This was the moment that British-Iranian relations re-emerged as a major global talking point. The storming of the British embassy in Iran provided the spark for the latest bout of trouble between Ahmadinejad’s oil-rich state and Great Britain.
William Hague in response closed both Iran’s embassy in London and Britain’s embassy in Tehran where he expelled 25 diplomats. Al Jazeera reported at the time that these events marked “a complete split in diplomatic relations, not cut off completely but [downgraded to] the lowest level”. Whereas the Ottawa Citizen described it as the “worst crisis in decades”.
Diplomatic relations however were already precariously balanced over a somewhat rocky precipice due to a report made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that indicated Iran may be preparing to build nuclear weapons. The Asia Times, who claim this report to merely contain “flimsy expressions of concern”, chastise Britain for leading the charge for imposing financial sanctions on Iran due to the report’s findings. The predictions that Britain’s actions in expelling Iranian diplomats could proliferate throughout the EU were condemned as a “misguided overreaction…unlikely to yield any positive results”. The article is equally critical of David Cameron’s administration as “ill-prepared for reflection on how its own actions may have precipitated the current crisis in relations, and is instead trying to seize the moment and isolate iran in the international community”.
Due to Britain’s actions, Afrasiabi, the reporter for the Asian Times asserts that suggestions Tehran and London could rebuild their relations is somewhat premature and unlikely due to “Britain’s campaign of unbounded hostility toward the Islamic Republic”.
The growing antipathy of the West towards the Iranians and vice versa worsened after the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key route for global oil supplies. Iran’s Press TV reported that Phillip Hammond (wrongly credited as British Foreign Secretary) had “violated international law by threatening to attack Iran if it closes its territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz”. Britain, and other Western powers however did send a naval presence into the Straits to prevent this potential crisis taking place. The Iranian perspective is that the British are re-exercising their colonial muscles by citing “non-existent portions of the international law in its threats of military action on Iran in case it does not allow foreign vessels pass through its territorial waters in the strategic Strait of Hormuz”. “The international law rules that all ships can enter Iranian territorial waters only upon authorization from Iran”, according to Press TV. They have also used this criticism of British colonialism to describe Britain’s intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and recent tension over the Falkland Islands.
Press TV have since been banned from British television which American political newsletter, Counterpunch question somewhat critically. It’s conclusion is that OFCOM’s decision is “another front” on the war already being waged against Iran. In fact endorsement of Press TV’s removal by some British journalists is considered an example of “the insouciant hackery of some British journalists when it comes to issues of free speech”. British journalists, of course, have taken quite a proverbial beating from the worlds media in recent weeks due to the hacking scandal.
The international response to Britain’s declining relations with Iran has provided somewhat of a mixed bag. What can be demonstrated from this, is that there is support for Iran against British actions and Iran are quite naturally documenting events as oppressive and colonial. Is this a fair assessment? We will only know as things progress, however the steady decline does not bode well for the future of British-Iranian relations which seem increasingly likely to escalate.