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The legal protection of embassies according to the international law
International laws provide a legal framework within countries from across the globe can effectively relate economically, politically and socially. In this regard, different countries are legally bound by sections of international law to protect each other’s interests in order to prevent regional or international conflicts[1]. Furthermore, international laws provide a platform in which human rights and sovereignty of nations can be enforced. The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations therefore established rules governing location, administration, and protection of foreign countries embassies while ensuring that the host nation is still able to pursue its interests and protect itself[2]. However, foreign countries cannot send their military forces to protect their foreign embassies as this shall amount to occupation or violation of an independent state’s sovereign rights. Consequently, Hollis argued that the host nation has to provide sufficient security to the foreign nation’s embassies and interests[3]. However, foreign embassies in several parts of the world have faced attacks of different kinds. Most recently, Saudi Arabia’s embassy attacks in Tehran, Iran negatively impacted on the diplomatic relations between the two countries. This paper adopts a positivist, realist and economic perspectives on the application of international laws to assess the implications of the attack on Saudi Arabia embassy in Iran and other events of such kinds.
Positivist perspective on diplomatic law
Generally, positivist on the application of the international laws prioritizes the co-existence of nations and the need for various nations to protect all citizens of the world based on the United Nations Convention on Human Rights[4]. This view highlights the existence of common values and norms among nations. In this case, positivists define international law as a body of rules which have been established by customs or treaties which are binding regarding relationships among nations[5]. Taking a positivist perspective, there are four assumptions that explain the legitimacy, administration, and limitation of the international laws. First, the law must be expressed. In this case, there should be an established set of laws which are binding to all nations or the signatories. These laws can be presented in the form of treaties, conventions or other international protocols. Secondly, the international law are created and administered by sovereign states. In this regard, signatories to these conventions or treaties should be able to enter independently without any form of coercion or force. Thirdly, there should an internationally recognized body to ensure that these laws are not violated. For example, the UNHCR ensures that international laws regarding refugees are fully implemented[6]. Lastly, international laws are effective when measured against certain standards[7].
The attack on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Iran raised many questions on the legitimacy and applicability of the international laws. Several nations provided support to Saudi Arabia on their action of removing their embassy from Tehran and canceling their diplomatic relations with Iran. Some of this support was based on political reasons while others raised their concerns regarding the duty of Iran to protect foreign embassies as per the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961. Basically, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 can be described as a framework that guides the diplomatic relations between nations[8]. The convention therefore outlines the privileges accorded to a diplomatic mission so that diplomats can be able to perform their functions without fear of coercion or harassment.
The Vienna Convention provides guidelines on the powers of foreign embassies and the role of the host nation to protect these embassies.  However, the host nation is not under any international obligation to provide residence to all members of a foreign embassy. For example, article 9 of the Vienna Convention outlines that for any reason; the host nation can declare a member of the diplomatic staff to be persona non grata[9]. Nonetheless, the convention under article 22 protects the foreign embassy against search, seizure or entry into the embassy or residence of diplomats without the permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, article 29 protects diplomats against arrest or detention by the host nation[10].
The highlighted articles among others show that Iran had a duty to protect Saudi Arabia embassy against attacks by either terrorists or demonstrators. However, members of diplomatic staff or a foreign country’s embassy should not be involved in the host nation’s politics and as such should not be attacked by the host nation based on their stand on some issues or for political interests. Taking a positivist perspective, one can argue that clearly Iran has failed to protect Saudi Arabia’s embassy and to ensure the security of the embassy staff as well as to send the security in appropriate time. Furthermore, the United Nations should be able to come up with some form of punishments if Iran is found to have violated some of the international laws regarding the protection of diplomatic missions and embassies. However, for this to happen, the Vienna Convention provides that the UN must establish beyond any reasonable doubt direct involvement of the Iranian authorities or military in the attack[11]. In addition, in the case of lack of direct involvement, the UN should prove that Iran failed to provide sufficient security to the embassy and the Saudi diplomatic mission in Tehran.
The positivist interpretation of the diplomatic laws is constrained by some factors. For instance, these laws apply mainly to countries with extraterritorial status. Practically, most embassies or diplomatic missions in foreign countries lack this status. In the case where foreign embassy lack extraterritorial status, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations gives privileges and jurisdiction to most of the local laws[12]. Although diplomatic missions still maintain diplomatic immunity even under these circumstances, an attack on the diplomatic mission or foreign embassy will be regarded as an attack on the host nation but not the foreign nation. In this case, embassies are not sovereign territories of the foreign nations. Another challenge to the positivist perspective on the interpretation of these laws is the human rights issue. For example, the foreign nation’s interests must not infringe upon the rights of the citizens of the host country to express themselves or right to assembly. Furthermore, article 22(2) of the Vienna Convention provides for enhancement of the dignity of the local people[13]. In this case, public demonstrations outside an embassy should ensure that peace and access to the embassy by its staff, however, what has happened in this case those demonstrations did not protest peacefully.
Realist perspective on diplomatic laws
Realist perspective in the international laws takes an opposite view to the positivist perspective. This perspective puts full powers on the host nation to protect the foreign nation’s interests within their borders. However, it rejects the provisions of the international law that establishes an external body to supervise the implementation of the international laws[14]. Realism in international law is based on four different prepositions. First, realists argue that international systems are anarchic. Therefore, nobody or actor is above the state and thus an external body cannot regulate the interactions between states or diplomatic relations. Second, states are sovereign bodies and thus are the most important actors in the interpretation of the international laws. Third, realists recognize that states have their independent systems which are aimed at pursuing their various interests as well as ensure particular gains to their citizens and institutions. Lastly, it is the primary objective of every nation to ensure their survival. In this regard, states are allowed to use all means to ensure their survival including military actions[15].
This perspective argues that human beings and to a larger extent states are self-centered and competitive. In this regard, if members of a country feel that the values, culture or political interests of their country is threatened by a foreign nation, they could come up with various ways to protect these values and interests. Some of the political actions used by citizens of the host nation against a foreign country include demonstrations or banning citizens of a foreign country from entering the host nation. In some cases like in the case of the attack on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Tehran, these actions can be considered excessive and in complete violation of the international laws on diplomatic relations. However, realists argue that such events are expected in the case where the two countries are pursuing conflicting interests[16]. For instance, the case of Saudi Arabia and Iran can be considered as two countries seeking power within the Middle East. These attacks should therefore be viewed within the same scope as the US embassy attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq or Egypt which did not lead to the extreme actions like the ones taken by Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that Iranian government could prevent this attack on the embassy by sending their security immediately when they knew that those demonstrators were not protest in a peaceful way, subsequently, avoiding any unexpected consequences.
Additionally, there are already existing diplomatic tensions among several nations across the world as countries pursue different interests. For example, there is a diplomatic conflict between liberals and the conservatives, democrats and aristocrats or capitalists, and socialists among other ideological conflicts. International laws cannot therefore prevent an independent nation from pursuing its interests. According to article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations, diplomatic laws must never interfere with the internal interests of the host nation or legitimate human rights of its citizens[17]. In this case, realists argue that it within the scope of Iran’s internal interests and its citizen’s rights to register their opposition to what they considered Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in the region but obviously not by attacking another foreign embassy. In this regard, other countries are not expected to enter the diplomatic conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Realists argue that the United States or any other country’s attack on Iran was unfair and amounted to meddling in the domestic affairs of Iran and its relations with its partners. Nevertheless, those nations are main allies to Saudi Arabia and they want the international law to be respected particularly, in protecting embassies by the host nation.
Realism perspective in the interpretation of international laws also has certain limitations. For example, according to this view, independent countries have a duty to protect all people including diplomats within its territory. In addition, the local laws must be applied in a fair and just manner to all citizens and foreigners within its territories. For example, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular relations put an obvious responsibility on the host nation to protect premises of foreign nations even if the host state has the responsibility for those causing it[18]. In this case, it was within the powers of the Iran’s authorities under both the international and local laws to protect the premises of the Saudi Arabia’s embassy. However, according to the principles of international laws or bilateral relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two countries should be able to come up with solutions that protect their interests while preventing an escalation of the conflict[19]. In this regards, Mr. Adel al Jubeir the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs has asserted several times that Saudi Arabia is willing to cooperate with Iran as long as they do not get involved in the internal region affairs.[20]
Economic perspective on diplomatic laws
International developments and relations are influenced by several factors including economic, social, cultural and political factors among others. Economic factors determine the structure, platforms, and processes in which two or more countries relate. Some of the major economic factors that determine the relationship between two or more countries include regional economic integration, globalisation and trade. According to Pigman[21], the creation of international economic and financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has facilitated the need for nations to cooperate politically as well. Conversely, international economic problems such as recession, financial crisis, and oil crisis call for cooperation among nations. In this regard, it cannot be assumed that countries cooperate diplomatically for political reasons alone. Recent studies have argued that most of the diplomatic conflicts between nations including that between Iran and Saudi Arabia are motivated by economic reasons. For instance, different economic approaches scramble for markets and conflicting property laws can lead to conflicts among nations[22].
Economic perspective is also considered as one of the contemporary perspectives regarding diplomatic laws and international relations. Considering these contemporary perspectives on the diplomatic conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, one must consider factors such as domestic political contention, transitioning post-Arab spring states and the complex religious relations in the Middle East. Furthermore, proponents of the economic perspective argue that the state-centric realist framework limits intergovernmental and economic interests of states in foreign countries and in the world economy[23]. Economic perspective in this argument therefore provides a compromise between a state sovereignty and the role of international laws and institutions. Generally, economic diplomacy helps nations to pursue economic security within the international system[24]. In this case, interrelationships among sovereign nations are therefore promoted to facilitate the ability of independent nations to realize their interests. Economic diplomacy also assists in intelligence gathering, negotiation, and development of better economic policies.
Elsewhere, proponents of the economic perspective recognize that economic and political activities involving different nations cannot be separated. According to these scholars, separating political and economic factors is impractical and therefore countries must develop integrated diplomatic policies among them. In this case, countries should be able to build networks among departments and sectors such as the private and public sector. In this case, the interests of a foreign country cannot be limited to its embassy and the diplomatic mission. Economic diplomacy is therefore a system that involves numerous components[25]. This relationship is diverse and complex and involves economic responsibilities and interests of the two or more nations. In some cases, these interests may be competing. However, these countries tend to gain more by cooperating rather than acting individually.
The economic perspective on international law therefore considers relationships among countries as more of a partnership, not just an international obligation. Furthermore, countries are participating in helping one another to realize their objectives and thus not competitors. Nonetheless Iran failed to protect the Saudi’s embassy, the economic perspective argue that this attack cannot be viewed as Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, economic integrations and regional groupings play an important role in the determination of the relationships among countries. Organized regional blocs such as the European Union have established their laws which act as the platform in which the relationship between countries in Europe is based[26]. These laws sometimes act to contradict some principles of international law or complement the international laws. Most importantly, unlike the international laws, regional laws are based on the culture, values, and norms of the region. In this case, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran should be judged based on regional factors but not a general body of international laws.
This paper evaluated the attack on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Iran based on the diplomatic relations between the two nations in accordance to the provisions of the international law. The researcher used a positivist, realist and economic perspective to analyze the issue. Under positivist perspective, international laws on diplomatic relations prioritize the independence of foreign embassies and diplomatic missions from the host nations interests and laws. On the other hand, realists argue that the host nation’s interests supersede the requirements of the international laws. As such, host nations are expected to act in a way that enhances their interests. Economic perspective argues that relationships between countries cannot be based on political factors only. Proponents of economic perspective highlighted that there are several underlying factors that determine this relationships. Overall, the three perspectives indicated that the host nation has a fully responsibility to protect and ensure safety and security of foreign embassies within its borders.
Bartholomeusz L, ‘Eileen Denza . Diplomatic Law, Commentary On The Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations’ (2009) 20 European Journal of international law  
Brown C and Denza E, ‘Diplomatic Law: Commentary On The Vienna Convention On     Diplomatic Relations.’ (2000) 94 The American Journal of International Law
Hollis D, ‘The Duty To Protect Diplomatic And Consular Premises’             http://opiniojuris.org/2012/09/12/the-duty-to-protect-diplomatic-and-consular-      premises/
Pigman G, ‘Making Room At The Negotiating Table: The Growth Of Diplomacy Between            Governments And Non-State Economic Entities’ (2005) 16 Diplomacy and statecraft
Shaw M, International Law (1st edn, Cambridge University Press 2003)
Slaughter A, International Relations, Principle Theories (1st edn, Princeton University 2012)             https://www.princeton.edu/~slaughtr/Articles/722_IntlRelPrincipalTheories_Slaughter_     20110509zG.pdf
United Nations, Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations 1961 (1st edn, 2005)             http://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/conventions/9_1_1961.pdf
Saudi gazette, ” (Al-Jubeir warns Iran against inciting sectarian strife, 16 October 2016)

Al-Jubeir warns Iran against inciting sectarian strife

[1] Brown C and Denza E, ‘Diplomatic Law: Commentary on The Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations.’ (2000) 94 The American Journal of International Law
[2] Bartholomeusz L, ‘Eileen Denza . Diplomatic Law, Commentary On The Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations’ (2009) 20 European Journal of international law
[3] Hollis D, ‘The Duty To Protect Diplomatic And Consular Premises’
[4] Shaw M, International Law (1st edn, Cambridge University Press 2003)
[5] Hollis D, ‘The Duty To Protect Diplomatic And Consular Premises’, 2012
[6] Shaw M, International Law
[7] Brown C and Denza E, ‘Diplomatic Law: Commentary On The Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations’, 2000
[8] Bartholomeusz L’, ‘Eileen Denza . Diplomatic Law, Commentary On The Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations’ (2009)
[9] United Nations, Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations 1961 (1st edn, 2005)
[10] Brown C and Denza E, 2000
[11] United Nations, Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations 1961 (1st edn, 2005)
[12] United Nations, 2005
[13] Bartholomeusz L, 2009
[14] Slaughter A, International Relations, Principle Theories (1st edn, Princeton University 2012)
[15] Hollis D, 2012
[16] Slaughter A, International Relations, Principle Theories, 2012
[17] United Nations, 2005
[18] Bartholomeusz L, 2009
[19] Slaughter A, 2012
[20] Saudi gazette, ” (Al-Jubeir warns Iran against inciting sectarian strife, 16 October 2016)
[21] Pigman G, ‘Making Room At The Negotiating Table: The Growth Of Diplomacy Between Governments And Non-State Economic Entities’ (2005) 16 Diplomacy and statecraft
[22] Pigman G, ‘Making Room At The Negotiating Table: The Growth Of Diplomacy Between Governments And Non-State Economic Entities’, 2005
[23] Slaughter A, 2012
[24] Pigman G, 2005
[25] Pigman G, 2005
[26] Hollis D, 2012

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