Iran officials and social media criticise attack on embassy

Many in Iran frustrated at reaction of the hardliners who ransacked Saudi embassy

The latest political crisis between Tehran and Riyadh has prompted a backlash against hardliners in Iran.

Ordinary Iranians are often sceptical of their government's foreign policy but support its view Saudi Arabia sponsors Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State. They approve of their armed forces' involvement in proxy wars against the kingdom in Syria and Iraq.

But while many in Iran were critical of the Saudi government’s execution of dissident Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday – even though few had heard of him – they were equally frustrated at the reaction of their own hardliners, who ransacked the Saudi embassy over the weekend.

“I just knew that Nimr was against the al-Saud family, but his execution is a domestic issue which cannot justify our going up the Saudi [embassy] premises’ walls,” said Hossein, a travel agent. “I am certain the Saudis’ intention was to provoke Iran and undermine our nuclear deal [struck last summer] and tell us don’t enjoy your political stability too much.”


Even Iranian officials criticised the sacking of the embassy. President Hassan Rouhani yesterday condemned both the Saudi government for executing Nimr, and the attack on the Saudi missions. "Attack on #Saudi missions was wrong & against the law – condemned by all Iranian officials," he wrote on his Twitter feed.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the moderate foreign minister, said the damage to the embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad was "in no way acceptable".

Work of hardliners

Many others took to social media to vent their anger at what they see as the country’s humiliation at the hands of a few dozen hardliners. Someone joked that tiny


, “with 800,000 inhabitants”, had humiliated the country by cutting off relations.

“Djibouti with 800,000 inhabitants should have cut relations with Gharchak-e Varamin [a small town near the Iranian capital] but not the whole of Iran,” said Yaser on Telegram. “This happens when some Iranians climb up embassies’ walls like monkeys.”

In fact, Djibouti did not follow Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies in severing ties with Tehran but, says the Bahraini news agency, instead urged the Islamic regime to protect diplomatic missions – though it has no embassy in Tehran.

Cancelled pilgrimages

Religious Iranians are concerned the worsening crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia may prevent them from going on the Hajj pilgrimage for the foreseeable future. At least some see this as a good thing. “The best thing that can happen to this country is to prevent people from spending their money in that fanatic Saudi Arabia,” said Siamak, a 39-year-old engineer. “I hope relations are cut for ever.”

Other posts took Iranian authorities – and hardliners in particular – to task for failing to react to incidents involving Iranians in Saudi Arabia. Posts on social media listed a number of events, including the death of more than 200 Iranians in a stampede during the Hajj last September, asking why hardliners didn’t attack Saudi diplomatic premises then. They also questioned the lack of any diplomatic response to allegations that two young Iranian boys were sexually harassed when Saudi police searched them for drugs in Jeddah airport last year. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016)