I certainly have fond memories of the British embassy in Tehran. When I first went to the Islamic Republic for language study and dissertation research, I would occasionally get a few hours’ respite in the British garden where we’d have an occasional evening with Pims and Lemonade amongst fellow English-speakers.

Certainly, the British embassy seizure fits a long-established pattern inside Iran. I detailed some of this, here, but there’s much more: Shortly before Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized British sailors in waters the Iranians disputed, the British government was proposing taking the Iranian nuclear file to the United Nations for additional sanctions. Two days before the British sailors were captured, here is what Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, had to say: “If they take illegal actions [such as sanctioning our nuclear program], we, too, can take illegal actions and will do so.”

Two lessons:

(1)   Spontaneity in Iran is pre-planned; it comes from the top. This was no rogue action.

(2)   Iranians may pooh-pooh sanctions rhetorically, but they certainly act as if they have an effect. Perhaps it’s time to take sanctions to the next level.

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