Innocent until proven guilty say the lawyers – and as a matter of law that is true of those accused in Iran’s alleged assassination plot on the Saudi ambassador to the US. The story is still fresh and without all the facts, but whether the ball ends in foul or fair territory, US-Iranian relations are in a new and ugly state. From the FT:
The plot was part of a $1.5m “international murder-for-hire scheme” directly linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military force, said Eric Holder, attorney-general…
Hilary Clinton, US secretary of state, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the plot “crosses a line that Iran needs to be held account for”. She said that she and President Barack Obama wanted to enlist more countries to work against what she called a “clearer and clearer threat” from Iran.
US officials say the administration will lobby for new international sanctions as well as for individual nations to expand their own penalties against Iran.
Many in the press aren’t swallowing the story whole – call it post-Saddam WMD skepticism. But the growing regional opposition to Iran has united Turkey, the Saudis and the United States in a tightening anti-Iranian entente. As if to make matters worse, Tehran has taken to threatening Turkey over the NATO early-warning radar system and appears to be cozying up with the PKK terrorists that have long been a thorn in Turkey’s side.
While some are skeptical, and Secretary Powell and company’s performance in the run up to the Iraq war has made many of us more hesitant to take the word of even a respected Secretary of State on faith, it seems unlikely that the Holder Justice Department would make this up out of whole cloth. The plot allegations have received unusually heavy public backing from top US officials; it seems unlikely that the White House, Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton would nail their colors so firmly to the mast unless they were very confident that these charges have substance behind them.
I have written in the past that many people in the US and abroad underestimate the determination that President Obama is capable of bringing to bear against Iran. President Obama came into office planning to open a dialog with Iran; he got nowhere, and Iran’s nuclear program is a direct threat to the president’s cherished goal of moving the world away from the creation and potential use of nuclear weapons. Iran’s encouragement of Palestinian rejectionism is a direct threat to the President’s hopes for regional peace. President Obama has good reason to be fed up with Iran, and it appears that he is. The release of the assassination plot charges represents a very public turn of the screw: the US and its allies are doing what they can to push Tehran onto the defensive and to bounce it out of the Arab world.
The stakes are high, the situation is fluid; fasten your seat belts, friends. We have entered an area of turbulent air.