Disgraceful Roots

Why the UK Embassy was attacked?


Disgraceful Roots
by Trita Parsi

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, another meeting between the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran have been in the making.

The Ahmadinejad government has given some public indications that it would welcome such talks. In conversations with Russia, the Iranians have further signaled that it was ready for talks, whether based on some version of the Russian proposal for a step-by-step process or on Iran's offer to end enrichment at 20% in return for having the West sell it fuel rods for its Tehran Research Reactor. (Washington gave this reactor to Iran more than 40 years ago, and today it produces isotopes for approximately 850,000 Iranian cancer patients.)

But Ahmadinejad's domestic rivals, mainly conservatives around the current Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani, is in no mood to permit a new round of diplomacy where the Ahmadinejad government would lead the talks. As part of the political infighting between the conservatives themselves, fueled by the upcoming parliamentarian elections, the parliament has under Larijani's leadership gone to great lengths to paralyze the Ahmadinejad government and turn him into a lame duck.

One apparent avenue for the Larijani camp to undermine the prospects for talks was to target Britain's new ambassador to Iran, Dominick Chilcott. Ahmadinejad and his foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi had been pushing to get the British ambassador accredited. Larijani's parliament, however, began a campaign a few weeks ago to expel Ambassador Chilcott, reduce diplomatic representation to the level of charge d'affaires and to pare down economic relations. The measure was approved by the parliament this past Sunday, but needed Ahmadinejad's approval to take force.

Ahmadinejad and Salehi resisted, knowing very well that it would significantly diminish the prospects for a new round of talks. At that point, apparently, the hardliners around Larijani decided to unleash their mobs. Approximately 300 paramilitary Basijis staged a demonstration outside of the embassy and eventually broke into the premises, causing severe damage. All in front of the cameras of Iran's state TV, aired live. The Basijis demanded that the parliament's edict be implemented.

The divide is not necessarily over whether there should be talks with the P5+1 or not. Larijani's maneuvering is more about weakening Ahmadinejad and strengthening his own future position in Iran than to oppose diplomacy per se. And Ahmadinejad desire for diplomacy is not due to new-won moderation.

In fact, not long ago, the tables were turned. When Larijani was Iran's nuclear envoy and negotiated with the P5+1 over the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad went to great lengths to sabotage his efforts. Often times, a few offensive statements by Ahmadinejad - whose talent for insulting and provoking Western audiences is well established - was enough to render progress in the talks impossible.

And it's not only the West that has been the target of Ahmadinejad's sharp tongue. In 2006, Ahmadinejad undermined Larijani's efforts to make diplomatic headway in Moscow by telling reporters that Moscow must dismantle its nuclear weapons. A year later, Larijani resigned his post as nuclear envoy in frustration and began his plans to treat Ahmadinejad with his own medicine.

The attack on the British embassy was not only illegal and disgraceful, it was also a sign of how statecraft in Iran has deteriorated over the past years as a result of internal bickering within the political elite. Key actors within the regime are willing to be take excessive risks on the international stage through reckless actions in order to score points in their petty domestic rivalries.

Increasingly, it seems as if there are no adults in the room when Tehran makes its decisions.

First published in HuffingtonPost.com.

Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian-American Council.


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more from Trita Parsi

Excellent analysis…

by Bavafa on

And I wonder if some here even bother to read the opinion piece before commenting or is that they see “Titra” and a made-mind puts pen to paper?

'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 




by khengali on

Thanks Trita

Your analysis is helpful in demystifying the political machinations of today's IRI's leadership clique.As usual it is they who make life and death decisions for the rest of us. As usual it is us who must pay the price with our bloods, tears, and treasures.

I find your last sentence particularly poignant:" ...Seems there are no adults in the room...".

Some thirty years ago an American serviceman, after meeting in secret with his Iranian counterparts in Tehran, observed: "...Iranians are not sophisticated negotiators...". His name was Oliver(Ollie) North, colonel, US army.

A wise Iraqi friend of mine, bemoaning Saddam's decision to dismiss UN's demand that Iraqi armed forces evacuate Kuwait, opined: Don't pick a fight you cannot win


 Aynak: I think Bani Sadr

by vildemose on

 Aynak: I think Bani Sadr has a point. But the US is not going to attack Iran until Syria and Hezbollah are out of the way and it will take several years for that to happen.


Separation of Church and State AND Corporation


Interesting analysis about British embassy takeover by Bani Sadr

by aynak on

According to BaniSadr, the regime knows the military attack will happen, within a year, so they want it sooner than later, this is really to push for early war.  The direct command has come from Khamane-ee:

Audio link:




Shazde Asdola Mirza

Petro $ + NIAC = favorable analysis

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

Against all the facts, TP is trying to sell us this key point:

"IRI (that he calls Iran) is just another government looking after its own interests ... just like the US, UK, etc. Treat it like the other states, and it will behave nicely."

Yeah ... right! Only a four-year old child (which TP was when he left Iran) can believe that. Or perhaps someone with other motives ($$$)?

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

My take

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I said about a year ago I was going to watch and see how it goes. A year is up and I am disappointed. I wish  Parsi and NIAC would openly demand a regime change. It is going to be the only way to save his organization.

Most Iranians I know want a regime change. In fact is more than most it is almost ALL. Therefore NIAC is going to alienate people by appearing to support the regime. Note that it does not even have to be true but just the appearance is bad. 

I go further:  anything short of calling for a regime change is insufficient. My advise to Dr. Parsi is to say 'I was wrong; IRI cannot be reasoned with and has to go". That may salvage his standing with Iranian people; put him in the dog house with IRI. 


 Afshinazad: Spot on. The

by vildemose on

 Afshinazad: Spot on. The fact is that even Khamenie himself is not completely in charge. Noone really knows who is in charge?? There are only gangs with their own turfs and their own militias...

Jeesh Daram


by Jeesh Daram on

خوب مادر جون اول توی ایرانین-دات-کام چاپش میکردی و بعد توی "هافینگتون پست"، یعنی ما باید دست دوماشو بخونیم.  بهرحال این مقاله کمک کرد که من متوجه بشم تریتا اسم دختر نیست و نام پسر است ولی چیز دیگری که دندانگیر باشد نصیبمان نشد. تشریح تفاوتهای بین احمدی نژاد و امثال لاریجانی برای فاطی تنبون نمیشه.  آنها تماما از یک توبره میخورند



by afshinazad on

TRITA, For someone like you who doesn't ... what happens to Iranian but your own interest with getting millions of dollars from satanic regime and oil companies.

You must understand that there is no government in Iran and country runs just by itself, can't you understand that there is no functioning rule of law in country and several mafia groups do whatever they do and at end of day they pay the Khamaneni’s share.

We have a lot of traitors in our nation and seeing you acting as an ambassador of the regime make me quite angry, why someone like who could work for national interest and for democracy and human rights, instead you are working for everything that Iranian hate, I guess money and humanity and dignity wouldn't share the same path.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


  • Petition. I don't think it is fabricated. There are enough left wingers who support IRI in the West. I know some right here in the USA. Do not underestimate the ignorance of the hard left wing.
  • The future is not bright by any means.  I bet that future of IRI is none. It is going to be removed. Real one is the future of Iran. That depends on us Iranian Americans. Pressure Obama to guarantee Iran will bot be broken up and no MEK.



It is  an important part in Iranian history.We must preserve Iranian territorial integrity. Iranian Americans are in a good position to pressure Obama to do that. I know many people hate NIAC. But it has influence and should use it for this instead of bailing out IRI. Wouldn't it be good if it did so.

Jahanshah Javid

Excellent analysis

by Jahanshah Javid on

The internal power struggle in Iran is real. A struggle between thugs and super thugs, but a struggle nonetheless. The pressures on Ahmadinejad and his allies has increased substantially and continuing with full force, from the basij and IRGC, the Majles and the judiciary with Khamenei's full consent.

Under these circumstances the possibility of a compromise over the nuclear issue, which was close to nil before, is now impossible. I don't see any compromise coming from the Iranian side even after Ahmadinejad, even after feeling the full impact of the sanctions (central bank and oil exports). They are digging in deeper and deeper. The future is not bright by any means.



by vildemose on


Fabricated petition?

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency reports:

A group of British civil activists as well as political and cultural figures protested the hasty decision by the UK government to close down Iranian embassy in London.

In a petition addressed to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, they urged the British government to revise its decision and take necessary measures to fully restore diplomatic ties with Iran.

The petition signed by about 20 academics, journalists, political activists and religious figures stressed that “It is not the Iranian government which demonstrated against British foreign policy but ordinary Iranians, understandably enraged by decades of repressive sanctions and threats of military strikes by Israel.”

EA WorldView notes that the petition appears to be fabricated and “[t]here is no sign of the petition other than on IRNA’s English-language service.” Does anyone know more?

I’m inclined to agree that it’s a phony story. Except I imagine at least 20 academics, journalists, political activists and religious figures could be found to sign something like that. "



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Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

I don't get

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


This at all. What do people want to happen anyway? If you want IRI gone then forget diplomacy. Increase pressure; but expect IRI to react violently. The Mollahs will not go quietly. There is nothing to discuss no negotiations.

NIAC must give up any attempt to mediate other than to work out a transition. If Khamenei wants to negotiate leaving say for Russia or China that is fine. But other than it there is nothing to talk about. I agree that NIAC should give it up.

What bugs me is the duplicity of Europe in particular France and Britain. They both worked hard to install Khomeini. Now suddenly they act as if they are upset. At least Greece is honest.

Oon Yaroo

If this is not the proverbial smoking-gun in proving

by Oon Yaroo on

proverbial smoking-gun in proving that Trita Parsi (i.e., NIAC) supports IRR then I don't know what other evidence one needs to offer and provide!

Either Trita Parsi considers Iranians as idiots or he himself is one by believing and propagating nonsense such as this!

This cliche justification of assailing Western embassies by the Basiji's and the militant student mobs, for the IRR's disagreements with the important issues such as the weaponiztion of its nuclear program, as the IRR's internal bickering is simply a pure crock of crap and has no buyers anymore!

If anything, this so-called internal bickering is deliberately satged by the mullahs to buy more more time to get nuclear bomb!

Mullahs must be dealt with according to the language they understand and respond to. And, that is you need to strike them militarily!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Re: France

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Remind me to thank it for flying in Khomeini to Iran.Now 33 years too late they make a stance. Bunch of hypocrites and Jerks.

Ali A Parsa

Trita is on the wrong side this time!

by Ali A Parsa on

My take is that about 99% of opinions on this subject are opposed to this analysis beyond a reasonable doubt that is the law of this land. In the interest of the time I am not going to copy and paste all these again. Over all we have beaten this issue to death and we should use our valuable time to address other issues.



 France pulls its

by vildemose on

 France pulls its diplomats out of Iran:


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Give it up Trita!

by Faramarz on

What a bunch of baloney from the good doctor!

First Trita sets the stage by implying that the west has duplicitous role in “an onslaught of computer viruses, assassinations of Iranian scientists and several Iranian facilities have blown up in just a few weeks.” Therefore retaliation should have been expected. Then he gets into the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” scenario as IranFirst stated and somehow tries to portray Ahmadi as the reasonable person that also has the authority to negotiate and solve problems with the west. Really?

Face the music Doc! The Regime is in fear as it sees Syria collapsing and Turkey and the Arab World are becoming more and more assertive about Assad’s departure. These violent actions by the Regime are an indication of their state of mind and panick as dominos are falling around them.

Get with the program Trita and stop re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. You are on the wrong side of the history.


Trita Parsi Rationalzing IRI's Good Cop Bad Cop games

by IranFirst on

Mr Parsi/NIAC is saying (to West) not to be discoutaged by Basijis (the
bad cop) who have done a bad thing (Attacking UK Embassy), which was a
bad method and then he rationalizes their intent as a response to
pressures on IRI. Then he goes on to say that Antari (the good cop) has
shown signs that he would like to negotiate (the same delaying games
that Antari has been playing for years). No where in Mr. Parsi's article
there is any direct blame on IRI and why Iran is in this near-war
position (because of direct and irresponsible acts of IRI). There are no
good cops or bad cops, there is only one IRI ruled by VF and has never
been interested in any meaningful negotioation in Nuclear or oter


great analysis!


spot on!


2 reasons

by Joubin on

"Why the UK Embassy was attacked?" 


1 - To disrupt intelligence operations and obtain information.

2 - To create linkage with Iran in the planned invasion of Syria and raise stakes via escalation.

So fundamentally it was all about disrupting operational assumptions. Smells like military intelligence.  (Somewhat reaffirmed by the confusion of PressTV, et al. as to how to report it.)



 Why was  HG reply to my

by vildemose on

 Why was  HG's reply to my question about "hamayesh bozorg" removed??


Separation of Church and State AND Corporation


  The World from

by vildemose on


The World from Berlin 'Never Before Has the World Been as Close to War with Iran'




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 Much better analyses

by vildemose on

 Much better analyses here:



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The real disgraceful roots

by aynak on


Trita, I read the title of your analysis and thought immediately your article is talking about the real root of the embassy attack: 

If we look back at the original hostage crisis back in 1979, this was exactly why Khomanee blessed the "Khateh Imam students" to maintain their hold of U.S embassy.   Basically, he wanted  to get rid of Bazargan, and consolidate his power,  and Bazargan unlike charlatan AhmadiNejad, would not stand his government being undermined by thugs.   So Bazargan resigned, later the war started.   That shining example of Islamic Regimes "leadership" has been the blue-print for the rest to follow, No matter what the cost to lives of Iranian, or damage to Iran.

But your article makes sever error in analysis:

Trita writes: "The attack on the British embassy was not only illegal and disgraceful, it was also a sign of how statecraft in Iran has deteriorated over the past years.."

What deterioration?   When did we really witness statecraft thriving that now we see it deteriorate, if we see the same pattern of behavior that we saw from the get go?   In fact if you refer to Khatami's time, shouldn't one consider that period an anomaly, given how short lived it was and given its final outcome:  A more aggressive, lawless, thuggish regime?


Then your observation is interesting in itself: 

 "Increasingly, it seems as if there are no adults in the room when Tehran makes its decisions."

Really?  Do you think after 1988 coup, no one sensed absence of adult supervision?

I am not very smart, and want you to spell it out for me.  Let's forget the interest of Iranian people for a second,   What exactly are you proposing?   Say I am a U.S official and want Trita's advice, I know this regime has put its own closest allies in jail inside Iran, without charge or trial, and even yesterdays friends are now enemies, who would not even consider international norms when trying to settle internal scores (according to you), why would I make a deal with them, when they don't even know the appropriate stage for settling their domestic disputes?   Are you suggesting U.S should provide adult supervision, by mediating between Ahmadi-Nejad and Khamaneh-ee?  


 Really, Please help me understand.  


Esfand Aashena

Agree Bahmani mayb d day can come when NIAC can "lobby" Larijni!

by Esfand Aashena on

Everything is sacred


Larijani faction does not

by vildemose on

Larijani's faction does not want grand bargain. Ahamdinejad's faction pretends that it wants grand bargain. Ahamdinejad's faction is powerless...did I miss anything?



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Anonymous Observer

so does this mean

by Anonymous Observer on

The attack on the British embassy was not only illegal and disgraceful, it was also a sign of how statecraft in Iran has deteriorated over the past years as a result of internal bickering within the political elite. Key actors within the regime are willing to be take excessive risks on the international stage through reckless actions in order to score points in their petty domestic rivalries.

So does this mean that Arbabsiar's Saudi terror affair was in likelihood true as well? 


Once again, wonderful analysis and insight

by bahmani on

Too bad NIAC can't do anything about any of this.

Wouldn't it be good if for example, NIAC could have contacted Larijani and "lobbied" him just like any other politician in the US, and argued better counsel and advice and worked to develop a less reactionary alternative than has been implemented?

Let;s face i folks, we are at this point with NIAC. Like it or not, this is the only group we have that has the ability to do something like this in an orderly, peaceful and respectful way. To get what has now been proven yet once again, that all of this, posturing, threatening, and bluffing and bidding and counter bidding, is nothing more than mere politics and brinksmanship by statesmen standing at the podium and a gavel.

Iran differs from the US only in the backwater country sense, that when the commands are given by political leaders in Iran, rather than mobilize calling banks and voters to outcry by jamming phone lines and fax machines and email, in Iran the Basijis do this the old fashioned way.

It's not a far leap of faith to steer this, and if part of NIAC's lobbying included workshops and online training classes for Iran's politicians on the negative long term impact of using the Basijis to make their points to the British government, I am sure that these Iranian politicians are willing to listen to expert advice that NIAC having earned it's chops in US politics, can teach them.

Larijani is obviously maneuvering to take over from Ahamdinejad by getting in the way and saving the coolest reforms for himself to implement.

Ahmadinejad is desperate to try and remain a factor after this term is up.

This is all great stuff, great political drama and theater. NIAC can stage manage this effortlessly. From the US even! The only bad part is the Basijis showing up to ruin the party, and of course that whole oppressive tyrannical illegitimate government thingey...

But we can address that later...

To read more bahmani posts visit: //brucebahmani.blogspot.com/