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Obama's response to Iran plot worries US experts

Last Updated : 04 May 2018, 03:42 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2018, 03:42 IST

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Officials fear that Iran’s offer to discuss key aspects of its nuclear programme could be lost due to the administration’s determination to lay the blame squarely on the Iranian government and ramp up sanctions on Tehran.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has indicted Mansoor Arbabsiar, a US citizen of Iranian origin, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian said to belong to the elite Quds force military unit, for plotting the operation with a US agent they thought was a member of a Mexican drug cartel. 

US experts on Iran, including former intelligence agents, have dismissed the allegations and warned of the fallout from pursuing them. Former CIA operative, Bruce Riddel quipped, “Fishy, fishy, fishy.”

Congressional researcher Kenneth Katzman argued: “Nothing about this adds up.  Iran does not use non-Muslim groups or people who are not trusted members or associates of the Quds force. Iran does not blow up buildings in Washington (inviting) retaliation against the Iranian homeland.”

The Washington Post quoted Rolf Tophoven, director of the Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy based in Essen, Germany, who stated, “I’m very sceptical. If the government of Iran wanted to do something against a foreign diplomat, it would not necessary to do it in the United States. They could do it in any country of the Middle East.”

He suggested, however, that some “radical elements” might have been involved in the alleged plot. The Iranian government is “not so stupid to give an order to kill a foreign diplomat because the damage to the regime in Tehran would be catastrophic in the region.”

After examining the indictment, analyst Gareth Porter argued that Arbabsiar appeared to think he was acting as an intermediary between elements in the Quds force and the Mexican cartel with the aim of selling the cartel opium seized by Iran while being exported from Afghanistan. However, it was the US informant who sought to persuade Arbabsiar into agreeing to kill the Saudi ambassador.

Iran expert Shireen Hunter asked “cui bono — who profits from this affair? Iran has everything to lose and its regional rivals everything to win.”

Saudi Arabia, its leading West Asia rival, has already lodged a protest with the UN Security Council, deepening the rift between Riyadh and Tehran.

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Published 17 October 2011, 18:16 IST

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