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Following revelations of an alleged plot by Iranian operatives against the Saudi ambassador to the United States, reaction by Saudi and Iranian officials has been swift. The Saudis, for their part, have threatened to take action against Iran should the allegations turn out to be true, while the Iranians have sought to discredit U.S. intelligence claims. Others in the region have also joined Saudi Arabia in condemning Iran, although some countries, including Turkey, are taking a wait-and-see approach.
In its editorial the official Saudi daily Arab News struck a combative tone: “There comes a point where quiet diplomacy has to take a back seat. Saudi Arabia believes the assassination plot to be true. It would not do so without compelling evidence. It believes those responsible want to sow divisions between the Saudi people, destabilize the Kingdom and, beyond it, the region....The Americans blame the Al-Quds force, the secret service of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Possibly it was a freelance Al-Quds operation. Even so, the government of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad must take responsibility. Blind denial is not acceptable. A ringing condemnation from all other Arab and Muslim countries for such a brazen terrorist attempt is also expected.”
In another article on Arab News, Ghazanfar Ali Khan cites Osama Nugali, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “‘All options are open for us to respond to the Iranian plot’….Hassan Al-Ahdal, another political analyst, said that Iran was worried about losing its only Arab ally, Syria, because of domestic turmoil there, ‘so it is creating havoc in other countries’;…‘Targeting Saudi diplomats is one way to weaken Saudi diplomacy as well as fomenting civil disturbances in the GCC states, most notably, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain,’ he added.”
Iran, for its part, has denied any involvement and at times has ratcheted up the stakes. For example, Tehran Times reports, “Top lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi suggested on Sunday that the Foreign Ministry should lodge an official complaint against the United States for its false claim against Iran....The top legislator said even the media outlets owned by the hegemonic powers have said that the arrested person is forgetful and has a criminal record. The U.S. officials are seeking to create a commotion about Iran through presenting false documentation, he said, adding, they should provide ‘strong evidence’ for their claim.”
According to Press TV, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast “has blamed the ‘unfriendly and invalid’ remarks made by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on the ‘unfounded’ U.S. claims against the Islamic Republic.’…‘Existing evidence shows that one of the objectives of this baseless scenario is disrupting the relations of the Islamic Republic with its neighbors, particularly the Persian Gulf states,’ Mehman-Parast said….Mehman-Parast said such U.S. measures must be treated with caution and prudence, adding that hasty remarks on these issues, which are aimed at disturbing the region and ruining bilateral ties, should be avoided.’”
Meanwhile, the opposition Rooz Magazine’s Arash Motamed cites the commander of Iran’s Ammar Garrison, Cleric Mehdi Taeb, who is reported to have said, “‘If we have a need to assassinate anyone, we have the power to assassinate King Abdullah himself.’… [A] member of Iran’s Majlis, Mohammad-Reza Abedi, who also happens to be a member of the national security committee of the parliament, spoke with Jahan News and also talked about Iran’s capability for an Iranian military attack on Saudi Arabia. He said that ‘Iranian armed forces could easily enter Saudi Arabia and then arrest and try the rulers of Saudi Arabia. [The] Al Saud dynasty will be toppled at Iran’s determination. [The] Al Saud must be prosecuted for engaging in character assassination of distinguished Islamic personalities.’”
For her part, Elham Aminzadeh, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s Majlis, suggests, “The recent allegation made by the United States, in which Iranian officials were accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington, is another phase of the U.S. propaganda program devised to sow discord between Islamic countries....The current media frenzy about Iran once again necessitates the adoption of such a unified stance, along with Tehran’s clarification of the importance of this Islamic alliance. This policy will greatly help the efforts to stymie the propaganda machine targeting the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran must emphasize the necessity of the alliance, beyond the usual agreements between Islamic states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
Not many in the region are willing to give Iran a pass, however. Al Arabiya’s Zuheir Kseibati finds it hard “to believe the Iranian officials when they say that the relations between their government and Saudi Arabia are normal, insisting that American ‘arrogance’ is on the prowl, mobilized and conspiring while awaiting the opportunity to ignite ‘strife among the Muslims in the Persian Gulf area.’...The conspiracy is leading to an imminent Western-Iranian confrontation, and during the times of the blazing and non-traditional spring witnessed throughout the region, the flames of the clashes cannot be limited to ‘classical’ arenas.”
Likewise, Tariq Al-Homayed writes on Asharq Alawsat that the alleged plot reveals “that Iran has come to depend on assassinations as one of its fundamental tools to exhaust and weaken its enemies, most notably Saudi Arabia, of course, as it has done in Iraq and Lebanon....Iran’s loss of the al-Assad regime means that its dream of exporting its revolution is over, which in turn means that Tehran is now facing its historical obligation to pay bills that are long overdue. Iran’s mullahs felt this in the form of a resounding slap from Saudi Arabia in Bahrain, which has made Tehran lose its mind….The question here is: do the deceived now understand that Iran is the real enemy? I hope so.”
There are some, though, that favor a less confrontational approach. In Lebanon, The Daily Star editorial is critical of the alleged Iranian role but prefers a diplomatic solution to a military one: “The allegations made by the United States that Iran had planned to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington are as breathtaking as they are worrying....If Iran is indeed guilty of the plot, then it simply cannot be allowed to get away with it. It would constitute a flagrant aggravation and must be met with the strongest possible riposte. But cool heads are required right now....Any fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran would have regional and — given the respective major religions of each country — sectarian ramifications. This must be avoided. Sometimes the boldest stance to take is the one avoiding conflict, the one in which wisdom prevails.”
Turkey, one of the few regional allies of Iran in the region, is also asking for more time and information. Hürriyet Daily News’ Sevil Küçükkosum reports, “Turkey is proceeding cautiously following a briefing by U.S. officials on an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., saying it is too early to comment on the incident....Ankara would continue to monitor developments in the court case. The official visited Ankara on Oct. 14 and briefed Turkish officials on the alleged Iranian plot. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also discussed the issue in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”
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