Leading article: A regime in trouble

Related Topics

Relations between Britain and Iran, rarely cordial in recent years, suffered a sharp deterioration yesterday with tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions. Iran expelled two British diplomats, accusing them of spying, and Britain – as David Miliband announced in the Commons – expelled two Iranians in response, while insisting, as is a set piece of such occasions, that the British had done nothing wrong.

That tensions were rising on the diplomatic front had been apparent for days. The families of British diplomats were evacuated yesterday. What is more, Iran's accusations conformed to a well-worn rule: the more beleaguered a regime feels, the more it looks for a scapegoat beyond its borders. And where Iran is concerned, the role of scapegoat – for historical and cultural reasons – disproportionately falls on Britain. The day before ordering the diplomats' expulsions, Iran had given the BBC correspondent in Tehran 24 hours to leave the country.

BBC coverage of the Iranian election and subsequent protests has incurred the Iranian government's displeasure. This is not because it was less than scrupulously accurate, but because, via the internet and mobile phones, it was able to draw on unofficial Iranian sources. The Corporation's recently started Farsi television service has also been seen as provocative interference in Iran's internal affairs.

Now, with the ayatollahs trying desperately to hang on to power and Tehran teetering on the brink of civil unrest, is not the time to expect a new détente. Nor can it be excluded that the mood will get worse before it gets better. The UN Secretary General was another who drew Tehran's ire yesterday.

What is notable, however, is that Iran has so far fought shy of escalating hostility with the United States. It is possible that the British expulsions were intended as a warning, with Britain – seen as Washington's closest ally – cast as proxy. But so long as Tehran resists picking a new quarrel with the United States, President Obama's efforts to foster a new relationship with Tehran are not lost. If, as it appears, the ayatollahs are hesitant to burn their bridges with this US administration, that offers a sliver of hope.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam