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The day after the United States disclosed that it had foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, foreign media seemed baffled by the fantastic circumstances of the plot, and reflected concern that the incident could spark another confrontation in the region.
"Whoever was behind the Washington plot was ready to start a war in the Middle East," the Guardian reports. "The region is already on the brink of conflict over Iran's nuclear program, with Israel increasingly twitchy over the progress Tehran is making towards a capacity to make nuclear weapons."
The Guardian article ran through the possible explanations for the plot, then punched holes in each of them. Like US media, the Guardian seemed unable to find an explanation that made sense.
The US accuses the Quds Force (QF), the external operations wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, of being behind the plot. Given the hierarchy of the Iranian regime, such a huge undertaking would have required a direct order from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who personally controls the QF.
Khamenei's involvement would be surprising, to say the least. Throughout his tenure – since the death of the Islamic republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei in 1989 – he has shown himself to be highly cautious and devoted to entrenching the power of the clerical regime.
Another possibility is that Ayatollah Khamenei crafted the plot to provoke an attack on Iran by a foreign country, allowing him to shore up domestic support – but threats to his power are few right now, according to the Guardian. And it doesn't even make sense for QF to be behind it either, the Guardian piece argues; the plot was simply too sloppy for the group. Or perhaps it is a rogue operation, and that's why it wasn't as water-tight an operation as normally seen from the QF, which wouldn't be caught transferring money for the plot into US accounts, for instance.
Robert Baer, a former CIA agent with long experience of observing the QF, said: "This stinks to holy hell. The Quds Force are very good. They don't sit down with people they don't know and make a plot. They use proxies and they are professional about it. If [QF head] Kassim Suleimani was coming after you or me, we would be dead. This is totally uncharacteristic of them."
In the Telegraph, which stands right-of-center, the newspaper's foreign editor writes that the plot shows who the true US enemy is in the region and that President Barack Obama's Iran policy should reflect that.
For much of his presidency Mr Obama has sought to pursue a policy of reconciliation with Iran, in the hope that the regime can be persuaded to renounce its illegal nuclear programme. And this is the thanks he gets – a plot to carry out terrorist attacks on the American mainland. The president should accept that Iran is a sworn enemy of the US – and act accordingly.
Meanwhile, state-run Iranian news organization Fars News Agency carried statements denying Iranian involvement in the plot and flooded its outlet with Iranian MPs theories about why the US would fabricate such a story.
US officials and media have started staging a new scenario against Tehran in a bid to divert the world public opinion from uprisings in the US and the Middle-East, launch a new wave of security measures in the US to harness Wall Street uprising, weaken the regional nations' trust in Iran and its revolution, and persuade the UN Security Council members to accept a new resolution against Tehran to push Iran to the corner of the ring in the nuclear talks.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast dismissed the US allegations as a prefabricated scenario which is totally unfounded.
"Such worn-out approaches which are based on the old hostile policies of the American-Zionist axis are a comedy show and part of the special scenarios staged and pursued by the enemies of Islam and the region to sow discord (among Muslims)," Mehman-Parast said.
The chairman of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, Alaoddin Boroujerdi, said that the US was trying to distract the world from the Occupy Wall Street movement. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashgavi chalked it up to American envy of Iran's stability.