I mean no disrespect to the Mother Country, but why would the Iranians bother to seize the British embassy? Britain ran out of gas as a world power more than half a century ago. Ali Alfoneh is right that this is a farcical replay of the seizure of our embassy in 1979, but the reasons the Tehran regime thought this was a good idea are interesting. It could be that someone thought seizing an embassy, using the pretext of new sanctions imposed by the U.K., would be a rallying cry for an increasingly divided ruling elite and an increasingly restive and dissatisfied population.
But the British embassy resonates because the conspiratorial nitwits in the Middle East — both at the elite and public levels — still think the Brits are pulling the strings in world affairs. The Brits have withdrawn not only from East of Suez but even West of Suez, and may even be withdrawing from Scotland before too long (which might not be so bad, since Labour would be reduced to a rump in a once-again English Parliament). Yet the dolts in Iran still refer to the U.K. as the “Old Fox,” perfidiously working its will abroad. They’re like that other bunch of loonies, the LaRouchies, who think the Queen is somehow in charge of the global drug trade (or something).
What’s important for policy is that we understand that this conspiratorial delusion is real, and not just among gullible hotheads in the streets. The people who run things in the Middle East actually believe that the Foreign Office continues to call the shots in much of the world, along with the omnipotent and omniscient CIA and, behind them both, the Joooooos. Their misunderstanding of reality makes it more difficult to deal with them, certainly, but should also give us leverage of some sort, though I’m not sure how. The important point for our policymakers and businessmen and soldiers is to know that these hallucinations aren’t just boob bait for Muslim bubbas — their Middle Eastern counterparts, even away from the glare of public attention, actually believe this stuff.