The disgraceful attack by hardline Basijis — the same group that beat and killed peaceful demonstrators in Iran in 2009 — against the British embassy in Tehran appears on the surface to be a response to Britain’s role in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran. The US and the EU are preparing new sanctions on Iran, including potentially Central Bank and oil sanctions. And there has been an onslaught of computer viruses, assassinations of Iranian scientists, and several Iranian facilities have blown up in just a few weeks. Viewing the attack on the British embassy as a response to the increasing pressure Iran is faced with may be accurate. With Iran trying to prove to the West that it doesn’t respond to pressure, Tehran might have calculated that upping the ante may make that message crystal-clear.
But there is more to this picture.
While the actions of the Basij government militia takes place in a foreign policy context and has clear implications for Iran’s relations with the West, there are also some significant domestic political roots to this crisis.
Consider the following. The Obama administration has been on the offensive in the past few weeks, ratcheting up pressure on Iran through sanctions and measures to isolate Iran. Yet, behind the scenes, conversations have been held with partners in the UN Security Council –not necessarily driven by the United States — to restart diplomacy, centered on the nuclear issue. Sometimes early in 2012, an…