Few of the young Marines we meet here are old enough to remember what happened to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran 32 years ago this month. But the "old guys" do. That's why senior officers and noncommissioned officers here had a déjà vu moment when images of Iranian "students" sacking the British Embassy in Tehran flashed around the world this week.
Iranian regime officials, the ayatollahs' propaganda organs and most of the Western media described the perpetrators as students. But those who stormed and trashed the British diplomatic mission weren't really scholars at all -- unless matriculating in mayhem, mass intimidation and murder is considered a legitimate academic pursuit in today's Iran. According to expatriate Iranians with whom I have spoken, the entire event was planned and carried out by members of the Basij militia -- the "civilian auxiliary" of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
These aren't students. They are Islamist thugs supported and directed by the regime in Tehran. In 2009, they were the primary mechanism for brutally suppressing popular discontent after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected to the presidency after widespread voting irregularities. Then, Western media outlets were barred from covering the massive street protests. Visual documentation of the confrontations -- as with those taking place in Syria today -- was generally limited to what could be captured by protesters using cellphones, small hand-held cameras and social media outlets.
That's not what happened at the British Embassy in Tehran this week. Iran's state-controlled television network cameras and reporters arrived before the so-called students and their government handlers began shouting "Death to Britain." Government security personnel and police -- responsible for providing security for diplomatic facilities -- initially did nothing to prevent waves of berserkers from breaking in to the compound, smashing their way into buildings, dumping documents from broken windows and burning a diplomat's vehicle. It was only after the interlopers seized six British diplomats inside the embassy that the police intervened.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.