Last Updated 10:15 PM EST
The British government has lodged a formal protest with the Iranian government today, following news that eight local staff members of the British Embassy in Tehran have been arrested and charged with playing significant roles in the post-election violence in the nation.
The capture of the embassy staffers will no doubt draw comparisons to the 1979 hostage situation in which 52 Americans were held after the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. The latest arrests come after weeks of Iranian accusations of US and British meddling in the election aftermath.
“The idea that the British Embassy is somehow behind the demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in Tehran. … is wholly without foundation,” insisted British Foreign Minister David Milliband. The European Union has also condemned the arrests.
British interference in Iranian affairs has centuries of precedent, going back to the Qajar dynasty of the mid-19th century, when the British government captured the city of Herat (now part of Afghanistan) and enjoyed de facto control over much of the nation’s economic affairs and used it as a foil for Russian expansion into Central Asia.
Britain and the Soviet Union then launched an unprovoked invasion of Iran during World War 2 to capture the nation’s oil fields and to use its railroads to supply Soviet soldiers. This was followed closely by the joint US-British coup in 1953 to oust the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in favor of the Shah, who would support British claims to the nation’s oil.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution relations between Iran and Britain have, like those between Iran and the United States, been strained by distrust. The British government, like the Americans, backed Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in the aftermath of the revolution.