Take The Botched Iranian Assassination Attempt Seriously

Lawmakers say briefings bear out Iran's plot to kill Saudi ambassador

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Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairs of their respective chambers' intelligence committees, have clearly heard the snickers about the alleged Iranian plot to have a Mexican drug gang assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington. Feinstein and Rogers' message to TV audiences on Sunday was clear: take it seriously.

"It's very real," Feinstein said of the plot, which Iran has vigorously denied since the Justice Department indicted two Iranian suspects last week. And while Feinstein was deliberate in saying that the U.S. should not default to military action in its response to Iran, journalists and other politicians clearly see the possibility of war on the table.

Rogers, for his part, explicitly refused to say that attacking Iran should not be a considered option.

The alleged plot would only be the latest gambit in what appears to be an existing "soft war," The New York Times reports. Iran believes Israel responsible for the assassinations of scientists working on its nuclear program. (One of those assassinations came just before Iranian officials are accused of ordering the assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador in motion.) Observers now readily attribute the Stuxnet computer worm that damaged Iran's nuclear centrifuge program to some combination of Israeli or American subterfuge.

Iranian media is slamming the indictment of Mansour Arbabsiar in the assassination plot as propaganda.

From the Tehran Times:

In reference to the allegation that Iran had hatched a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, the Leader said, “They tried to find a pretext to mount a propaganda campaign to present the Islamic Republic of Iran as the supporter of terrorism through leveling a nonsensical and meaningless accusation against several Iranians.”  
“But their plot fell flat and like their other actions will be futile and ineffective, and contrary to their expectations will lead to their further isolation,” the Leader of the Islamic Revolution stated.
But the plot would be in keeping with the recent efforts of the Quds force, the faction of Iran's Revolutionary Guard believed to be involved in attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and previous anti-Saudi missions like the bombing of that country's Khobar Towers in 1996.
As tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran reach a breaking point, and with little trust in evidence among the interested parties, "the U.S. is left with few good options," Babak Dehghanpisheh writes in Newsweek.
So far, American officials have talked tough without making any direct military threats. But the pressure may soon build for a strike. “The government of America shouldn’t rush to conclusions. The environment is becoming very politicized, like the lead-up to the Iraq War, and there is a lot of pressure for a quick decision,” says Hossein Mousavian, a former lead Iranian nuclear negotiator. “But a military attack on Iran will drag the Middle East down in flames.” Perhaps that’s exactly what the plotters were hoping for.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.