A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Britain's Colonial Past Is Not Responsible for the Embassy Assault

Nixon and the Shah.

It's often held as a truism on the Right that the most oppressive regimes on earth can get free PR if they say something vaguely anti-American. It doesn't matter what crimes they're guilty of. As long as they stand firmly against the antics of the US of A, and maybe nationalise an oil company or two, there's no end of commentators willing to take the blame from their shoulders and heap it on the West instead.

Today, in The Independent, Robert Fisk does just that. He presents a long list of reasons for the Iranian students' assault on the British Embassy in Tehran yesterday, spanning a length of time that quite comfortably takes the oldest readers of this blog back to their early teens. In fact, he goes right back to their grandmother's time, seeing the seeds of unrest in the actions of Baron de Reuter back in the mid-1800s. Then, a brief tour of Iran's WWII history - specifically its invasion by the Allies on account of the reigning monarch's Nazi affiliations - before going on to the eventual reinstatement of the shah in the 1953 coup. In doing so, he lays the blame for yesterday's ransacking of the British Embassy directly at the feet of the British themselves.

The actions of yesteryear invariably impact the attitudes of today, that is true. But portraying the upheaval as a direct reaction to events that happened half a lifetime ago is tenuous, at best. Back then, British Armed Forces were bested by the Mau Mau: do we ransack the Kenyan embassy, for old time's sake? Do we celebrate D-Day by hounding German diplomats out of their offices? No. The world has moved up and on. Iran has, too, although they are often loathe to believe it.

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