Iranian Mob Attacks British Embassy in Tehran — It’s Dejavu All Over Again!

I went to bed last night after posting a piece on Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr.’s article on the US Embassy hostages and woke up this morning to news that an Iranian mob has attacked the British Embassy in Tehran. Like Yogi Berra says, it’s dejavu all over again.  Video below Via RT:


Dorsa Jabbari, of Al Jazeera reporting from Tehran, said that the men indicate “they would not leave until they get direct orders to do so from the Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hossein Khamenei.” Excerpts below:

The British foreign ministry issued a statement saying it was “outraged” by the situation.
“It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it,” it said.

The Fars news agency also reported that six British embassy workers were freed by Iranian security forces and turned over to UK government representatives.
[…]
Our correspondent said that the police and various ministries had prior knowledge of the protest, which was organised by the student arm of the Basij armed group.

“Any such action of this could scale can never be independent in the Islamic Republic. These gatherings are always approved by higher officials,” said Jabbari.
[…]
Iran’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it regrets the attack against the embassy, and that Tehran is committed to the safety of diplomats.

It’s not like this has not happened before.

In 1979, a group of Islamist students and militants took over the
American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian Revolution.  US
hostages endured 444 days of captivity until their release on January
20, 1981.

Not to make light of that horrible experience by our diplomats, but the Russians way back had to bury their whole diplomatic staff. 

In 1829, an Iranian mob stormed and destroyed the Russian embassy and decapitated the Russian ambassador, Alexander Griboyedov. He was Russia’s ambassador to Qajar Persia, where he was massacred along with the whole embassy by the angry local mob. According to this entry in Wikipedia, the Russian government demanded severe punishment of those responsible. In fear, the court of Shah Fath Ali Shah sent the Shah’s grandson Khosrow Mirza to Saint Petersburg, where he gave the Shah diamond to the Russian Tsar as a present. In 1914, the Shah diamond came to the Kremlin Diamond Fund, where it is exhibited as one of Seven Historical Gems.

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Taking Care of the "Troops" — The State Department Way

Back in March, I posted a first person account of an FSO in Mexico amidst that country’s shooting war. (see US Mission Mexico: First Person from a Border Post).

I also did a follow-up post, In a War That Must Not Be Named, Leadership and Security On the Line. 

This is what I wrote then:

I supposed we may think of life in the Service as if it were a scale — the national strategic and security priorities on one side and on the other side, the acceptable personal risk of the employees.   But not everyone will get to look at that scale. And not everyone will get to make the judgment call.  Employees do not get to vote, diplomatic missions are not democracies.

That might as well apply to the mothership of diplomatic missions.

Thirty-two years ago, our diplomats were taken hostage in Iran. Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr. who served as an economic and commercial officer in the U.S. embassy in Iran during the hostage crisis has written an op-ed over in Politico asking “Whose side is the State Dept. on?”

“I was one of the 66 U.S. citizens taken hostage in Tehran in November 1979. Ten months before, revolutionary militants stormed the U.S. embassy, holding the mission personnel hostage for several hours and generating fear for the safety of the remaining Americans in Iran. After this group of U.S. Foreign Service personnel were recovered and removed, our State Department sent out a request to all its posts worldwide, seeking volunteers to staff the embassy in Tehran. Volunteers were informed that it was safe in Tehran and were encouraged to bring their families, including preschool-age children. In all, 66 Foreign Service officers answered this call to serve.

It was not as safe as the State Department had indicated. By October it had seriously deteriorated, as the Carter administration agreed to allow the shah to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.

As Carter had predicted, in reaction to Washington’s acceptance of the
shah, hundreds of thousands of Iranians demonstrated throughout Tehran.
Nov 4, a group of Iranians stormed the U.S. embassy, kidnapping 52
Americans. That they did so with the blessings (and under the apparent
direction) of Tehran can hardly be challenged, since less than a month
later, the government announced its intention to try the hostages as
spies and execute them — unless the U.S. paid $24 billion.
[…]
Ultimately, in January 1981, the Carter administration entered into a series of agreements known as the Algiers accords. These provided Iran a $7.8 billion payment and established the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal — through which businesses and financial institutions could file and obtain compensations for property and contract claims against Iran.
[…]
The accords, however, contained a provision that precluded the 52 hostages and their families from bringing suit against Iran for seizure, detention and injuries. They, and only they, were unable to obtain any compensation for the life-changing injuries they suffered while in the service of our country as volunteers answering the call of our government.
[…]
Congress has passed various statutes, allowing US nationals, victimized by terrorism, to obtain compensation for injuries. Literally hundreds have pursued claims in U.S. courts and received compensation for terrorism sponsored by Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea and Libya.

The Tehran embassy hostages also sought to pursue similar claims in U.S. Courts. In August 2001, we obtained a judgment against Iran — which had refused to appear to defend their indefensible conduct. But the State Department intervened to protect Iran’s interests, asserting that dismissal was necessary to protect U.S. national security interests and uphold the waiver of claims in the Algiers Accords.
[…]
In the next 10 years, all our appeals, and other efforts to obtain justice and compensation, have been defeated by the State Department. At the same time, the department has aggressively protected the rights of all U.S. corporations and banks to seek compensation from Iran. Indeed each claim has been adjudicated, and literally billions of dollars awarded, through these channels and paid by Iran.

The signal that Iran has drawn from this is clear – the U.S. cares about protecting interests of its corporations — but has no real interest in protecting its diplomats, no matter the State Department’s lip service about to the importance of diplomatic immunity and the sacrosanct status of our embassies.”

Read in full here.

I think his question deserves an answer.

Here is the relevant part of the Algiers Accords signed on January 19, 1981:

11. Upon the making by the Government of Algeria of the certification described in Paragraph 3 above, the United States will promptly withdraw all claims now pending against Iran before the International Court of Justice and will thereafter bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran of any pending or future claim of the United States or a United States national arising out of events occurring before the date of this declaration related to (A) the seizure of the 52 United States nationals on November 4, 1979, (B) their subsequent detention, (C) injury to United States property or property of the United States nationals within the United States Embassy compound in Tehran after November 3, 1979, and (D) injury to the United States nationals or their property as a result of popular movements in the course of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which were not an act of the Government of Iran. The United States will also bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran in the courts of the United States of any pending or future claim asserted by persons other than the United States nationals arising out of the events specified in the preceding sentence.

The late Warren Christopher, then the State Department’s Deputy Secretary negotiated the agreement. He was appointed 63rd Secretary of State from January 20, 1993 – January 17, 1997 by President Clinton.

Delays in Haiti Reconstruction Connected to USAID Staffing Difficulties

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released its report on the post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti. The report notes that of the total funding of $411.6 allocated for reconstruction after the earthquake, only $3.1 million or less than 1% had been expended:

As of September 30, 2011, USAID and State allocated $411.6 million for bilateral post-earthquake infrastructure construction activities in Haiti using $356.9 million in fiscal year (FY) 2010 supplemental funds and $54.8 million from regular fiscal year appropriations.9 In addition, USAID and State had obligated $48.4 million10 (11.8 percent) and expended $3.1 million (0.8 percent) of the total allocated, as shown in table 2.11.

Quick background on Haiti from GAO:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 75 percent of the population living on less than $2 per day and the unemployment rate estimated at 60 to 70 percent. These conditions were exacerbated when the largest earthquake in Haiti’s recorded history devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. Since then, Haiti has suffered from a cholera epidemic that has affected over 450,000 persons and caused over 6,000 deaths. In addition, Haiti has experienced political uncertainty following the earthquake. Due to the inconclusive presidential election of November 2010, the new President was not inaugurated until May 2011. On May 13, 2011, the U.S. and Haitian governments signed the Haiti Reconstruction Grant Agreement.

The GAO report cites USAID’s staffing difficulties as a factor in delaying USAID infrastructure construction activities in Haiti. Excerpts below:

Within a month after the earthquake, 10 of the mission’s 17 U.S. direct-hire staff12had departed Haiti, leaving the mission with 7 staff in country to manage a program heavily involved in massive relief operations and anticipating an increase in reconstruction activities. According to mission officials, U.S. direct-hire staff were permitted to leave for several reasons, primarily because approximately 40 percent of U.S. embassy housing was damaged or destroyed, the school for mission staff children was damaged and not functional, and staff were experiencing emotional challenges after the earthquake.

To fill the U.S. direct-hire vacancies, USAID posted 10 routine agency wide job announcements in March 2010, but no U.S. direct-hire staff applied. According to USAID officials, potential applicants did not apply due to, among other things, the damaged school, uncertainty about the quality of life in Haiti, and the lack of financial or other incentives in the job announcements. In May 2010, USAID again posted the 10 job announcements and, this time, attracted a number of applicants because the postings included financial incentives and waived the requirement that successful applicants bid on positions in four USAID-designated critical priority countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Sudan—upon completion of their tours in Haiti.

Having received a sufficient number of applicants for the May 2010 posting, the mission soon selected the staff. However, U.S. direct-hire staff did not begin to arrive in Haiti until early 2011 because, among other things, households and families had to be moved and some staff required up to 6 months in language training. In addition to filling existing positions, USAID received approval from the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti in February 2011 for 15 additional U.S. direct-hire staff to manage the surge in earthquake-related funding.14 These positions were announced and some candidates selected when the approval was granted in February 2011. Eleven had arrived as of September 2011 and, according to mission officials, all are expected to arrive in Haiti by February 2012. However, the mission will be implementing infrastructure construction activities until at least 2015, according to USAID planning documentation. During the next 4 years, U.S. direct-hire staff will have opportunities to bid for other positions at other posts. As U.S. direct-hire staff leave Haiti, the mission will need to replace them in order to continue the progress of infrastructure construction activities.
[…]
To meet the increased need for mission staff to manage the program, the agency temporarily hired or reassigned staff, including staff from its Haiti Task Team in Washington, D.C., to complete more than 400 temporary duty assignments for periods ranging from one week to several months.17For example, USAID used personal services contracts to hire staff to provide financial management expertise; assigned headquarters-based staff from its Latin America and Caribbean Bureau to manage and oversee rubble removal and other efforts; and provided fiscal year 2010 supplemental funding to an implementing organization to manage people who repaired roads, cleaned drainage canals, and performed other rehabilitation activities.

According to mission officials, planning and implementation of reconstruction activities were delayed because the few staff remaining in Haiti were heavily involved in recruiting, placing, and training temporary staff in Haiti. Senior mission staff stated that, for many temporary staff positions, the mission had to develop detailed scopes of work for the positions and then brief and train newly arrived staff on substantive issues. In addition, mission staff noted that the continuity of efforts was sometimes problematic as multiple staff, who turned over frequently, managed the efforts.

HAITI RECONSTRUCTION: Factors Contributing to Delays in USAID Infrastructure Construction | November 2011(pdf)