Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 02/21/2019
Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 12/26/2018 –
Afghan officials said on Tuesday that a suicide bomber struck a compound of Pakistani Baloch insurgents in southern Kandahar, killing and injuring several militants.
Zia Durrani, a spokesman for the Kandahar police chief, told the BBC Pashto radio that at least two people were killed and three others injured in the attack in Ayno Mina area in Kandahar, bordering Balochistan. Durrani did not offer comments on the nationality.
Section of the Afghan media reported that those killed and injured belonged to a family of Baloch militants.
Pakistani official sources, however, said that five Baloch insurgents were killed in the attack.
Sources said the bomber attacked the residence of Baloch Liberation Army’s commander and head of Majeed Brigade Aslam Achu at around 4pm. As a result seven persons, including Aslam Achu, was killed and three others were injured, the official sources said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack. They said Aslam Achu was mastermind of the attacks on a Chinese consulate in Karachi and a bus carrying Chinese in Dalbadin area of Balochistan.
Three gunmen tried to attack the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23, killing two police guards and a father and his son, who were there to get visa. The outlawed BLA had claimed responsibility for the attack. On August 11, a suicide bomber had struck a bus carrying a team, including Chinese engineers, working on the Saindak Copper-Gold Mine project near Dalbandin, injuring three Chinese and two locals.
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Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 12/20/2018
The government of Albania has ejected Iranian agents alleged to have plotted terrorist attacks in the country, including targeting Israelis.
“I commend PM Edi Rama’s expulsion of two Iranian agents who plotted terrorist attacks in Albania,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. “European nations have thwarted three Iranian plots this year alone. The world must stand together to sanction Iran’s regime until it changes its destructive behavior.”
The foiled plot is related to Iranians, who planned to attack a World Cup soccer match between Albania and Israel in 2016.
One of the two Iranian agents expelled was the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to Albania.
“Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania just expelled the Iranian ambassador, signaling to Iran’s leaders that their support for terrorism will not be tolerated,” National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote on his Twitter feed. “We stand with PM Rama and the Albanian people as they stand up to Iran’s reckless behavior in Europe and across the globe.”
The expulsion of the two Iranian agents on Wednesday follows the arrest of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat in the Vienna embassy who is believed to have launched a plot to blow up a meeting of Iranian dissidents in Paris in June. The German government arrested Assadi in Bavaria.
In October, France’s government said Iran’s ministry of intelligence was behind the plot to bomb the rally of Iranian opposition groups in Paris.
The rally in Paris was attended by US President Donald Trump’s attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Former US House speaker Newt Gingrich was also present.
In November, Denmark accused Iran’s intelligence agency of planning to murder an exiled leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), groups fighting for a separate territory in Iran. “We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil. Obviously, we can’t and won’t accept that,” said Finn Borch Andersen, the head of Danish intelligence.
Sweden extradited a Norwegian national of Iranian background to Denmark in connection with the foiled plot against the ASMLA leader.
The Danes pulled their ambassador out of Iran but he returned in November.
The Danish government pushed the EU for sanctions against Iran, but the EU has refused to take action.
The Netherlands expelled two Iranian diplomats, according to a Reuters report in July. “We can confirm that the Netherlands has expelled two persons accredited to the Iranian embassy,” a spokesperson for Dutch intelligence said. “We will not provide any further information.”
Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 11/07/2018
Tehran (AFP) – Iran’s annual rally to mark the storming of the US embassy and hostage-taking of 1979 had particular significance on Sunday on the eve of renewed sanctions by Washington.
Thousands joined rallies in Tehran and other cities, carrying placards that mocked President Donald Trump, wiping their feet on fake dollar bills, and engaging in the usual ritual of burning the US flag.
This year’s 39th anniversary fell just hours before Washington was set to reimpose sanctions — including an oil embargo — following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal earlier this year.
Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, addressed the crowd from the grounds of the former embassy, now known as the “den of spies”.
He said “economic warfare” was a final bid by Washington to overthrow the Islamic republic after decades of failed attempts.
“With God’s help and the resistance and perseverance of the pious and revolutionary people of Islamic Iran, this last weapon of the enemy — the economic war — which is accompanied by America’s widespread media operation against the nation of Iran, will be defeated,” Jafari said.
“Never threaten Iran,” he warned US President Donald Trump, describing him as America’s “strange president”.
The seizure of the US embassy by radical students was a key stage in the Islamic revolution of 1979, leading to a 444-day hostage crisis that permanently damaged relations between Washington and Tehran.
The students believed the US would launch a counter-coup to return deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power — similar to the CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran’s elected government in 1953 — unaware that the king was already critically ill with cancer.
Several of the students later regretted the incident, but for the establishment it has become a powerful symbol of Iran’s refusal to be dominated by outside powers, the key driving force of the revolution.
Without the attack on the embassy, “the revolution would not have reached its 40th year,” said Jafari.
11/02/2018 Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep
Thirty-five years ago, two suicide bombers killed 241 American and 58 French military personnel, as well as six civilians, in Beirut, Lebanon. The attack marked the largest single-day loss for US servicemen since the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive.
Thirty-five years ago, two suicide bombers killed 241 American and 58 French military personnel, as well as six civilians, in Beirut, Lebanon. The incident marked the largest single-day loss for the US military since the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive.
The horrific Oct. 23, 1983 attack on the multinational peacekeepers, an attack purportedly perpetrated by the Iranian-funded terrorist organization Hezbollah, was especially devastating for the US Marine Corps, which lost 220 service members. The Corps had not suffered such a loss since in one day since Iwo Jima. Eighteen US Navy sailors and three Army soldiers were also killed in the Beirut barracks bombing, and dozens of others were injured.
The deadly blast, characterized by the FBI as the largest non-nuclear explosion they’d ever seen, came just a few months after the April 18, 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Lebanon, where an extremist killed 63 people, including 17 Americans.
10/19/2018 Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep| ANKARA: An individual who claimed to have links to Daesh (ISIS) extremist group threatened to attack the Iranian Embassy in Ankara, Tehran’s envoy in Turkey said Monday, denying Turkish media reports that he had been evacuated.
“The suicide attack against the embassy was only a threat,” Ambassador Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian Fard said. “Nothing significant has happened and things are under control.”
“The threat was made by someone who introduced himself as linked to Daesh,” Fard said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
Turkish media said Fard had been evacuated but the ambassador and Tehran flatly denied the report as a complete fabrication.
“Such a claim is a sheer lie, and the personnel at our embassy are present at their workplace in full health and security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.
Earlier Monday, DHA news agency said Iran’s mission in the Turkish capital had been given an intelligence warning about a possible suicide bomb attack. The road by the embassy was shut off and police could be seen searching cars in the area, an AFP photographer said.
Ambassador Fard also said Turkish police “intensified security measures” around Tehran’s mission in Ankara in response to the threat.
In 2015 and 2016, Turkey was hit by a series of terror attacks which were blamed on both Kurdish militants and Daesh.
The last attack blamed on Daesh was in January 2017 when a gunman killed 39 people at an elite Istanbul nightclub on New Year.
10/15/2018 Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep CAIRO — Embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions worldwide are often considered places of sanctuary, however, not all have been impervious to horrific incidents.
When Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week it prompted Turkish officials and media to claim he may have been killed and even dismembered by a squad of assassins on the premises. The macabre mystery stirred memories of instances when diplomatic missions turned into places of terror.
Brutal killings, suicide bombings, militant raids and hostage crises — embassies and consulates have seen plenty of tragedy and bloodshed.
Here are just some of many examples:
BENGHAZI, ATTACK ON U.S. COMPOUNDS IN LIBYA
Libyan extremists from the militant Ansar al-Shariah group attacked two U.S. compounds — a diplomatic post and a CIA annex nearby — in the city of Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, setting off a night of rampage that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, and gutted the buildings. Last year, a jury in Washington convicted 47-year-old Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala on multiple terrorism-related charges for his role in the attacks.
AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY BOMBING IN JAKARTA
Suspected Muslim militants detonated a car bomb outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 9, 2004, killing eight people, including an embassy guard, policemen on duty, two embassy workers and a visa applicant.
MYANMAR EMBASSY SIEGE IN BANGKOK
A shadowy group known as the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors stormed the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Oct. 7, 1999. They took 38 hostages to demand democracy in their country, also known as Burma. Thailand allowed them to fly to the border, angering Myanmar but ending the standoff without bloodshed.
U.S. BOMBING OF CHINESE EMBASSY IN BELGRADE
NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by mistake on May 8, 1999, killing three Chinese reporters. In China, protesters retaliated by attacking U.S. missions.
AL-QAIDA BOMBINGS OF U.S. EMBASSIES IN EAST AFRICA
Al-Qaida launched near-simultaneous truck bombings on Aug. 7, 1998, targeting U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people. Most of the victims were Kenyans but 12 Americans also died. The mastermind behind the attacks, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, eluded capture for 13 years before he was gunned down at a security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, a month after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in Pakistan in May 2011.
ISLAMIC JIHAD’S ATTACK ON EGYPTIAN EMBASSY IN PAKISTAN
A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-packed truck into the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad on Nov. 19, 1995, killing 15 people, including the second secretary of the embassy and three Egyptian security guards. Egypt handed down a death sentence in absentia to its citizen Ayman al-Zawahri, who led the militant group and later merged it with al-Qaida, for this attack. Al-Zawahri succeeded bin Laden as al-Qaida’s chief.
JAPANESE EMBASSY HOSTAGE CRISIS IN PERU
Leftist Tupac Amaru rebels seized the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, on Dec. 17, 1996, during a party celebrating Emperor Akihito’s birthday, taking diplomats, guests and government officials hostage and demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. The rebels held 72 hostages for 126 days before government troops stormed the premises; one hostage, two commandos and all rebels were killed. The story inspired the best-seller “Bel Canto” by U.S. author Ann Patchett.
ATTACKS ON ISRAELI EMBASSY, JEWISH CENTER IN ARGENTINA
A bomb flattened the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires on March 18, 1992, killing 29 people, including four Israelis. Two years later, a Jewish community center in the city was bombed, killing 85 people — the deadliest bombing ever in Argentina. Israel and Argentina have long accused Iran of being behind the bombings. Iran has denied any role in the attacks.
BEIRUT, U.S. EMBASSY BOMBING
A suicide bombing on April 18, 1983, at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killed 63 people, including 17 Americans. The victims were mostly embassy and CIA staff, but also several U.S. soldiers and a Marine. It was the deadliest attack on an American diplomatic mission up to that time. A shadowy Shiite group calling itself Islamic Holy War took responsibility.
IRAN, U.S. EMBASSY IN TEHRAN
Militant Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and took 52 Americans hostages. The attackers demanded the return of the shah to Iran to face trial. President Jimmy Carter refused and launched a failed commando raid to free the captives. Six Americans who fled the initial takeover and found refuge with the Canadian ambassador later escaped Iran with the CIA’s help. Their escape was dramatized in the 2012 film “Argo.” Iran held the hostages for 444 days, releasing them only after the 1981 inauguration of President Ronald Reagan.
WEST GERMAN EMBASSY SIEGE IN STOCKHOLM
German anarchists of the Red Army Faction shot their way into the West German Embassy in Stockholm on April 24, 1975, demanding the release of their comrades from prisons back home. They took 12 embassy staff hostage, including Ambassador Dietrich Stoecher. During the standoff with the Swedish police, the attackers killed the military and the economic attachés before accidentally blowing up a part of the building.
ATTACK ON SAUDI EMBASSY IN KHARTOUM
The Palestinian terror group Black September attacked the Saudi Embassy in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, during a formal reception on March 1, 1973 and took 10 diplomats hostage. After President Richard Nixon refused to negotiate with the attackers, three Western hostages were killed, including George Curtis Moore, the U.S. chargé d’affaires.
ISRAELI EMBASSY IN BANGKOK HOSTAGE CRISIS
The Black September faction took over the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok on Dec. 28, 1972, and held six Israeli embassy staff hostage. The hijackers agreed after negotiations to leave in exchange for safe conduct to Egypt.
YUGOSLAV EMBASSY IN STOCKHOLM
Two Croatian separatists stormed the Yugoslav Embassy in Stockholm on April 7, 1971, where they held and mortally wounded Ambassador Vladimir Rolovic. The attackers were later caught and convicted in Sweden. One of them, Miro Baresic, was released in 1972 as part of demands by Croatian hijackers of a Swedish domestic flight. He was later extradited from Paraguay to Sweden to serve the remainder of his sentence.
The U.S. has officially blamed Iran for recent attacks near Washington’s diplomatic presence in Iraq, where the two powers have competed for influence in the latest venue of a decades-long feud sparked by an embassy hostage crisis.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that “Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq” and was “to blame for the attacks against our mission in Basra and our embassy in Baghdad,” adding that his department’s “intelligence in this regard is solid.” Iran has the support of a number of semi-official Shiite Muslim militias across Iraq, and Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias” against the two U.S. sites in a Friday statement announcing the closure of the consulate general in the southern city of Basra.
Iran, whose own consulate general in Basra was burned down last month, has rejected these charges. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said Saturday that “the ridiculous justification [provided by Americans] for the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Basra, which came after weeks of propaganda and false allegations against Iran and the Iraqi forces, is a suspicious move aimed at evading responsibility and pinning the blame on others responsibility and pinning the blame on others”
As unrest once again grips Iraq, the ripples of a long-standing dispute between the U.S. and Iran has again highlighted a history of both countries targeting one another’s diplomats.
Poisoned relations between the U.S. and Iran began in 1979. Prior to that, Iran was under the rule of the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the U.S. stepped in to protect British oil interests when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh challenged the monarch’s absolute power and tried to nationalize the energy sector. With Mossadegh deposed and imprisoned in a 1953 CIA-sponsored coup, Pahlavi went on to rule for another quarter of a century before he himself was forced to flee the Islamic Revolution, which brought the current revolutionary Shiite Muslim government into power.
Upset over Western meddling in Iranian affairs and demanding that an ill Pahlavi be extradited to face justice at home, supporters of the new clerical administration overran the U.S. Embassy and held 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens hostage. A U.S. Army attempt to rescue the detainees by force ended in failure when a helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft, killing eight soldiers. An Iranian civilian was also killed when U.S. forces bombed the truck he was riding in.
The hostages were ultimately released on the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 following extensive negotiations. Although the U.S. would go on to secretly sell arms to Iran while also supporting Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, relations between Washington and Tehran were effectively squashed. Their relationship further deteriorated with growing Iranian support for foreign Shiite Muslim movements such as the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of whom have been blamed for the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut—an attack that killed up to 63 people, including 17 U.S. officials and soldiers.
The U.S. officially embargoed Iranian trade in 1995 and these sanctions expanded as Iran embarked on a nuclear program, which Tehran always maintained was solely for peaceful purposes. Though Iran was a bitter opponent of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it also backed Shiite Muslim insurgents targeting U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion that toppled him as it expanded ties with the new majority-Shiite Muslim administration in Baghdad. In January 2007, the U.S. raided the Iranian Liaison Office in Erbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Region, accusing five staff members of being agents of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and detaining them.
The local Kurdish government, which had ties to both the U.S. and Iran, vouched for the individuals and prevented the U.S. from detaining other individuals at Erbil’s airport. The five liaison office employees were ultimately released two and a half years later in 2009 as part of the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which sought to establish a framework for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran remained largely frozen until President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began negotiations to lift international sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to considerably restrict its nuclear activities. A multinational accord endorsed by both parties, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., was announced in June 2015.
President Donald Trump, however, has accused Iran of using unfrozen funds to further destabilize the region via support for paramilitary movements and the development of ballistic missiles. Capitalizing on conservative outrage toward the nuclear deal, he demanded that the terms be renegotiated, something that Iran has refused to consider. Even as both the U.S. and Iran devoted assets toward battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), relations again declined rapidly and Trump announced that he would leave the nuclear agreement in May.
The Trump administration has continued to press the international community to isolate Iran, even without the support of European allies and major powers China and Russia. The U.S. has increasingly aligned its position with that of longtime Iranian foes Israel and Saudi Arabia, which itself severed ties with the Islamic Republic after protestors responded to the kingdom’s execution of an influential Shiite Muslim cleric by torching Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran in early 2016.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyans and Tanzanians on Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in their countries that killed more than 250 people, with hundreds of local survivors calling on the U.S. government for compensation.
The explosions on Aug. 7, 1998, were the first major al-Qaida attack on U.S. targets. Nearly 5,000 people were injured.
The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, said the extremists wanted to cause a rift between Kenyans and Americans but failed.
“Their immediate purpose was to kill and destroy, but they had more in mind. They sought to divide us, to divide friends … to undermine the values we hold dear, to destroy civilization itself and to replace it with a nightmare of oppression,” Godec said.
In a separate statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “our partnership with our African allies remains stronger than ever.”
One survivor of the Nairobi attack said hundreds of Kenyans were still pursuing compensation from the U.S., while U.S. citizens working in the embassy had been compensated.
Douglas Sidialo, spokesman with the Kenyan victims’ association, was blinded in the attack.
“You have to ask, do they care about the dreams and aspirations of the survivors? The unity the ambassador is talking about is a fallacy,” Sidialo said.
The push to aid Kenyan victims is now focused on the U.S. Congress, Washington-based attorney Philip Musolino, who is representing 538 victims with compensation claims, was quoted in Kenya’s leading newspaper The Daily Nation on Tuesday as saying.
The embassy bombings brought al-Qaida to the attention of the U.S. public and the world three years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.
Kenya has remained under threat from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group based in neighboring Somalia. The group claimed responsibility for the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, that killed 67 people and the 2015 Garissa University attack that killed 147 people, mostly students.
Al-Shabab more recently has been targeting Kenyan security forces, with nearly 100 police officers killed since May 2017 in bombings and ambushes.
As the US embassy moves to Jerusalem amid high security, history teaches that US diplomatic missions can become targets.
For many in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is anything but diplomatic.
It risks alienating important partners in the region and disqualifying Washington as a neutral broker to negotiate peace in the region. Already, it has contributed to Palestinian anger, as seen in the current protests on the border between Gaza and Israel, with deadly results.
Yet if history has taught anything, it is that Trump, a self-styled expert dealmaker, may end up getting more than he bargained for.
When disaster does strike, American prestige and policy can suffer with high-flying political careers dashed
American diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa, as the representatives of the country in the region, can become lightning rods for anti-US sentiment, sometimes resulting in death and destruction.
And when disaster does strike, the reverberations can be felt worldwide, with American prestige and policy suffering and high-flying political careers dashed.
Any discussion of US diplomacy and Iran triggers recollections of the 1979 crisis and the Islamic Revolution. Yet US diplomats had fallen victim to events in the region long before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to power.
In 1924, Robert Whitney Imbrie, a major in the US army, was the American vice-consul in Tehran. A spy-adventurer, his pre-foreign service exploits included successfully bringing a live gorilla from the Congo to New York and volunteering for the French army’s ambulance service during World War One.
Before taking his position at the US embassy in Iran, Imbrie gained a reputation as a hot-headed, fearless and vehemently anti-Bolshevik American agent, once using his walking stick to beat the head of the Soviet secret police department in Petrograd.
Ironically, Imbrie spent much of his working life undermining what he regarded as godless Soviets – but it was religious fanatics who were to determine his fate.
In July of that year, he took a carriage to inspect an angry crowd of anti-Bahai protesters in the center of Tehran. The protesters were gathered around a well that was rumored to have miraculous healing powers. But now the Bahais, a religious minority, had been accused of poisoning the font.
Imbrie approached, carrying a camera to take photographs for the National Geographic Society and accompanied by his bodyguard, a burly oilfield worker.
But soon he drew attention from the crowd, some of who accused him of being a Bahai.
He was attacked, badly beaten and rushed to a nearby hospital, where the mob then forced their way into the operating theatre and killed him.
Understandably, Imbrie’s death was a source of tension between Tehran and Washington, which demanded justice. Eventually, a soldier and two teenagers were found, accused and executed.
The incident also cast doubt on the safety of foreigners in Iran, as US newspapers fretted about security and religious fanaticism in the region.
The New York Times wrote that Iranian authorities should “cease to resort to appeals to the fanatical instincts which permeate not only the mob but also a large proportion of the intelligentsia” and urged Tehran to better protect foreigners in future.
This it did, when Iranian Prime Minister Reza Khan declared martial law, using the crisis to consolidate his power before eventually assuming the Iranian throne.
WAK Fraser, the British military attache at the time, noted how “the event gave him … the excuse for declaring martial law and a censorship of the press… Numerous arrests have been made, chiefly political opponents of the prime minister.”
Imbrie was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery. But his death had opened a new chapter in Iranian politics.
Fifty-five years later, a second crisis involving American diplomats heralded another significant shift in US-Iranian relations.
In early 1979, the US embassy in Tehran was a long, two-story redbrick building standing on an avenue in central Tehran, the scene of intense US-Iranian cooperation which neither government expected to be broken.
Popularly likened to an American high school in appearance, the mission was known as “Henderson High”, a reference to Loy Henderson, its first US ambassador.
“It was like any other embassy, except the relationship of the United States and Iran was very close,” says Iranian-American historian Shaul Bakhash at George Mason University in Virginia.
“The shah worked closely with the Americans on diplomatic issues, on regional security, on the sharing of intelligence.”
But all that changed in February 1979, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and son of Reza Khan, was deposed by the Islamic Revolution.
At first, Washington managed to uphold an uneasy relationship with the new Iranian government, despite the revolutionary fervor in Tehran.
But when the US granted Reza Shah asylum in May of that year, the hardliners had all the reason they needed to target the embassy.
‘It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments’
– Shaul Bakhash, academic
A group of students stormed the building on 4 November, taking 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage and parading them blindfolded and bound in front of television cameras.
“I was in Iran at the time and I must say the images were electrifying,” Bakhash said. “It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments.”
The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days, was the death of President Jimmy Carter’s administration. His downfall was fuelled by the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, which resulted in the deaths of eight US service personnel in the desert southeast of Tehran.
The release of the hostages in January 1981 was regarded as an early victory for Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan, who was sworn in as president just minutes before they were freed.
But the crisis was catastrophic for US-Iranian relations, which have never recovered and are currently at a new low following the rejection by US President Donald Trump of the Iran nuclear deal.
Today the Tehran embassy – popularly known as the “den of espionage” in Iran – is a museum, standing as a monument to a shattered relationship.
Murals and posters criticising American and Israeli “arrogance” cover the walls, while various encryption devices and communication equipment are displayed behind glass screens, proof the Iranians say of Washington’s meddling overseas.
“For the Iranians it showed that the United States could be beaten,” says Bakhash.
In early 1983, the US embassy in Lebanon was nothing if not picturesque, nestled as it was next to the American University of Beirut’s leafy campus and boasting vistas of the Mediterranean.
Journalist Kai Bird, who lived in the mission as a child, says: “The Beirut embassy was right on the corniche, a lovely venue. Any Lebanese, any American could just walk right into the embassy, say hello to the marine guards, state their business and get an appointment to see somebody.”
Such openness in 2018 is unimaginable, as a visit to any US mission across the world will prove, in part due to the devastating suicide bombing in Beirut that took 63 lives and changed the American diplomacy forever.
In April 1983, Lebanon was eight years into a bloody civil war, which would eventually leave an estimated 150,000 dead and not end till 1990.
On the 18th of that month, a truck loaded with explosives drove into the US embassy and detonated.
Packing more than 900 kg of explosives, the truck bomb tore apart the embassy’s entire facade, as the explosion shattered windows across west Beirut.
Seventeen Americans, 32 Lebanese employees of the embassy and 14 passersby and visitors were killed, including some of the CIA’s top agents.
Beirut in 1983 was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today
It was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today. Likely directed by Iranian intelligence, the attack was carried out by Islamic Jihad, a militant group that later grew into Hezbollah.
It was also the first of several attacks on the US in the city. In October 1983, two truck bombs targeted at an international peacekeeping force killed more than 300 people, including 241 US peacekeepers. And in September 1984, 24 people were killed by a car bomb attack on the US embassy annex in east Beirut.
The attacks drew strong rhetoric and promise to see the mission through from then-US President Reagan. But by February 1984 the American military presence in Lebanon began to be drawn down, with the British, French and Italian forces following suit.
Bird, whose book The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames profiles a CIA operative who was killed in the 1983 attack, says the assault on the US embassy was a turning point.
“There’d never been a military-scale attack on a US embassy before and I think it inaugurated a new form of warfare. It changed the whole landscape of US diplomacy – literally, the architecture changed.”
In an attempt to avoid a repetition of such a disaster, US embassies and missions worldwide now sit behind layer upon layer of security.
Many invariably resemble fortresses, set in isolated locations and sat behind thick walls, high fences and dozens of cameras. The former US embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square, for example, was constructed during the 1950s. Security increased over the decades, until the area on one side of the residential square was cordoned off. The new embassy, in Vauxhall, opened in December 2017, is on open ground and surrounded by a semi-moat.
But such security has its disadvantages. “Since 1983, the average diplomat is extremely isolated, and it’s very hard for them to develop friendships and contacts with local journalists,” says Bird
“So that’s had a very real impact on the daily routine and life of the average American diplomat. It’s terrible and it sends completely the wrong message. It sends a message to the average person in Lebanon or Egypt or Nepal or India that you can’t approach America, that we Americans are fearful.”
Benghazi 2012: The lingering legacy
Missions in Tripoli, Kuwait City, Jeddah, Damascus, Sanaa, Istanbul, Cairo and Tunis have all witnessed bombs, assaults or riots. A suicide bombing in Ankara in 2013, which killed one person, is just one of the more recent examples.
But none has had quite the political reverberations in recent years as the attack on the US temporary mission facility in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 2012, Libya was emerging as splintered and unstable country after the uprising and NATO operation that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi the previous year.
Benghazi had been the cradle of the revolution against Gaddafi’s regime. Stevens was in the city promoting democracy and American friendship, as the US considered making its presence in the eastern Libyan city permanent. It was to cost him his life.
On the 11th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the militant group Ansar al-Sharia staged an assault on the US mission.
Coming at the compound from all angles, the militants broke through the security using heavy weapons, RPGs and grenades. Once inside, the assailants started a fire, filling the Americans’ hiding place with smoke. Stevens managed to escape the building and was taken to a nearby hospital, but eventually died of smoke inhalation.
The unexpected attack and the diplomat’s death shocked America: according to David Des Roches at the National Defense University, it was also a wakeup call for US policy in Libya.
“It showed that the country had descended into something that was sub-national,” says Des Roches.
“Right now, when people look at Libya, it’s basically divided along the lines the Emperor Constantine divided it at the time of the Roman Empire.”
But Benghazi’s more enduring legacy was, perhaps, seen not in Libya but 8,000km away in the White House.
The attack sparked a lengthy inquiry, and exposed then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of an external email server – a scandal that plagued her 2016 run for the presidency.
“In her memoirs secretary Clinton attributes her defeat to the fact that additional emails were unearthed just five days before the election,” says Des Roches. “Well, we only found out that those emails existed because of the inquiries into Benghazi.
So if you take Secretary Clinton’s analysis, if not for Benghazi [then] she would be president today.”
Going by the same logic, Donald Trump would not be sat behind a desk in the Oval Office – and Washington would not have decided to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.
A former U.S. ambassador spoke about the ethical challenges of serving in the U.S. Foreign Service at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.
Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who is also a GW alumna, served as the U.S. Ambassador to Malta from 2012 to 2016. The event was hosted by the Elliott School’s new Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative, which delves into issues of ethics on an international level.
During her time with the foreign service, Abercrombie-Winstanley was stationed at posts in Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt and Israel. She later served as Consul General in Saudi Arabia, before her appointment as ambassador during the former President Barack Obama’s administration. She shared stories from her experiences abroad with students in the Elliott School.
Here are some highlights from the event:
Abercrombie-Winstanley discussed five anecdotes from her career when ethics played a big role in her decision-making process, ranging from rules regarding expensive gifts to reporting affairs between an ambassador and one of his subordinates.
But she said the toughest call to make was when her regional security officer suggested that staff and workers coming from Jordan, Pakistan, India and the Philippines not be allowed to come into the building without first passing through a metal detector.
Abercrombie-Winstanley said she was hesitant to divide the consulate staff because Americans wouldn’t have to go through the same security checks.
“The local staff, most of them had been with the consulate for 20, 30 years,” she said. “All of us were under threat. All of us were in danger as we came through that gate.”
To solve the dilemma, Abercrombie-Winstanley said she came up with a compromise that everyone would walk through the metal detector.
Islamist militants attacked the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah in 2004, killing nine people during Abercrombie-Winstanley’s tenure as the Consul General. She said she faced many challenges as a leader both during and after the attack.
During the four hours the consulate was under attack, Abercrombie-Winstanley said her priorities were to account for staff and try to get help from Saudi officials. Despite sharing a wall with the Saudi National Guard, she said it took security forces an “inordinate” amount of time to arrive at the consulate to deal with the situation.
“The worst part of that day was then going to the widows and extending condolences. And, of course, I had to do it,” she said. “The ambassador went with me for a couple, but most of them I did on my own.”
The former ambassador also spoke about her personal experiences with sexual assault and harassment during her long career in the foreign service.
She discussed how it can feel “demoralizing” when someone in power makes advances and the intense psychological impact that sexual harassment can have on a person’s self-confidence.
She talked about harassment she faced during a trip to Ireland when she was serving as the Director for Legislative Affairs at the National Security Council.
“It was the head of the delegation that I was talking about the peace process with,” she said. “We’d agreed to have dinner and, in short, he’s trying to kiss me.”
Abercrombie-Winstanley said it was during this time that the Monica Lewinsky scandal was all over the news and she was among a generation of women who still felt like they were living in a “man’s world.”
“It didn’t occur to me to accept or do anything I didn’t want to do, but it also didn’t occur to me to tell someone looking for redress,” she said. “I did not think that was possible.”
Diplomatic Security SitRep Flashback: 1968 Saigon Embassy Offensive
Viet Cong bullets pinged off the Cold Spring Granite in the lobby of the new U.S. Embassy in Saigon.
It was Jan. 31, 1968, and 20-year-old Sgt. Ronald Harper, a Central Minnesota native, could hear the voices of enemy combatants seeking to break into the building with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.
Dust and smoke filled the air that first night of the Tet Offensive, a key moment in the Vietnam War marked by Viet Cong attacks throughout U.S.-backed South Vietnam.
Five Americans and 19 of 20 Viet Cong guerrillas died in the fight at the Embassy. Harper earned a Bronze Star for his service.
Historians describe the Embassy attack and entire Tet Offensive as a turning point in favor of the North Vietnamese and against America. It showed the war was far from over. Amid growing anti-war sentiment, President Lyndon B. Johnson just two months later would call for talks to end the war and announce he would not seek re-election.
Now, 50 years after that attack, Harper runs his own business, Quality Appliance & TV Center, in Waite Park.He thinks regularly of that long night in Vietnam.
He remembers the comfort of a mid-fight cigarette provided by the Embassy’s Vietnamese night watchman after Harper pulled him from the fray. And he remembers the Americans who died at the Embassy.
“When my son went to Iraq (in 2009), it was on my mind daily,” Harper said, choking up.
The veteran, now 70, went on to have nine children with his wife, Cathy. The son who served in Iraq, Harper said, “he’ll be my successor at the store.”
Harper smiles easily as he talks about his work, family, and life in the military and after it. He grew up in Cambridge, an hour east of St. Cloud and an hour north of the Twin Cities.
Harper joined the Marines in 1965. His friend came to visit for Harper’s birthday and suggested they enlist together.
Harper then became part of the elite Marine Security Guard, whose members have guarded U.S. Embassies worldwide for 70 years. Harper chose the Vietnam Embassy amid the war.
“I felt it was my duty,” Harper said. “I was always very patriotic. It was in my heart all my life. I loved my country. I still do.”
He held the keys to the Embassy in Saigon on Jan. 31, 1968 — 50 years ago come Wednesday. He was delivering a round of coffees to fellow servicemen on the night shift, and he was caught a few hundred yards away when Viet Cong soldiers blew through an exterior wall.
“The sky just lit up in a big explosion,” Harper said.
Harper made it back to the Embassy to lock the doors, thanks to two military police officers. They fought and died there.
Harper first secured the rear doors. At the front, teak doors, he pulled in the Vietnamese staffer. A rocket injured the other Marine security guard who was bleeding profusely.
“I wrapped him up like a mummy, but I couldn’t get him to be quiet,” Harper said. He could hear Viet Cong fighters within 10 feet.
Instructions came and Harper was ordered to double-check the doors. Harper found the watchman in the lobby and pulled him back again.
The guard offered Harper a cigarette then, a relief for the Marine who didn’t bring his own smokes that night. Harper wasn’t even supposed to work that shift because a doctor had treated him for lung-tissue inflammation called pleurisy the day prior.
The fight continued for hours outside the Embassy, and Harper kept four civilians safe in the building.
“You’re tense,” Harper said of the six-hour skirmish. “You didn’t know what was going to happen in the next minute.”
Daylight brought the “best feeling” after Harper listened to fire all night. After 8 a.m., American forces broke through the front gate and opened fire again, Harper said.
“Here I am safe, and now they’re shooting at me,” he said with a laugh.
Harper didn’t go to bed for two days after the attack, he said. He was in shock and had some shrapnel injuries he didn’t notice at first. “The adrenaline was so high.”
The Tet Offensive prolonged his stay in Vietnam by three months. And it marked a shift in the war.
John Decker, an associate archivist at Stearns History Museum, lived through that change and served as a Navy Hospital corpsman in Japan from 1970 to 1972.
“It changed what people thought of the war,” Decker said. “We came back and we weren’t really welcomed.”
In the whole of the Vietnam war, Stearns County military casualties reached about 37.
Decker lost friends, classmates and two cousins. “We miss every one of those guys,” he said.
The U.S. lost over 16,000 troops in 1968, Decker said.
In mid-1968 Harper’s term in Vietnam ended. He went on to guard the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
When he returned to Central Minnesota, Harper worked in retail then opened his appliance store. That was 40 years ago.
Looking back on his service in Vietnam, Harper feels the U.S. did the right thing.
“I was in a different part of the world than the guys in the field. I didn’t meet a Vietnamese person I didn’t like. And I didn’t meet a Vietnamese person who didn’t like me,” Harper said. “In my mind, they were worth fighting for.”
Nora G. Hertel: 320-255-8746 and on Twitter @nghertel.