Leading article: A regime in trouble

Share
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing boutique prac...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: religion, politics and roads named after dictators

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?