1:20 p.m. ET | The United States has imposed sanctions on Mahan Air, an airline it says was used to transport operatives connected to an alleged terror plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington. On Wednesday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton characterized the plot as a “dangerous escalation” by Iran.
9:30 a.m. ET | One day after announcing an alleged terror plot by two Iranians with backing from within the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States, U.S. and Saudi officials are measuring their response to Tehran and considering sanctions and other punitive measures, as both sides continue to trade accusations.
The men accused were 56-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, and Gholam Shakuri, said to be a member of the Quds special operations force.
On Tuesday’s NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown spoke to Charles Savage of the New York Times and Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University, about the details of the plot:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Associated Press that the alleged plot “crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for.” On Wednesday Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said “someone in Iran is going to have to pay the price” — although his representatives said his comments did not reflect an official government view.
But Iran has been quick to deny the claims. Ali Larijani, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, said the accusation was part of a “childish game.” In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations wrote that “[t]he U.S. allegation is, obviously, a politically-motivated move and a showcase of its long-standing animosity toward the Iranian nation.”
The U.S. government also issued an alert over possible additional threats, saying the alleged plot “may indicate a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against diplomats from certain countries, to include possible attacks in the United States.”
Officials released details of the alleged plan, in which Arbabsiar may have plotted to kill the ambassador at a restaurant he frequented and reportedly met with a U.S. agent who had presented himself as the member of a Mexican drug cartel. Secretary Clinton said “[t]he idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up, right?”
Despite the escalation in rhetoric, U.S. officials have not officially indicated that they believe Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was involved or had knowledge of the plan, and there has been little indication of military involvement as diplomats seek to shore up support within the United Nations and with other foreign leaders.
The courtroom drawing shows Manssor Arbabsiar during his Arraignment at Federal Court in New York Oct. 11, 2011. Photo by Shirley Shepard/AFP/Getty Images.