Last week Harry’s Place reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran had taken the drastic step of recalling its ambassadors from Britain, France and Germany.
The mainstream English language press had yet to report the story and it was understandable that some readers witheld judgement on whether such a wholescale cull had in fact really taken place. I agreed to keep my eye on developments with the intention of publishing a retraction if the facts turned out to be wrong.
The Times today confirms the worst:
THE President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has ordered an unprecedented purge of senior ambassadors who are regarded as too liberal for the policies of his administration, The Times can disclose.
At least 20 heads of mission and other top diplomats have been sacked or reassigned in the biggest shake-up since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The majority were appointed during the decade of rapprochement with the West that Mr Ahmadinejad has abruptly reversed.
Four of the envoys, the ambassadors to London, Paris, Berlin and the representative to the United Nations in Geneva, were involved in months of delicate mediation between Iran and Europe over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The new President’s predecessors aren’t exactly what you’d call supportive of Ahmadinejad’s hardline approach to international relations:
Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, two former reformist presidents, are openly critical of his policies. On Sunday, Mr Khatami accused the new leader of “using fascist values and principles in the name of Islam to criticise liberalism”. Mohammad Atrianfar, a close Rafsanjani ally, yesterday called the sackings a big diplomatic mistake.