Iran’s war on diplomats

Men gathering around a blindfolded man whose hands are tied (© Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Iranian students show off a blindfolded American hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 11, 1979. (© Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

When radical Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran 41 years ago and held dozens of American diplomats and embassy employees hostage, they violated international diplomatic norms and precipitated U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

While the students released 14 hostages after a short time, they did not free 52 other Americans for well over a year after their capture.

Since then, Iran has continued to practice the most undiplomatic behavior toward other countries’ diplomats around the world — as U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has said, “The regime’s brutality and amorality know no international boundaries.”

Earlier this year, Iranian authorities arrested and briefly detained Rob Macaire, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Iran. Iranians accused Macaire of taking part in illegal demonstrations in Tehran protesting the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner by Iranian forces. The ambassador contends he was attending a vigil for the victims of the crash, Reuters reported. U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus called on Iran to apologize.

The following are other examples, most of which are documented in a State Department report, Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities (PDF, 20 MB).

  • 2011: Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian American, was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring with Iranian military officials to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir, then the Saudi ambassador to the United States, while he dined at a Washington restaurant.
  • 2012: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force (IRGC-QF) targeted Israeli diplomats in India in a New Delhi bomb attack that injured three Indian citizens and one Israeli. The following day in Bangkok, three IRGC-QF operatives targeting Israeli diplomats detonated explosives that injured one perpetrator and five innocent bystanders.
  • 2015: The government of Uruguay expelled an Iranian diplomat for planning an attack near the Israeli Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay.
  • 2016: Kenyan authorities arrested two Iranian operatives and their Kenyan driver, employed by the Iranian Embassy in Nairobi, for running surveillance on the Israeli Embassy.
Men in white coats and others examining a car with bomb damage (© Kevin Frayer/AP Images)
Forensics experts in New Delhi examine a car owned by the Israeli Embassy after an explosion in February 2012. (© Kevin Frayer/AP Images)