As discussed in our analysis yesterday, allegations by the United States of a plot to assassinate a foreign dignitary on its soil by the Islamic Republic of Iran has forced the latter to reorient much of its diplomatic efforts toward giving a convincing response. The tremor which these accusations have sent through Iran is reflected in the comprehensive effort by the regime’s senior leadership to respond to this challenge.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used the strongest rhetoric possible in rejecting the American allegations, accusing the US of trying to stir Irano- and Islamophobia:
“Repeating the foolish and insubstantial methods of confused and debilitated politicians for creating Iranophobia shall not bear fruit and [our enemies] will once again taste the bitterness of defeat.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a meeting with a senior Qatari foreign ministry official, made a veiled attack against the US saying:
“Enemies want to occupy the Middle East once more, and to dominate oil resources so that by seizing the wealth of regional countries, [they] solve their own economic crisis.”
He went on to call on regional states to strengthen ties:
“Regional countries must not allow enemies to meddle in their affairs by increasing cooperation and understanding”
He emphasized the strong ties with Qatar, which Iran may view as a key partner in resolving its current predicament:
“Iran and Qatar have had good ties and common positions in relation to many regional and international issues, and can have an important role in creating good relations between countries.”
Brigadier-General Hossein Salami, the Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), dismissed the US allegations and accused the US of trying to redirect attention from its own domestic problems:
“These actions are worn-out and baseless, and are in fact a kind of distraction of international public opinion from the anti-capitalist movement on Wall Street, and the US’s lack of success in implementing their arrogant policies in the region and world.”
The speaker of the Majlis [legislature], Ali Larijani, called the US accusations “lies” and a “conspiracy”, claiming Iran had no major problems with the Saudis:
“Iran and Saudi Arabia have normal relations, and Iran has no reason to play the childish games that they [the U.S.] have fabricated. They have acted very clumsily.”
Editor’s note: The sweeping regional changes brought about by the Arab Spring, which Iran calls the Islamic Awakening, has allowed Iran to adopt an aggressive foreign policy in the region. US President Barack Obama’s administration was initially caught off-guard and lost ground in the region as a result. Accusations that Iran attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US in Washington appear to be part of a coordinated strategy to push back against Iran.
While the case against Iran appears to be flimsy for the time being, the accusations are so serious and have been pursued with such vigor by the Obama administration that Iran has been forced to allocate much of its diplomatic resources to deal with this crisis. At the very least, Iran will be occupied by attempting to deal with the fallout from this crisis, meaning that it will be unable to pursue its regional strategy as aggressively as in the last year. If Iran is not able to rise to the challenge, it could also face a reconstituted international effort to further isolate it led by the US. These may include crippling sanctions of a higher order (for example, on Iran’s Central Bank) that would seriously destabilize Iran’s economy. In this ‘worst-case scenario’, Islamic Republic may be facing one of its greatest challenges since its founding in 1979. For the time being however, a US military attack does not appear to be a serious prospect.