The British government Wednesday, Nov. 30, gave Iran's diplomatic staff 48 hours to leave London after closing the UK embassy in Tehran in protest over Monday's attack on the UK embassy by an Iranian student mob. However, debkafile's Middle East sources note, the apparently tough British steps stgopped well short of painful punishment for the Iranian government's action in loosing a Basij student mob against the embassy.Had UK Prime Minister David Cameron really meant trouble, he would have shut down Iran's English-language Press TV and the London office of the World Office of Islamic Guidance.
Press TV is the Islamic Republic's primary propaganda organ for disseminating its doctrine to foreign audiences. This station, which also uses You Tube, is registered at Companies House, London and enjoys the same press freedoms as the British media although its primary mission is to vilify Western policies towards Iran and spread the message of revolutionary Shiite Islam.
The World Office, which has an annual budget of $6 million, is an outlet of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's bureau, through which he maintains ties with Islamic institutions and bodies in Europe.
By shutting down Press TV and this office, Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague would have cut down Iran's most influential global propaganda machines in the English language and their influence in Muslim communities in Europe.
Iran's leaders are locked in fierce dispute over the wisdom of the attack on the British embassy – especially since Germany, France and Holland recalled their ambassadors for consultations in solidarity with Britain over Tehran's violation of the Vienna pact guaranteeing the safety of guest diplomats. Italy too is considering this step.
President Ahmadinejad is reported by our Iranian sources as having authorized the student demonstration at the British embassy – but not the violent break-in and certainly not the six-hour capture of six diplomats as hostages until they were rescued by the Tehran police.
He condemned the students' violent behavior and warned the Supreme Leader's staff that it would harm the Islamic Republic's reputation in the long term.
Heads of Iran's National Security Council, after analyzing the statements made to parliament by Cameron and Hague, forwarded an urgent recommendation to Ayatollah Khamenei to execute damage control without delay. The Foreign Ministry thereupon stated mildly that the British move to close the Iranian embassy in London was "hasty," thereby leaving the door open for backtracking.
A senior council member told debkafile's sources that the incident happened at the worst possible moment for Iranian interests. It is likely to stiffen Western determination to clamp down harsh sanctions for Iran's nuclear activities, bring France, Germany and the rest of Europe solidly aboard, and even draw a strong condemnation from Moscow, one of Tehran's most steadfast supporters in the international arena.