Intense rivalry among Iranian politicians is fuelling the Islamic Republic’s tensions with the west, as previously moderate figures turn radical in an effort to win support in elections.
Politicians such as Ali Larijani, speaker of parliament, and Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, Tehran’s mayor, have in recent years distanced themselves from their revolutionary backgrounds and advocated détente with the west. But they are now encouraging antiwestern sentiment in the country and leading the campaign against Britain.
Several hundred Iranian “students”, believed to have been organised by hardline politicians, stormed and ransacked the British embassy and its residential compound in Tehran on Tuesday. Western governments condemned the attack. Britain withdrew its diplomats from the country and ordered the Iranian embassy in London to close within 48 hours.
Mr Larijani on Wednesday defended the embassy attack and described it as “a symbol of Iran’s public opinion” in protest against “the hostile behaviour” of London against Tehran before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The raid came after the parliament, headed by Mr Larijani, voted by a large majority over the weekend to downgrade diplomatic and trade ties with Britain.
Hamshahri daily newspaper, which is affiliated to Mr Qalibaf, gave enthusiastic coverage of the embassy attack, complete with a big picture and headline reading “Demonstration of antiBritish sentim…