Iran has denied any responsibility in the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., this week and says the United States is using Iran to divert attention away from America’s failing economy. The Iranian government announced Wednesday that the accusation is a new version of “American propaganda.”
“There’s a question of how high up did [the plot] go,” said an internal White House administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Washington Post. “The Iranian government has a responsibility to explain that.”
The White House, meanwhile, stated Wednesday that the evidence against Iran is strong, yet it did not provide statistics. However, many foreign leaders and experts are puzzled as to why the Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, would plan an attack that has been described as “amateurish” by U.S. officials.
Some American officials, however, claim that the assassination plot has been two years in the making. They said they have evidence in the form of bank transactions and intercepted telephone calls linking Iran to the plot.
“It would be our assessment that this kind of operation would have been discussed at the highest levels of the regime,” said a senior American official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the government’s analysis, according to The New York Times.
“From an American standpoint, the issue of whether or not high-profile officials in the Iranian government knew about the plot is moot,” Michael Rubin, resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute, told The Christian Post.
“As Iran progresses towards a nuclear weapons capability, we have to now consider that rogue operators can get their finger on the button. If Iran isn’t able to control its own special forces, then any idea about deterrence of a nuclear Iran is off the table.”
The U.S. Justice Department declared this week that elements of the Iranian government were plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, escalating already high tensions between the U.S. Capitol and Tehran. With growing unrest, these accusations could lead to a harsher U.S. foreign policy agenda toward the Islamic Republic.
Rubin says it is imperative that the United States draw red lines in the sand – lines that Iran understands it must never cross. During the last three years, Iran has made references to the United States being like a “paper tiger,” or a weak state. If Iran believes its own rhetoric, there is a danger that the country thinks it can act without consequence.
“Defining where the red lines are drawn will ensure that neither side slips into war,” said Rubin.
Rubin isn’t holding his breath for Iran to accept responsibility for the plot.
“The Iranians always embrace plausible deniability for any time they act outside their own borders. Denials are nothing new. The Iranians aren’t some rag-tag terrorist group. They don’t stand up with claims of responsibility.”
For example, the 1994 Buenos Aires bombing, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds of others, was thought by the FBI and other experts to be the work of Iran. Iran’s defense minister was reportedly the mastermind behind the attacks. However, Iran denies these claims. Also, a 1996 bombing in the city of Khobar, Saudi Arabia, left 19 U.S. servicemen and one Saudi dead. There were 372 injured. Again, there was strong evidence that Iran was directly connected to the attacks, but Tehran denied any involvement.
While Iran is used to denying likely involvement in terrorist plots, Rubin said it must be clear that “any attack inside the U.S. is miles past the red line.”
On Tuesday, the assassination plot – coordinated by two Iranians who were allegedly trying to kill Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador and key adviser to King Abdullah II – was foiled. The plan had been to employ Mexican drug traffickers to kill Jubeir with a bomb as he ate at a restaurant, U.S. officials announced. The plan was foiled only because one of the two suspected men happened to hire a paid informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the plan.