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Video: Iranians storm British embassy, protest sanctions

  1. Closed captioning of: Iranians storm British embassy, protest sanctions

    >>> we turn overseas now to what happened in the streets of tehran this morning. the storming of british embassy in an assault that looked frighteningly familiar to what we all lived through decades ago there. and we are learning tonight it may have been more orchestrated than it first appeared. our chief foreign correspondent andrea mitchell reports.

    >> reporter: a terrifying mob attack. hundreds of protesters screaming death to england. storming the british embassy , breaking windows, even running off with a picture of the queen. a violent echo of the takeover of the american embassy in tehran in 1979 , when 52 americans were held for 444 days . today iran 's government tv covered it all live.

    >> britain should be accountable. this is not my word, this is the word of experts.

    >> reporter: a tip-off that the takeover was sanctioned by the regime, and carried out by a powerful force, the government militia that crossed student protests during elections it in 2009 . today even iran 's russian allies joined the u.s. and others in condemning the attack.

    >> i strongly urge the iranian government to hold those who are responsible to task. they have a responsibility to protect diplomatic outposts.

    >> reporter: nbc's tehran bureau chief is there.

    >> we have to assume that incidents like this have tacit approval from the very top. spontaneous demonstrations are not tolerated here by the government, and are crushed by an iron fist .

    >> reporter: what set it off? last week the british cut off all dealings with iran 's central bank because of the country's nuclear activities. much tougher than u.s. sanctions.

    >> you feel isolated because of the sanctions.

    >> reporter: there are other tensions. iran has accused great britain and the u.s. of assassinating top military scientists. and sabotage at iran 's military site. all this, plus political infighting between the supreme leader and president ahmadinejad .

    >> it may be that the power struggle underway -- and there are lots of factions vying for power -- has allowed this to happen.

    >> reporter: the embassy attack comes as israel is debating whether to take military action against iran . and the republican candidates all calling on president obama to get a lot tougher with

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