WASHINGTON, Nov 30, 2011 (IPS) - Scenes from Tehran Tuesday of bearded Iranian youth swarming over the walls of the British embassy evoked memories of the 1979-81 hostage crisis that created the image of Iran as a pariah state.
The latest events come in the context of an escalating intelligence and economic war between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme that could spiral out of control at a time that the world economy and an already unstable Middle East can ill afford.
The hostage crisis took place while Iran was still in the throes of revolution and solidifying its form of government. Then leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini embraced the action after it became clear that it was both popular and a means of disposing of moderate rivals within the new regime.
In contrast, Tuesday's event - despite an expression of regret by Iran's foreign ministry - appears to have been orchestrated by the regime's security forces.
It followed two mysterious explosions, one of which destroyed an Iranian missile facility, and new U.S. and European economic sanctions, including a British cutoff of dealings with Iran's Central Bank, a move that hawkish U.S. lawmakers are hoping to replicate by the end of this year. Even before Tuesday's attack, the European Union was scheduled to consider additional sanctions at a meeting in Brussels Thursday.
Police reportedly stood by while members of the Basij - a volunteer force of thuggish young men considered more loyal to the office of the current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, than to the government headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - broke into the British compound in downtown Tehran, destroyed property and burned documents. More