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How will US retaliate against Iran for alleged assassination plot?

Military reprisal is justified, some analysts say. But initially the US is likely to take a diplomatic course, trying to further isolate Iran after its alleged role in an assassination plot on US soil.

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The Al Quds Force, also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, is known to spearhead an expansionist vision of Iranian influence in the broader Middle East region. US officials peg Al Quds as the instigator of attacks on US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Moreover, many regional experts assert that Al Quds’ leaders consider that battle for influence to put Iran in direct conflict with Saudi Arabia and its monarchy. Not only is Ambassador Jubeir an influential presence in the Washington diplomatic corps, but he is considered a close intimate of Saudi King Abdullah.

The Saudi Embassy issued a statement calling the “attempted plot” a “despicable violation of international norms,” and thanking US government agencies for “preventing a criminal act.”

Iran is on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and Al Quds is perhaps the chief purveyor of Iranian terrorist acts, either directly or through proxies, many terrorism experts say. Iran cannot claim to be separate from what any of its “factions” undertake, these experts add.

“We hear about factions in the Iranian government, but Iran is responsible for them and their actions, and that’s the end of it,” says James Carafano, director of foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “Either they disband this group [Al Quds] or they are accountable for it.”

Dr. Carafano calls the plot “a belligerent act against the US,” and says that “as such would call for a proportional military response.”

The exposed plot “really demands that [President] Obama finally give up the hands of friendship he extended to Iran and make a full reappraisal of our approach to Iran," he adds. We have never really taken a hard line with them, and this is the blowback from that.”

The Washington Institute’s Dr. Levitt says the fact the Justice Department is coming out only now with formal charges on a plot Mr. Obama was informed about in June may indicate that the US wanted to firm up the plot's links to Iran.

The involvement of Iranian officials would suggest Iran was stepping up its “traditional modus operandi” in terms of using terrorism to further its goals, he says, but the US could make the case to the world only with firm evidence. “I’d say they didn’t want to go forward with the case until they’d dotted the i's and crossed the t's,” Levitt says.

Noting that Iran has either directly or indirectly attacked US interests in the past – the Marine barracks attack in Beirut, the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia – Levitt says an attack on US soil would have been “a complete break from past experience.”

That, he adds, suggests that Iranian officials are feeling more “desperate” under existing international pressure – and that they may have been willing to risk tremendous repercussions in the name of retaliation.

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