreign ministry had said earlier, which was to criticize the attack. Speaking to reporters, foreign minister Ali-Akbar Salehi expressed “deep regret” over the attack and asserted that the government would do whatever it could to prevent a repetition of such attacks in future.
Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, however defended the attack and said, “Our youth must show their disgust but there was no reason to enter that place allowing them to turn the situation into an issue.”
On his return to London, Britain’s ambassador to Tehran named Larijani and MP Alaeddin Borujerdi as individuals who had personal interests in attacking the embassy.
These remarks by Ghasghavi and Larijani earlier come at a time when Zohreh Elahian, a Majlis member in the national security committee, once again defended the congregation of the Basij forces across the British embassy in Tehran and announced, “After the Majlis passed the resolution to reduce Iran’s relations with Britain, the Brits began to plea and some officials were contacted even from the Queen’s office and made pleas, something that still continues.”
She said, “the action by the students to invade the embassy should not be retreated,” and added, “the student action in support of Majlis was completely right and the students should have remained in front of the embassy for 3 or 4 days,” She also called for the “continuation of this action.” At the same time she labeled the entry of the students into the British embassy as “suspicious.” “We do not know what happened that the 3 layered embassy gate, which had a combination lock, opened so easily and without any effort or push. And even though windows were broken inside the British embassy, there were no locks that were broken.”
Last week, Principlists for the first time raised the notion that the event was “suspicious” and its gates opening so easily. According to them, in the course of the attack on the British embassy, the invaders were in fact instigated from inside the embassy.
Avaz Heydari, an eight Majlis member had earlier called the embassy attackers – who he said had obtained a permit for their gathering from the ministry of the interior – “over-enthusiastic and innocent youth.” He then declared that the gates “had been kept open due to provocations from inside the embassy,” which according to the police allowed some thugs to infiltrate the embassy compound, and some of the actions there were not the work of the students.”
This Majlis deputy from the national security committee claimed that Britain’s objective was to create “a crisis and a diluted atmosphere for the elections”, adding, “The British will possibly continue to develop this scenario until the actual elections” [elections is a reference to Iran’s parliamentary elections on March 2, 2012].
It should be noted that some of the students that participated in the embassy attack announced later that they “had been used” during the event [see earlier Rooz interview with them]. Two students from Hezbollah Student Association have expressly confirmed that students had been “duped” or “taken advantage” in this attack and that the law enforcement and plain-clothes agents on the scene worked in “unison” with the attackers. They also spoke of an order from the leader of the Islamic republic to vacate the embassy after it had been overrun and ransacked.
Hezbollah Student Association issued a statement after the attack in which it stated that the invaders had taken these steps “without thought,” and that their “feelings had overtaken their minds.” The statement portrayed groups that support the Islamic republic in universities to be “tools for the interests and goals” of political groups.
Britain’s government has requested compensation for the damage to the property at the embassy in the amount of over a million US Dollars.
The attack on the British embassy brought forth a quick international response against the Islamic republic which prompted many Iranian officials who had initially supported the attack, to retract their position and express their oppositions to the intrusion and destruction, while at the same time condoning their violence and sympathizing with the attackers.
Ahmad Khatami, a congregational Friday prayer guide in Tehran, who is also a member of the powerful Experts Assembly on Leadership had publicly expressed his opposition in attacking foreign embassies.
Another senior ayatollah, Nasser Makarem Shirazi who is close to the Principlists also had criticized the attack on the embassy and while calling the students who perpetrated the attack as “over-enthusiastic youth,” and said that their “supra-legal actions” provide excuses to the enemy to engage in adventures for which we will pay dearly.”
Prior to him, Hossein Mir-Mohammad Sadeghi, the former spokesperson of Iran’s judiciary had published a commentary criticizing the attack in which he said that the invasion of the embassy “was a game in the opponents’ field and it was to their benefit.”
Supporters of Ahmadinejad pronounced the attack to be a plan to weaken the administration, attributing it to Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who was Ahmadinejad’s presidential contender in 2009.