Attacks against embassies are an Iranian specialty

There is much political hand-wringing in Western capitals over the killing of top-ranked Iranian military strategists conducting an operational meeting with top-ranked Palestinian terrorists inside an Iranian embassy building in Damascus.

Some countries in the West seem to have short memories, so here’s some important perspective.

There is an assumption that the attack was carried out by Israel.

Iran has long targeted Israel overtly, and also covertly via a plethora of proxies – Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) et al.

The legal position
Iran’s Damascus embassy complex was hosting a military operation in blatant contravention of agreed diplomatic protocols. Embassies are protected institutions not primarily because of their status as embassies per se, but because – like schools, hospitals and churches for instance – they are deemed civilian infrastructure: in law the only requirement regarding protection is that the host country (in this case Syria) shall provide the embassy with adequate protection. There is no law that requires other countries to respect that protection. This is particularly so if the embassy in question has voluntarily surrendered its status as civilian infrastructure by virtue of its use as a military base. Once civilian infrastructure is proven to be used for active military purposes, it is regarded as a valid military target as per the rules of war, with the important proviso that collateral civilian casualties be avoided or at least minimised. In the case of the Damascus embassy bombing, no civilians were either injured or killed, the only casualties being Iranian and Palestinian military personnel.

In Iran’s Damascus embassy, Iranian military personnel were meeting with Palestinian military personnel to transfer instructions and materiel for the ongoing war against Israel that is being financed, planned and executed by Iran. This follows a long and documented history of both Shia and Sunni Islamists abusing protected civilian infrastructure for illicit military use.

This particular civilian infrastructure was the Iranian embassy, albeit used for illegal military activity. But Iran itself has made embassy bombings its very own specialty for more than 30 years.

Iran’s history of embassy bombings

Iran via its proxies bombed the US embassy in the Lebanon (twice). Iran via its proxies bombed the Israeli embassy in Argentina. Iran attempted to bomb the Israeli embassies in India, Kenya, Thailand, Georgia. Security services have uncovered and stopped attempted assassinations of US, Israeli and Saudi diplomats in Bulgaria and the United States. Furthermore, the brutal regime of the ayatollahs was itself born in the regime’s illegal invasion of the US Tehran embassy in 1979 and the kidnapping of US embassy personnel, who were held hostage for more than a year. The Iranian regime conveniently forgets its own history in its single-minded racist pursuit of everything Jewish.

To all this should be added the long list of military-terrorist activities carried out by Iranian diplomatic personnel from behind the protection of their embassies in France, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Albania and elsewhere. The complete list would read like an atlas of virtually the entire world.

The Iranian regime openly declares its intent to “wipe Israel off the map”. The regime’s documented attempts to act on this intention as official government policy means it is both legally and politically justified for the intended target of this genocidal regime, Israel, to respond proactively to foil such acts of genocide. Particularly as Israel is currently engaged in a war of survival orchestrated, financed and prosecuted by none other than Iran.

Never again is right now
Against the backdrop of Iran’s legion abuse of its diplomatic missions for terrorism, and its direct and proxy assassinations and attempted assassinations of diplomats the world over, the West needs to calm its rhetoric about the inviolability of embassy grounds. That message needs instead to be delivered, with emphasis, to the Iranian regime. Meantime, Israel should be given all the diplomatic and military backing it needs to defend its citizens from the onslaught of the vicious Islamist regime in Teheran.

Heads of state seeking re-election and politicians wanting to canvass more votes should not be tempted to once again be bystanders as Jews are thrown into the fire. Appeasement has never worked. Recent history from just 70 years ago has proved this with frightening clarity.

And no: the expression “Jews … thrown into the fire” is not a figure of speech. It’s literally what Iran-funded, Iran-trained Hamas did to Jewish babies on October 7th 2023. Let Israel get on with the job of ensuring this can never happen again.

Because never again is right now.

About the Author
Served as deputy chair of the West Sweden branch of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association. Written three political thrillers about Sweden-Israel-Gaza in The Hart Trilogy: "Bridges Going Nowhere" (2014), "The Threat Beneath" (2015) and "From the Shadows" (2016), where the action switches seamlessly between Samaria, Gaza, Israel, Sweden and Iran. Work has started on a fourth book, "Picture Imperfect".