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Mon 5 Dec 2011 12:13 PM

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Western ties with Iran at new low after embassy attack

Isolated Iran edges closer to crisis amid escalating tensions with Britain, US

Western ties with Iran at new low after embassy attack
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has yet to comment on the British Embassy attack

Western relations with Iran have reached new levels of “complication” and any rhetoric between the two parties will need to be carefully managed, a Dubai-based defence analyst said Monday.

Iran, already facing fresh rounds of sanctions over its nuclear programme, risks becoming increasingly isolated after hardline youths stormed the British Embassy in Tehran last week.

Britain and other European countries withdrew their diplomats in protest at the attack, in a move that signals Iran may be edging closer to a confrontation, said Theodore Karasik. 

“Because of the storming of the British Embassy in Iran, I think we have reached a new level of complication,” he told Arabian Business. “The breakdown of international relations between Iran and the west is the next step towards some kind of confrontation; there is a lot of rhetoric out there about some kind of military strike so we all have to tread very carefully. One misstep and something bad might happen.”

Iran was on Sunday implicated in a bomb blast outside the British Embassy in Bahrain, after a vehicle parked outside the building exploded. The Gulf state, which blames Iran for inciting a political uprising that left dozens dead earlier this year, has hinted at Iran involvement.

“Official Iranian incitement has reactions as well as dangerous training in Syria as we mentioned before,” a spokesperson for Bahrain’s interior ministry said via Twitter on Sunday.

Iran also claimed today its military had shot down a US surveillance drone that crossed the border from Afghanistan.

The bomb blast may escalate the simmering tensions between Bahrain and Iran, but it was unlikely to have specifically targeted the British Embassy, Karasik said.

 “If someone really wanted to hit the British embassy, they would have hit the British embassy. Having a bomb go off somewhere nearby does not mean that it was the intended target…Violent extremists who seek to damage an embassy; they don’t [target the] outside of it,” he said.

“The bulk of what we see in Bahrain is domestic; the Iranian influence is based on cultural and family relations. Is there activity from IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] or any other Iranian intelligence agencies in the region? Yes that’s true.  Are they actually trying to ferment something? I think it’s very difficult for them to do that.”

Sunday’s bomb, which caused no casualties, is the second threat to a British embassy in the GCC in a matter of months. The British embassy in Kuwait said Oct 20 it had temporarily suspended operations following a security threat, and warned other British organisations could be at risk.

Britain’s government said it would seek compensation from Iran for the damage to its Tehran compoun, which was estimated to run to more than £1m ($1.56m).

“The damage was extensive and we will be seeking compensation from the Iranian government under the Vienna convention, but it's too early to talk about precise figures,” a Foreign Office spokesman told the Independent newspaper.

Iran’s foreign minister on Monday expressed regret over the incident and pledged to prevent future attacks, according to a statement from the German foreign ministry.

“On the issue of the attack on the British embassy in Tehran, the Iranian foreign minister expressed that he was deeply sorry for what has happened,” Germany said. “He assured to do everything to prevent such an incident from happening again.”

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