Iranians storm British Embassy, diplomatic compound
Young Iranians stormed the British Embassy compound and a separate diplomatic residence here on Tuesday as security forces looked on, triggering a dramatic escalation in tensions between Iran and the West at a time of already high anxiety over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The apparently deliberate decision by Iranian authorities to allow demonstrators and paramilitary members to pillage the two sites is likely to increase Tehran’s global isolation. It also could increase the strain in Iran between two rival blocs: forces loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and those aligned with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Tuesday’s rampage — which involved demonstrators hurling satellite dishes from the roof of the embassy and ransacking files — was spearheaded by hundreds of members of a volunteer militia that pledges fealty to the supreme leader. But it elicited a contrite statement from Ahmadinejad’s Foreign Ministry, which called the assault on the British sites “unacceptable.”
With pressure on Iran escalating amid reported advances in its nuclear program, Khamenei declared last week that the country would meet “threats with threats.” On Sunday, after a decision by Britain to intensify sanctions against Iran, the parliament here voted to expel the U.K. ambassador.