Published On: Mon, Oct 17th, 2011

When cooler heads should prevail

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By Tariq A. Al Maeena

In a scenario that could not have been better scripted by Hollywood, the US Justice Department last week revealed that it had uncovered an alleged plot sponsored by Iranian elements to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in a series of terror attacks.

In the following days, the alleged bombing plots of the embassies played second fiddle to the assassination attempt. Two people, including a member of Iran’s special operations unit known as the Quds Force, were charged in the New York federal court. US Attorney General Eric Holder stated that his country holds Iran accountable. Holder said the bomb plot was a flagrant violation of US and international law. “We will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground,” Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, said at a news conference in Washington with Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

President Barack Obama charged that the man accused of plotting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador had ‘direct links’ to Iran’s government, which must be held accountable for the plot. An ‘individual of Iranian-American descent was involved’ and ‘had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government, Obama said. ‘This is part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behaviour by the Iranian government. There are individuals in the Iranian government who are aware of this plot,” Obama said at a joint White House news conference with South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, who is on an official visit to Washington.

When questioned if there was evidence that Iran’s top leaders knew of the plan, Obama said that ‘even if, at the highest levels, there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity.’

Following the disclosure of the alleged plot, Saudi Arabia understandably condemned the ‘sinful and abhorrent’ attempt to assassinate its ambassador to Washington. “The Saudi government appreciates the efforts exerted by the American authorities … in uncovering the plot,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted an official source as saying.

Former chief of Saudi intelligence Prince Turki Al Faisal added in an oil conference taking place in London last week that there was overwhelming evidence that Iran was behind a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington and must be held accountable. “The burden of proof is overwhelming … and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this. Somebody in Iran will have to pay the price, whatever the level of these persons is,” Prince Turki said. The prince, who had previously served as Saudi ambassador to the US and Britain, said the alleged plan to kill the kingdom’s current ambassador in Washington was “so criminal, it’s beyond description.”

The secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also last week condemned the alleged Iran plot, stating that such actions would severely harm relations. In an official statement, Abdul Latif Al Zayani said he considered the plot a ‘flagrant violation’ of all laws and international agreements. He suggested that Iran would do better to rebuild its current relationships with the GCC nations.

Iran’s response was to categorically reject the allegation, which it termed as an ‘evil plot.’ In their rebuttal, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s press adviser, denied US allegations that the Islamic republic was involved in a plot to kill the Saudi envoy to Washington in a major terror attack. “This is a prefabricated scenario to turn public attention away from domestic problems within the US” he flatly stated.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast added, “Iran strongly denies the untrue and baseless allegations over a plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Our relationship with Riyadh is based on mutual respect and such baseless claims will not succeed. It is a comedy show fabricated by America.”

Brigadier General Hussain Salami, commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards also denied any involvement of his force in the assassination plot. “America’s claims about the involvement of some members of the Guards in the fabricated terror plot targeting a diplomat from an Arab country in Washington are ridiculous and baseless,” he was quoted as saying on the state television website.

With these war of words coupled with allegations and counter allegations flying around, many wonder where the truth indeed lies. There still remain sceptics who were once led to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a scenario engineered so skilfully that it later became known as the weapon of mass deception. Or the 1998 bombing of a factory in Khartoum which Washington claimed as being used by Al Qaida to manufacture chemical weapons but later proven to be involved in nothing more sinister than the manufacture of aspirin. Or the countless lies engineered by the CIA that were eventually exposed as tools of deception?

Then there are some who ask just exactly who would be the main beneficiaries of such a plot; The Saudis? The Iranians? Or would it be the Israelis, who have long been itching to strike Iran? In a region that does not need further bloodshed and conflict, it would be wise to take a deep breath and hope cooler heads prevail on all fronts.

 

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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