Are the Violations of Mexican and Iranian Embassies a Sign of a ‘New Normal’ in Diplomatic Relations?

By Derrick Broze

Recent actions taken by both the Israeli and Ecuadorian governments have called into question the sovereignty and sanctity of international embassies.

On April 1st, Israel launched missiles at the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, killing seven military advisers, including a high-profile leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Iran’s ambassador to Syria noted that the strike hit a consulate building in the embassy compound.

Iran’s U.N. mission called the attack a “flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter, international law, and the foundational principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises.”

The Israeli strike killed Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a veteran commander of the Quds Force, the IRGC foreign operations unit in Syria and Lebanon.

On Sunday, Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated that, “The embassies of the Zionist regime are no longer safe.” Despite these statements, it remains to be seen what type of action Iran might take in retaliation.

Israel’s bombing of the embassy is part of a recent escalation of airstrikes against Iran’s IRGC and the Iran-supported Lebanese armed group, Hezbollah. Israel has stated they are attempting to disrupt Iran’s support for Hezbollah.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday that Israel is expecting an attack from Iran in the next two days. However, according to a person briefed by the Iranian leadership, Iran has not decided how to respond. Some believe it is likely that Iran will strike an Israeli embassy or consulate since the bombing of Iran’s embassy in Syria is seen as a violation of national sovereignty. This is what makes Israel’s April 1st attack different from other ongoing conflicts.

Under international law, embassies and consulates are considered the sovereign territory of the country they represent. Embassies house the diplomatic mission of an individual nation in the capital of the host nation, including diplomatic staff. Embassies focus on maintaining political, economic, and cultural relations between the two nations. Consulates are focused on providing services to their country’s citizens in the host country, including passports and help during emergencies.

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An attack on Iran’s embassy — which is legally considered Iranian territory — is seen as a direct challenge of their sovereignty, especially because of the deaths of senior military officials.

Ecuador Invades Mexico’s Consulate in Quito

On April 5, only days after Israel’s bombing of Iran’s embassy, Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa broke diplomatic ties with Mexico and ordered Ecuadorian police to force their way into the Mexican embassy in Quito to arrest former Vice President Jorge Glas. Noboa’s decision to violate the sovereignty of Mexico’s embassy came in response to Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) granting Glas asylum in Mexico as he fights off corruption charges.

The Ecuadorian government claims AMLO’s asylum protection was illegal because of the corruption charges. Glas, who has previously been convicted twice for corruption, claims the new charges are politically motivated. Glas is an ally of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

There does exist a precedent for embassies being used to offer shelter to dissidents seeking protection from their own governments. Most notably, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London between 2012 and 2019 while fighting legal battles with the U.S. and U.K. governments. Ecuador revoked Assange’s asylum claim in 2019 and he was removed from the embassy by British police.

In response to the invasion of their embassy, the Mexican government has officially asked the United Nations’ International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to suspend Ecuador from UN membership.

Mexico called on Ecuador to issue a public apology acknowledging the “violations to the fundamental principles and norms of international law”. Mexico is also calling for the UN to secure the embassy and for Ecuador to allow Mexican officials to safely leave the diplomatic buildings and their private homes in Ecuador.

While the UN member states must approve any such action against Ecuador, the invasion of Mexico’s embassy is yet another sign that typical expectations of respecting national sovereignty may no longer be relevant.

The History of Sovereign Embassies and Consulates

While historical record shows that for centuries foreign envoys were provided protection when visiting foreign nations on diplomatic missions, the practice was not officially recognized until the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations was signed in 1963. The international treaty was established to govern consular relations between sovereign states.

Article 22 of the Vienna Convention states that embassies are “inviolable” and that local law enforcement agencies of host countries are not allowed to enter the premises without the consent of the head of the diplomatic mission. Embassies of countries are treated as their own sovereign territories, not the territory of the host nation.

Diplomats are also supposed to be granted diplomatic or consular immunity and exempted from some laws of the host country and protected from arrest. However, the Vienna Convention does allow a host nation to declare a diplomat persona non grata and send them back to the home country. However, this does not allow for invading the facilities and forcefully removing officials, as was done in Quito, Ecuador. It also certainly does not permit a nation to bomb a diplomatic facility, as Israel did in Syria.

The reality is that according to the Vienna Convention and generally accepted practice, Israel’s bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus was essentially an attack on Iran itself. Similarly, the Ecuadorian decision to send police officers into the Mexican embassy is the equivalent of entering Mexican soil and arresting someone without the permission of the Mexican government.

Of course, this is not the first time that embassies have been attacked. Al Jazeera lists a few different examples, including an assailant attacking the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC with two Molotov cocktails in 2023, and US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam attacked by truck bombings in 1998.

It is also not the first time that international norms regarding national sovereignty have been violated. On January 3, 2020, the United States military assassinated Iranian Major Qassem Soleimani with a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Iran would later respond by launching ballistic missiles at US forces located in Al Asad Airbase and an airbase near Erbil, Iraq.

Clearly, nations like the United States, Israel, Ecuador, and others are willing to violate the supposed sovereignty of nations when push comes to shove. Hopefully, the irony (and hypocrisy) of Israeli and the US governments complaining over violations of sovereignty and international law while they participate and fund genocide in Gaza is not lost on any of our readers.

Are we now in a “new normal” where nations will feel free to violate this allegedly “inviolable” space regardless of the potential outcomes?

Or, is the public finally recognizing that the imperialist, tyrannical nations of the world will, ultimately, always do what they want, international law and treaties be damned? More to the point, why should the public be expected to trust these nations which have made it clear they do not value individual sovereignty, freedom of choice, freedom of speech, or even human life?

Source: The Last American Vagabond

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Derrick Broze, a staff writer for The Last American Vagabond, is a journalist, author, public speaker, and activist. He is the co-host of Free Thinker Radio on 90.1 Houston, as well as the founder of The Conscious Resistance Network & The Houston Free Thinkers.

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