Afghanistan: Enemy's Brutalities In Baghlan Province

23 February 2016

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, it is incumbent on the host country to ensure the protection of diplomatic missions as well as diplomats accredited to that country. The private residence of a diplomat should also enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission.

Giving protection to diplomatic missions and diplomats is both the legal and moral obligation of the host country. Any negligence in fulfilling this commitment is a shame to the country concerned. There is no acceptable justification for failure to fulfill this responsibility.

There have been a number of instances in which diplomatic missions in various parts of the world were attacked and several reasons given for these attacks. But in such cases, there has been quick intervention on the part of the security authorities to ensure protection of the mission premises before any damage was done. However, this was not the case with the attacks that took place in Iran after the revolution. The embassies of Britain and France were attacked.

There were several notorious incidents in which Saudi missions and diplomats were attacked in Iran in the past. The Iranian authorities failed to fulfill their duties in giving them protection on such occasions. This was also the case with the latest attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate general in Mashhad. These attacks were in flagrant violation of international conventions.

It is evident that Iran is not a safe country for diplomats. In 1987, a gang of hooligans attacked and ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Similarly, some Saudi diplomats were beaten up and detained by the Republican Guards. Before that, during the early period of the Iranian Revolution, more than 60 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days after a group of Iranian students took over the US embassy in Tehran. At that time, Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States. All efforts made by the US government to free the hostages ended in failure. Algeria acted as mediator to secure the release of the hostages. Finally, the hostages were formally released into the custody of the United States after the signing of the Algiers Accords, just minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.

The latest attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad demonstrates that the Iranian government does not have any respect for international charters and the Vienna Convention, which guarantees the inviolability of diplomatic missions. The claims of Iran that the attack took place without the knowledge of the Iranian government are unacceptable. As a famous Arabic proverb says: ''The excuse is uglier than the sin''.

While taking part in a press conference during which Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir announced the Kingdom's decision to sever ties with Iran earlier this month, Ambassador Osama Nogali, director of the media department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained the circumstances that forced the Kingdom to resort to such a drastic decision. He said that the justifications of the Iranian authorities pertaining to the attacks on the Saudi missions were clear proof of Tehran's dishonesty. He said that the embassy in Tehran received several telephone calls on Saturday morning (Jan. 2) threatening to kill its staff. Later the same day, when crowds began to gather in front of the embassy, the Charge d'Affaires immediately notified the Iranian foreign ministry of the development, demanding protection for the embassy, but in vain. On Saturday evening, another crowd of demonstrators gathered in front of the embassy, hurling stones and incendiary bombs at the building.

Similar attacks were repeated after midnight when people stormed the embassy and set parts of it ablaze. Then, another crowd stormed the embassy building. The Charge d'Affaires continued to attempt to contact the Iranian foreign ministry, but his calls were unanswered. The Charge d'Affaires also tried to obtain protection in order to inspect the embassy but his request was not met until late afternoon of the following day, when he found that that the building had been destroyed and its furniture and other property and valuables had been stolen.

Nogali also described the attacks on the Saudi consulate in Mashhad. Before Dhuhr (noon prayer) on Saturday, a taxi forced its way across the security barrier of the consulate, attempting to storm the interior gate of the consulate without being prevented by the Iranian authorities. After Asr (evening prayer) on the same day, a large crowd gathered in front of the consulate building, hurling stones and petrol bombs. Windows were broken as some members of the crowd attempted but failed to enter the building.

Nogali noted that the Iranian authorities made no effort to stop these criminal acts or to arrest those involved in the attacks. This shows that all of this took place at the instigation or with the blessings or tacit approval of the Iranian authorities, and hence Tehran is fully responsible for what happened. Consequently, it is clear that Tehran can no longer be relied upon to protect diplomatic missions.

As a result, Saudi Arabia severed its diplomatic ties with Iran and recalled all its embassy staff from Tehran and consulate staff from Mashhad. The Kingdom also approached the United Nations Security Council with a complaint seeking the condemnation of Iran and asking the country to respect the international conventions under which host countries are responsible for ensuring the safety of diplomats and diplomatic missions.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at


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