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April 20, 2021

Iran rejects U.S. claims of Saudi plot

Washington urges more sanctions against Tehran, Clinton says plot shows a “dangerous escalation” of Iranian involvement in terrorism.

TEHRAN / WASHINGTON – Iranian officials have strongly denounced U.S. allegations of a Tehran-linked plot to kill a Saudi diplomat in the United States. Some in Iran are arguing that the case has been fabricated to provoke a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic, Voice of America reported.

The reaction from Tehran has been swift and categorical. A foreign ministry statement drove home the denials, condemning the U.S. claims as baseless and warning against the repetition of what it called “politically motivated allegations.” Saeed Laylaz, a political analyst in Tehran, said the case will take already fraught relations between the U.S. and Iran to a whole new level. Laylaz said even ahead of this accusation, he saw the possibility of a military confrontation between the two countries. He said he imagines the latest incident is potentially laying the groundwork for a U.S. propaganda campaign against Iran.

Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that Iran must “pay the price” for the alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington. It wants to take the matter before the United Nations. Saudi Arabia has long had a rivalry with its non-Arab, mainly Shi’ite neighbor. The Sunni-led kingdom has accused Iran of plotting against it in the past, and according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, King Abdullah has wanted the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake” – a reference to Iran.

But Iran is not alone in raising questions about the U.S. claims. Associate Editor Max Fisher of The Atlantic spoke to VOA via Skype, saying, “It’s certainly plausible that Iran might want to assassinate a Saudi official, but this kind of operation is pretty serious in size and scope, and the ramifications it would have for Iran’s policy. And it’s just not clear what they would get out of it. It’s not clear why they would want to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. And, in fact, there are reasons to believe it would go against Iran’s interests.” Top among those reasons, he argued, is that U.S.-Saudi relations, currently frayed over such issues as Bahrain, would be strengthened in a show of solidarity, something that could only hurt Iran. Several other analysts have similar opinions, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have pledged to pursue a “strong and unified” international response to the alleged plot. The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah spoke by telephone Wednesday and agreed that the plot represents a “flagrant violation” of international norms and vowed to hold “those responsible accountable for their actions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the thwarted scheme a “dangerous escalation” in Iran’s “long-standing use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism.”  She said the U.S. will work closely with its international partners “to increase Iran’s isolation and the pressure on its government.”

Also Wednesday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on an Iranian airline it says flew members of the elite force linked to the alleged plot to kill the Saudi envoy, according to the BBC. The U.S. Treasury says Mahan Air ferried operatives from Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah across the Middle East. Under the sanctions, the airline’s U.S. assets will be frozen and U.S. firms barred from doing business with it.

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